Thursday, April 28, 2016

Budget Bill Clears Senate.  It wasn't a day full of momentous amendments or clever parliamentary maneuvering, but after around six hours, the Senate passed its 600-plus-page omnibus supplemental funding bill.  The initial portion of the debate centered on the appropriateness of having a single bill that addresses the breadth of state appropriations.  The Republicans brought up the Constitution's limitation of bills to one subject and a variety of court cases that upheld that position.  The DFL majority countered with case law of its own and, as the majority, they held the day.  There was a motion to return the bill to the Finance Committee, but that failed on a party-line vote of 27-36.

After the debate over constitutionality, an amendment was offered by Republican Senator Scott Newman that would have taken all of the funding out of the bill and replaced it with the contents of the House Transportation bill.  After considerable debate on the amendment and an amendment to the amendment that would have made the initial amendment out of order, Senator Newman withdrew the amendment and the debate on the bill proceeded.

There were 25 other amendments offered, 18 of which passed, 6 that failed, and one that was withdrawn.  Most of the amendments were very limited in scope, either clarifying the language accompanying a provision of the bill or adding a small appropriation to the bill.

Only four amendments relating to the E-12 portion of the bill were offered and two of those dealt with the Permanent School Fund and the assessment of properties on state land that contribute to the fund.  Senator Gary Dahms offered an amendment that was approved that would add school security upgrades to eligible uses under the Long Term Facilities Maintenance Revenue program.  Senator Sean Nienow offered an amendment that would have limited testing flexibility in the section of the bill dealing with Testing Innovation Zones (a bill sponsored by Senator Melissa Wiklund) and that amendment was rejected.

The final vote on the bill was 39-24.

It's anyone guess when the bill will go into conference committee.  The House continues to put together its last few articles to go into its version of the supplemental appropriations bill.  After that is completed, the side-by-side comparisons will be put together and a conference committee will likely commence sooner rather than later.  Come next Monday, there will only be three weeks left before the constitutionally-mandated adjournment date.  There are four big items of business remaining before the Legislature:  (1)  the tax bill, (2) the transportation bill, (3) the bonding bill, and (4) the supplemental appropriations bill.  The tax conference committee and the transportation conference committee may convene again next week and it will be interesting to see if everything can be made to mesh.

Stay tuned.

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