Legislators have lots of issues to address

This is scheduled to be the last week of the regular legislative session for 2015. Often it seems as though time goes slowly, but suddenly the end of the session is here. Budget and tax issues are still not completely settled, so work continues on those issues when we return.

Normally only the Appropriations and Tax committees meet during this week, but the calendar says the Federal & State committee is meeting as well.

There are four exempt committees: Appropriations, Taxation, Federal & State and Calendar & Printing. Exempt means those committees have the authority to meet and take committee action at any time without approval from leadership. Evidently there are some additional legislative issues that need to move ahead.

Revenue estimates are the major piece of information the legislative budget committees are waiting for before final adjournment the first part of May. Those estimates are made in April by college economics professors, the budget director and legislative staff.

The report is due to come out April 20 and the final budget numbers are based on the April estimate. If the estimates are lower than expected, then either some cutting to the budget is done, or an adjustment to the tax package will be made.

Of course, we do not know the numbers yet, so everything at this point is simply speculation. We do know revenues for March are down again and that may be an indicator of what the estimates may show.

This is the week conference committees meet to iron out differences between House and Senate bills. Often legislation is combined with other pieces of legislation, resulting in conference committee reports that may have several bills rolled together. Earlier this session, quite a bit of time was spent to limit the total number of bills allowed in one conference committee report.

So far, the conference committee reports we voted on have been mostly non-controversial. The closest vote was to allow borrowing to shore up the KPERS fund. Doing that has some potential risks as markets are always unpredictable, but despite the risk the measure barely passed.

A second issue that has been more controversial is changing the spring elections to the fall. However, that vote appears to be delayed until veto session.

Last week the House Appropriations and Senate Ways & Means conferees began working on a budget conference committee report. The House has not passed a budget bill, so has only a committee position on the budget at this point.

Agreement was reached when the House accepted removing the judicial budget from the larger budget. Speculation on my part is that by removing the judicial budget, there may be opportunity to include policy within that budget.

There continues to be heightened speculation about the school lawsuit and how the block grant funding for schools may play into the overall picture. Rumors are easy to find around here, but it seems an early May date for a court hearing could provide at least some direction regarding that issue.

After this week, only veto session is on the calendar, so I will have no more reports until veto session begins April 29. Veto session will end when a final budget and tax package is passed.

While everyone would like for the veto session to be short, not having a final tax package to go along with the budget could stretch things out. The way things have been going, veto session could take a while.

Rep. Don Schroeder represents District 74, which includes much of the southern half of Marion County.

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