The last month of the session is upon us, and the race is on to get a final bunch of bills into the process. Going into the long bill debate last week, the bill total was: Senate 235, House 312.
Sounds like a lot of bills, right? The fact is, we usually total somewhere between 600 and 700 bills for a session. The mountains are not the only ones bracing for avalanches; there is an avalanche of bills yet to come this session.
This past week was budget week for the House. Wednesday through Friday the House worked its way through the State Budget Bill, appropriately referred to as the Long Bill.
This year the Long Bill is a 631-page behemoth encompassing the entire $32 billion state budget. Both the House and the Senate spend days on the Long Bill, attempting to shift dollars around among various line items.
Unfortunately, not much gets accomplished in terms of actually changing budget allocations.
The budget process is bizarre to say the least. The budget is put together by the Joint Budget Committee: two Democrat Senators, two Democrat Representatives, one Republican Senator and one Republican Representative.
Line items are set, allocations made and the budget is balanced. We are actually required to balance the budget in Colorado, unlike the federal government.
The budget is then submitted to the Senate where numerous amendments are added. The budget then comes to the House where all Senate amendments are stripped off and the House attempts to attach its amendments (89 of them this year).
Then, wait for it, all the House amendments are stripped and the bill goes back to the JBC in its original form. Are you still with me?
The Joint Budget Committee takes its original budget and proceeds to consider if any of the stripped amendments merit consideration for inclusion in the Long Bill.
Without the JBC’s blessing, no amendments make it into the Long Bill. When people refer to the JBC as being the most powerful group under the Golden Dome, they are not wrong.
So, the budget process is basically an exercise in frustration with both sides of the aisle trying to catch the other in a vote on an amendment that might put a member at risk in the next election. Rest easy, folks. Your $32 billion balanced budget is in good hands.
Last week was a “four for four” week in committees for my bills. HB 19-1264 (Conservation Easement Tax Credit Modifications), HB 19-1241 (CU School of Medicine Training and Scholarships for Work Experience to Assist Rural Areas’ Doctor Shortages), SB 19-003 (Educator Loan Forgiveness Program) and SB 19-183 (Alternate Procedure to Reorganize School Districts) all advanced out of committee. HB 19-1241 and SB 19-183 came out of committee with unanimous support.
Two of my major bills were heard in the House Education Committee April 9, SB 19-137 (Extend the Colorado Student Leaders Institute) and HB 19-1236 (State Funding for Full-day Kindergarten). Because full-day kindergarten has a $185 million set-aside for funding, it became a target during the Long Bill debate.
However, because HB 19-1236 has the blessing of so many entities across the state as well as the Governor, the funding dollars remained intact. Next week, we will cover SB 19-137 and HB 19-1236 in detail.
Remember, the sound you hear may be a “bill avalanche,” so keep your head down. You never know what may be coming your way.