“Surprise” is an Entry in the Race
When it became clear to the core legislative leadership that there is a balanced 2017-19 budget in hand, the race was on to the close of the 79th Legislative Assembly. With the hospital provider tax, several agency budget “hair cuts” ordered by Joint Ways & Means, and continuing positive news about revenue, the starting gun went off.
Those that did not make it to the starting blocks include business tax reform and significant PERS reform. The other major piece of business – a transportation funding package – is in one lane, and we are still awaiting confirmation on whether or not it will make it to the finish line.
Starting in the middle of the last week of June, the flow of budget bills being reported out of the Ways & Means Subcommittees significantly increased, a sure sign of wrapping up.
Legislators (and AOC) will be working Saturday, July 1st and Monday, July 3rd onward. The Constitution sets July 10th as the final day, although there is an unlikely to be used provision permitting an extension of five calendar days with a two-thirds vote.
Surprises are in store. There are several policy bills in the still-open House and Senate Rules Committees and the Revenue Committees of each house. At this point, things happen on a moment’s notice, so hang on.
Another typical characteristic of the end of session period is the shrinking number of legislators making decisions. The Senate President, Speaker of the House, Co-Chairs of Joint Ways & Means, and maybe caucus leadership and a subject expert or two are still involved. But lobbyists will tell you that it is not uncommon during closing days to be approached by legislators wondering what is happening behind closed doors.
The final actions of Ways & Means typically include a “Christmas tree bill” with appropriations of remaining revenue to select agencies. Naturally, lobbyists stay until the very end.
Contributed by: Gil Riddell | AOC Policy Director