Week of March 28, 2011– We’re back in session, and the key word for this next five to six weeks is “budget.” This week, the House passed a collective group of 13 budget bills, House Bill 1 through House Bill 13, which have been sent to the Senate for our consideration. The House budget totaled $23.2 billion for the fiscal year 2012 state government operating budget.
After introduction into the Senate, the budget bills will be sent to the Senate Appropriations Committee, of which I am a member. While this committee has already held extensive hearings on each state department budget, we will still discuss and amend the House proposal as we think needed before passing the bills out of committee.
When the Appropriations Committee begins to meet, I expect to start at 8:00 a.m., break for session, but then re-convene in the afternoon. Committee meetings can go until 11:00 p.m. or midnight as we pore over every item of the budget and try to squeeze out greater efficiency or eliminate waste where ever we can. Traditionally, the Committee takes about a week of this hectic schedule to do its work and then sends the bills to the floor of the Senate.
Once in the full Senate, senators take about a week to review, debate, or amend as deemed necessary, and then pass the budget bills. Generally, this process results in differences between the House and the Senate version of the budget. A conference committee, composed of members of both Chambers, is appointed to reconcile the differences. In the end, both Chambers must agree on the final version. Both Chambers must approve the 13 budget bills by May 6. The budget is then sent to the governor for his signature.
It is a long and time-intensive process – as it should be because we are spending taxpayer dollars and we need to be as watchful as we can. For the rest of the session, the pace will be fast and furious as we finish the budget, as well as finish up debate on a variety of priority bills. The last day of session is May 13.
Please feel free to contact the 8th Senatorial District’s Capitol office with any questions or concerns at any time. We look forward to hearing your comments and suggestions and trying to answer any questions you may have. You can reach us by phone at 573-751-1464, or e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.