72 Hours to Spend Billions of Dollars

by Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney PC
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The June 30th budget deadline is just over 72 hours away.   It might seem that three days isn’t very much time to get a majority of the 203 member House and the 50 member Senate to agree on a nearly $30 billion spending plan. However in the state legislature, three days is the magic number.   Three days isn’t quite the same amount of time in the State Capital as it is everywhere else.

A bill must be considered three times on three different days by both chambers before it can become law. That’s three legislative days -days the legislature is assembled on the floor and in voting session- plus any time the bill spends being considered by a standing committee.    Factor in the procedural rules in each chamber, and you’ll see that three days under the dome is not quite as speedy as three days everywhere else.

The General Appropriations bill is no exception; but the GA bill is also governed by a House rule that says it must be on the calendar for about ten days before it can be debated in the House of Representatives.  This year’s GA bill was introduced on June 9th. By the time it worked its way from the Appropriations Committee to the floor and back a few times, it was June 25th.  In the state House, three days took a little over two weeks.

Since the 25th the bill has been received by the Senate, run through the Appropriations Committee and given first consideration.  Today, it was given second consideration before it was referred back to the Appropriations Committee. When the bill is reported from committee, it will only need to be voted one more time in the Senate. With that posturing, having three days to go is no reason to hurry.

With three days left, what’s likely to happen is that once a final revenue spending number is agreed upon by all four caucuses and the governor, the bill will be amended in the Senate Appropriations Committee to include the line items necessary to enact the final budget. It will be reported to the floor, put up for a vote one last time in the Senate and shipped back to the House for a concurrence vote.

House Rules provide that the text of an amended bill must be available for 24 hours before any further vote can be taken.   However, the House can suspend its rules as long as 2/3 of members agree and vote the bill sooner.  Technically, it would seem that the entire budget could be completed in less than two days.  Three days to go? Plenty of time.

 

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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