With the budget process beginning, both the House and Senate have passed budget bills. Negotiations with the Senate were finalized Monday evening and the first part of the budget is finished and ready for another vote in the House first and then the Senate.
This part used to be called the mega budget, but now they are calling it the rescission budget since additional cuts are being made to programs.
The House and Senate budget versions were not greatly different. Since passage of a two year budget last year, primarily we are making some adjustments for the second year. When doing the major budget work, there can be hundreds of differences between the House and Senate, but now there are only thirty differences.
A couple things that stick out are that the House restores most of the Children’s Initiative Fund (CIF) money while the Senate restores $7.5 million less funding. Another is the House version adds back the $378,000 for Safety Net Clinics and the Senate did not restore any. The Senate accepted both these House positions.
There is a different bonding limit for KDOT between the two and several items address staffing levels and pay within State operated facilities, among others. The House version allows withholding the KPERS payment until September and the Senate version did not address that issue.
Hearings continue in many committees, but not so many bills have been worked and passed out. Agriculture, Corrections and Education seem to be the committees where much of the action is. Corrections is the committee that moved the so-called sexting bill out and Agriculture is working on revising the noxious weed law as well as updating the pet animal act, ensuring inspections are done to make sure conditions are humane for facilities that raise pets for sale to the public. Education has a variety of bills including curriculum and overall education policy
There does not seem to be a clear path to end the session other than to make it short. This week the calendar shows the last day for committees to meet is Thursday with a scheduled day off on Friday. That is done to allow bills passed out of committees to be properly published and printed for action on the House floor next week. Also, the State Republican convention is this weekend in KC.
Monday and Tuesday we are scheduled to be on the floor all day. Turn around day is Tuesday, so any non-exempt bills that have not passed the House or Senate by that day will be dead for the session.
Only bills that are exempt, or some people call then ‘blessed’, can continue to see action in the originating chamber. The three committees that can produce blessed bills are Taxation, Appropriations and Federal and State Affairs committees. Bills can be shuffled around by the Speaker so that if they are assigned to one of the three exempt committees, even for just a day, they are blessed.
After turnaround is when we really begin to see what the priorities of the session are. Bills that survive past that point receive more attention and move along even more quickly. Others get left behind and are occasionally tried as amendments on other bills that have survived. There are many things to keep track of from this point on.
The legislature has almost a week off after turnaround. We return on March 2 with first adjournment scheduled for March 25. Obviously, things will move quickly during that time.