As the legislature heads into the 17th week of the session, four issues are looming large. They are, HB 2, HB 632, marijuana bills and tax bills. Let’s take a look at all of them.
As is usual, HB 2 has been on the scene since the beginning of the session and will continue pretty much until the end of the session. HB 2 is the budget for the State and, as such, deserves our most attention. The route it has taken is common. It starts in the sub committees, advances to the full Appropriations committee, then to the full House. When it passes out of the House it goes to the Senate Finance and Claims, then to the full Senate. During each step it is subjected to getting amended and this year is no exception.
If the bill is amended in the Senate after passing the House it has to return to the House for concurrence- in other words agreement. The bill has been amended in the Senate and since the House will not agree with all the amendments it goes to a free conference committee, where it resides currently. There six or eight House members and Senate members will work out the differences and send it back to both houses to be voted on again. Although agreement is not required it is difficult to reject the agreement and the bill goes to the Governor for his signature.
HB 632 is currently in Senate Finance and Claims where it is continuing to be worked on, as necessary. Changes to the bill must be done in an amendment and several have been brought forward. It is subjected to the same steps as HB 2 so it will go to a free conference committee as well. Since we do not have the rules of application from the feds it will not be perfect as finally passed and we have left room for the executive to make adjustments with some restraints. It may require a special session, but we are working to avoid that.
Several marijuana bills have been passed out of the House and sent to the Senate. It is planned that they will be combined into one bill by taking the best parts of each and incorporating them into the final product. More on these bills as they progress.
With the plethora of tax bills coming to Appropriations from the tax committee we are left with exceedingly difficult choices. The choice is, even though many of the bills are very good concepts, we do not have the money to implement them all. Some are easy to table since the cost of each of them is beyond the total dollars we have for all of them. Others come to us with poorly defined funding sources and if they cannot be corrected will be tabled. The really difficult bills are the ones that need to be implemented but the funding is only available for one or two. We must have a balanced budget when we are done. Property tax and income tax are the two most popular to cut and they are being addressed. Again, more on this topic later.