As week 6 began it appeared the logjam in the flow of bills would lessen and such was the way it went. Senate bills began to arrive in the House for consideration and the same applied to House bills in the Senate.
Appropriations even has several bills to consider. It isn’t unusual that we are behind the flow of bills in Approps but this year has been unusually slow. In addition to the bills in the committee, the sub committee work was coming to a completion. My sub committee has completed all our hearings and consideration of the budgets have begun. Our job in sub committee is to analysis the wants from the departments in our section, determine the wants from needs, vote on the packages- called decision packages and pass the information to the complete committee. Our decisions are just suggestions to the Approps committee and have to be voted on by the whole committee before being assembled as HB 2. This results in the first of many iterations of the bill before it reaches the floor of the House.
Several bills concerning pensions have come to us or are in the works. Most are very good policy but they just will not fit under the funds we have to work with. This will result in many potentially good bills not making it out of Approps. If your interest is primarily about funding pensions with general fund dollars my votes will have to be no. We have to produce a balanced budget and the dollars will not be there this session. We currently have more than $200 million in bills that are outside of the governors budget and, even before them our revenue estimates are $50 million less than expenditures. We refer this as being out of structural balance.
The next big factor on the horizon is tax bills. Many tax bills offer tax credits for very good and worthy policy but a tax credit reduces the available revenue and will have to be very closely scrutinize with most being tabled. Governor Gianforte has a tax plan and the bills he supports for reducing taxes will take precedent.
A change in transmittal has happened. Transmittal is the name given to the date- day 45 of the session- that all general bills have to sent to the other body. It is associated with a four day recess and marks one of the 2 trips I normally take back to Miles City. (The other occasion is for Easter). Transmittal was originally scheduled for late February but now will begin on March 4th. That is a result of the problems getting the bills to the sponsor.
As in the past articles, I encourage you to let me know your opinions on bills coming in the near future. I have gotten emails and calls concerning bills that have already been acted on and something we can do nothing about them. One example of this is the bill to call for a constitutional convention. This bill has been tabled in the Senate and as things stand now will not make it to the House. My email is Ken.firstname.lastname@example.org and phone number is 951-6764.