Parsley’s week eight 2016 legislative report

Week eight saw the passage of HB 1182, increasing sales tax half a cent, the veto of the transgender bill HB 1008 and an attempt to override the veto, the Governor’s decision to delay Medicaid expansion, and work continued on developing the 2017 general fund budget.
HB 1182 was on the Senate floor on Tuesday. After two attempts to amend the bill, with both failing, the Senate passed in a historic act, a half-cent increase in sales tax to support raising teachers’ salaries. The bill contains language requiring that 85 percent of the funds generated by the new tax must go to teacher salaries. The bill is now on the Governor’s desk awaiting his signature.
A companion bill to HB 1182 is SB 131. The bill sets the new student-teacher ratio formula for funding education, defines the use of other funds, and makes changes to the capital outlay tax. SB 131 will be on the House floor early this week. The bill was amended in the House Appropriations committee after negotiations initiated by the Senate Democrats.
The amendment addresses concerns about the increase in the teacher-student ratio, which was set at 12.5 to 1 for small schools. The Blue Ribbon Task Force had identified 12 to 1 for small schools. This is an important change, as over 100 of our schools are at or below a 12 to 1 ratio. The amendment also allows schools with large “other fund” taxes to opt out of the new formula for a period of time to avoid a negative effect from the new formula.
Once HB 131 passes the House and goes to conference committee and is concurred by both the House and Senate, the education package will be completed, and the Appropriations Committee will be able to complete its work on the education portion of the budget.
On Tuesday, the Governor vetoed HB 1008, the transgender bill, on the grounds that this is not an issue our schools are having difficulty dealing with. The bill’s sponsor had no interest in trying to override the veto; however, there was an attempt to override it by others in the House. The attempt, which required a two-thirds vote, failed 36 to 29. As a result HB 1008 will not become law.
The Governor also decided to ask the Appropriations Committee to revise his budget request to remove the increased revenue related to expanding Medicaid. The Governor requested the budget adjustment because he doesn’t think there is time to get all of the needed agreements before Friday when the main run of the session ends. I was disappointed we aren’t moving forward on expansion now, but I am still hopeful the Governor will call a special session later this summer so we can vote on expansion.
Finally, as funding bills move through the respective houses, the Appropriation Committee continues to develop the budget. Early this week we will set the largest two budget items: education funding and social services. The goal is to have the budget completed by Wednesday or Thursday with a final vote by both houses on Friday, the final day of the main run of the 2016 Legislative Session.
As always, please contact me at svpar@hotmail.com.

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