Welcome to week 10! The week is coming to a close with the revenue forecast released yesterday and the expectation of the Senate budget coming out next Monday or Tuesday (3/20 or 3/21). Regarding the revenue forecast, the General Fund State forecast has been increased by $247M for the 2015-2017 biennium and by $303M for the 2017-2019 biennium. Definitely positive but, according to many legislators, not enough to avoid the need for additional revenue in order to pay for K-12 education, state employee salary increases, health and human services, and more. This is not a consensus position, however, as many other legislators believe that McCleary can be addressed without additional revenue and without making significant cuts in other areas. How the Senate addresses K-12 funding will soon be known when they release their budget… which, by the way, will be available after its release on the LEAP Committee website.
In other news, HB 1661, the bill establishing the Department of Children, Youth, and Families, passed the House on March 15th! The bill now goes to the Senate Human Services, Mental Health and Housing Committee and will likely be heard the week of the 27th. While a number of changes have been made since the introduction of the bill, it is expected that more changes will be made now that the bill is in the Senate. The bill continues to have strong bi-partisan support; however, there is a price tag on the bill, which, given so many funding obligations and needs, causes concern on the part of a number of legislators. But the bill continues to move forward…
Just when you think you understand the legislative process, things change! There were a few things that happened this week regarding bills we have been involved with that have made it more challenging than usual to really follow the process. For example:
- SB 5347 – This is the bill that would allow individuals on TANF (public assistance) to be in a vocational education program for 24 rather than 12 months. The bill passed out of the policy committee prior to the cut-off for bills to get out of the original policy committee but died in Ways and Means. The other day, however, the bill (long past the fiscal committee cut-off) was scheduled for a hearing and was actually voted out of committee yesterday! The bill will now go to Rules.
- SB 5890 – This bill, concerning foster care and adoption support, was introduced this week on Wednesday, March 15th. The bill went directly to the Ways and Means Committee and was heard yesterday. It will likely pass out of Ways and Means and go to Rules. Again, the timeframe for bills getting out of the original committee, as well as the original house, was not followed!
- SB 5864 – This bill concerns the goal of ending homelessness and was introduced sometime after SB 5656 (a previous bill addressing homelessness) died in the Human Services Committee. SB 5864 was referred to Ways and Means, not the policy committee, and was changed prior to being heard. The bill will likely be amended further before it comes up for a vote in Ways and Means… Assuming it does come up for executive action!
More hearings and executive action next week, along with the (anticipated) release of the Senate budget!
Have a good week!
Public Policy Director