Every session of the Legislature takes on its unique character. What is out of the ordinary for this time around is that in the House after three full weeks there have been fewer than a dozen bills passed. Thatâ€™s not a bad thing, just a little unusual. Those that have gone through so far are the ones that are annual updates, but not much of substance. If you listen to the talk and business behind the scenes that is about to change.
I find it helpful to talk to other legislators to see what they are thinking and try to get a feel for items they are involved with. For instance I was visiting with a couple of members of JFAC trying to see what they see for this up-coming budget.
One thing that deserves attention is that over the years the Legislature has put so many statutory requirements into our budget process, that it is beginning to come back to haunt us. If we do just those things that are mandated by our own laws, we need about a four percent growth rate just to maintain current levels of commitment. That number is without any increase for state employees or school teachers and also does not look at starting anything new. Auto pilot for airplanes is a good thing, but not for budgets. At least that is not how it works in the real world.
Another issue that is getting a lot of attention in conversations is a tax credit for conservation easements. The idea being floated is for land owners to sell their ability to development for a period of time or permanently as a means of maintaining open space. The State has never been involved in these before, at least on the funding end as it is being proposed this time. Now what was that about starting something new?
An issue that has not been talked about much by the media has been the naturopathic rules that are before the Health and Welfare Committees. These rules have been two years in the making and have caused a huge divide between two different groups of Naturopaths. Confusion has led to controversy and the Senate Committee has rejected the rules. I would have liked to have had a hearing in the House Committee, but that is not going to occur for the time being at least. Now what? My feeling is that these folks all need to be locked in a room until they produce results.
Two new election bills have been introduced in the House, one for permanent absentee status and the other is all out vote by mail at the discretion of County Commissioners. Both are vote by mail proposals, one that the voter chooses and the other Commissioners choose for the voters.
The House and Senate Education Committees spent four days this week going over School Superintendent Tom Lunaâ€™s ISTARS and the IEA We Teach proposals with passionate discussion from both sides, so I am told. From the tone of the conversations, neither idea has much chance of success this year.
As we now start week four it looks like we have been in the lull before the storm. It is interesting to me to see all of the hand wringing that goes on around this place. I have never been one to dread tough decisions. To me they are opportunities and challenges. It is never easy but is worth the effort.
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