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Picking up some steam

 

Last updated 3/2/2021 at 12:24pm | View PDF

This doesn't feel like the second week of the session, or even the third if you count those three days in January. More bills have been introduced in a shorter time than would happen in a typical year. Committees are hearing those bills and some have already passed third reading and are headed to the House. That doesn't mean more bills will be introduced; we will probably be on par with the last two sessions that were a little lower than average. However, 500-600 bills as opposed to 600-700 still leaves plenty of room for mischief.

Supplemental spending was on the calendar this past week. Eight months into the fiscal year the money picture has become fairly clear and any additional monies can't be spent without legislative approval. A few of the supplementals stood out.

Wildfire preparedness and suppression accounted for three of the bills; I was happy to cosponsor all three. Two of the bills dealt with aerial assets, a plane we already own and two helicopters - one purchased and one leased. The other was $9 million to serve as local match for federal funds. This will be available as match money to counties, cities and special districts for suppression and mitigation.

Schools were the big winners in the supplemental process this year. The state funds public schools on a per student formula to help balance opportunities for students regardless of the wealth of the district. This year 30,000 fewer students attend public schools. There was discussion about where those kids might be: online, in private schools, home schooled, not attending or even if previous years' numbers were accurate. Bottom line, no school will receive less than 98% of the previous year's budget. No one was proposing slashing school funding in this particularly tough year but it did spark debate about the inequities of the current school formulas and calls for reform that would include a more accurate counting method and money following the student. Money above the normal student count formula will reduce the amount owed on the roughly one billion Budget Stabilization Factor shortfall.

A hearty "no" vote from me was the supplemental taking money from the marijuana cash fund that voters expected to go to schools and create a program to support minority entrepreneurs in setting up marijuana shops. We heard about how the industry is dominated by young white males and how the sponsors want that to change. Also in the bill is an interesting attempt to make it possible for people with marijuana convictions in the family to be eligible for the funds. There is language that would allow me as a nonminority to qualify if say a sister or brother, both of which live 1,300 miles away, had a marijuana conviction.

More bills up quicker, some to support, some to try and kill.

I welcome your thoughts and comments on the happenings here at the Capital. Lots of ways to stay in touch; Office phone: 303-866-4877, Mobile phone: 719-351-2121, Email: [email protected], Twitter: @SenDennisHisey, Facebook: Senator Dennis Hisey

 

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