We have rounded the club house turn and we are heading for the finish line. In other words the upcoming week will be the last for the 57th Legislative Session.
This last week saw educational funding finalized at about $31 million or a 1.88 percent increase in state monies for each of the next two years of the biennium.
The Big Bill, HB-124, legislation that required the Department of Revenue to collect all local taxes and redistribute these monies back to the local governments, died on a tie vote in the Senate. HB-124 was then resurrected and amended to provide a reimbursement mechanism to provide funding for monies that were taken away from local governments last session.
The amended version of SB-445 allocates $2.4 million to set up a new business recruitment agency located in the Governor's Office, separate from the business recruitment office that is under the Governor's Office in the Department of Commerce. This money will be used to hire one person at $140,000 per year and hire five other people at $72,000 each per year. The substantiation for the increase in bureaucracy is a lack of accountability in the Department of Commerce. This makes no sense to me, to prove this new bureaucracy's accountability next session; legislators will get to be lobbied by a half dozen state government bureaucrats wearing silk suits.
The major issue that needs to be settled this next week are the energy bills. Two Free Conference Committees have been established to hammer out the energy legislation. The energy and tax conference committee will deal with about 10 bills that deal with the taxation of energy for example, the taxation of excess profits in electrical generation legislation. The other Conference Committee will deal with about five bills that deal with just specific energy legislation for example, energy re-regulation bills. What will occur in these two committees is a melding of all these bills into three or four bills. Once this is done these newly crafted bills will be presented to the Senate and House floor for our concurrence. It will be interesting to see what comes to the Senate and House floor for our concurrence. I hope the bills coming out will address this state's energy problems better than the energy bills that went into these committees.
The other major piece of legislation that is due to be completed this week is HB-2. The Conference Committee on HB-2 will be meeting in earnest starting Tuesday, April 17. As you may recall, HB-2 is the primary funding bill that funds state government. In conference committee technical adjustments, as well as attempts to increase or decrease line item funding, are standard.
In closing, the Free Conference Committee reports on the energy bills, HB-2, and HB-124, will be the primary focus of the week. That being said, the session is scheduled to end on Saturday, April 21; rumors have placed the final day for Thursday, April 19.
Thank you for all your correspondences. This next week feel free to e-mail me at (email@example.com) or call me at (406-444-1444). Regular mail may be more difficult depending on the efficiency of delivery. So until next week, may you be blessed with health, happiness, and moisture.