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89th General Assembly - 4th Week

Posted by: rlaccmarcom on Friday, February 8, 2013
We are essentially a month into the legislative session and much of the major business-related issues remains sidelined. The Revenue and Tax committees in the House and Senate are not even holding meetings because they don't have anything to consider despite the fact that they are four weeks into the session. That is a telling sign that the 89th General Assembly is taking things very methodically.

My assumption is that leadership in the House and Senate have agreed to focus on social issues in the first month before turning their attention to taxes, Medicaid and other business-related legislation. The past two weeks have seen a lot of committee time spent debating abortion and guns. Next week should see the final resolution to many of these issues.

On Tuesday (February 12), the House Education committee will consider Representative Charlie Collins' (R, Washington County) bill to authorize college staff and faculty to carry concealed weapons on campus. Many universities oppose this measure and the Education committee will no doubt hear from them that allowing concealed weapons on their campuses will not make them safer and will result in higher liability insurance for academic institutions.

There are also two abortion bills that are moving through the House and Senate and their final form should be decided in the next week as well. Once those are done it seems more likely that the General Assembly's energy will focus on taxes, Medicaid, funding the Big River Steel plant and a host of other issues.

Leadership has hinted that all tax cut related legislation will be considered at the same time and after spending levels are more certain. So, instead of passing individual tax cuts they will weigh the merits of each and then decide which they can afford. In 2011, the House passed four tax cuts fairly early in the session that then got held up in the Senate and used as a negotiating piece for other legislation. One might guess that House members may want to hang on to some leverage by working jointly with the Senate to ensure their main priorities are enacted. If so, it will be March before Revenue and Tax has anything to vote on.

If the General Assembly is focused on social issues, it raises the question what types of bills are being filed and is there a backlog waiting to be heard. While clearly not a scientific analysis, keyword searches of filed legislation produces the following insight:

219 bills are related to revenue (out of approximately 580 total bills filed)
72 bills are related to tax
24 bills are related to Medicaid
20 bills are related to economic development
8 bills are related to concealed weapons
6 bills are related to abortion

So the issues with the fewest number of bills are generating the most debate!

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