Happy Friday? It depends on where your bills are – a lot will die today. Today (Friday), is the last day to consider bills from the opposite house. If your bill hasn’t passed by 5:00 pm tonight, unless it is Necessary to Implement the Budget (NTIB), it’s a goner. The one exception to that rule is when the houses designate a bill for special consideration after 5:00 pm. Not subject to the timeline, this is reserved for controversial legislation when the debate will be long, so it doesn’t interfere with the remaining hours to get multiple other bills passed.

From here, the Legislature will focus on ironing out their differences. If a bill is changed in the opposite house, the original house has to decide whether to concur (in which case the bill is passed) or insist on their position. If they disagree with the changes (dissent), they can ask the opposite house to recede. If they do recede, the bill passes in its original house form. For very important or controversial bills, budget or policy, the houses can create a Conference Committee. Specific Legislators are assigned as negotiators who will meet in private until they come to an agreement. Once they reach an agreement, the bill is amended to meet their specifications, and that new version cannot be amended further. The only option is to vote for or against the bill. Budget bills are almost always done this way.

The final week of session will be devoted to negotiations, passing the budgets, hearing and passing bills necessary to implement the budgets, and concurrences/dissents.

Remember all that stuff I wrote about last week? Never mind. HB 1333, the bill that would have extended the .09% credit against the state sales and use tax for rural counties to fund public facilities and economic development to 2054 is dead. Despite adding an amendment that would require the State Auditor to make public the reports on usage of the funds counties already provide, legislators decided they want more accountability before they agree to extend the date. They want to see how the money is spent before they agree to extend it. This turn of events is incredibly frustrating because all session long, every indication was that this bill would pass. We are working to include a proviso in a budget that will require the auditor to do this reporting anyway to take away this reason and move on to the next one. Next year, the 2-year cycle starts afresh, and we’ll be starting over from scratch.

On the other hand, it appears likely that the Legislature is ok expanding the uses of the tax to include workforce housing. SB 5868 passed the Senate, was amended in the House, and now must return to the Senate for potential concurrence.

WSAC staff will do a complete summary of the final budgets and policy legislation as soon as possible after the legislature adjourns sine die (without an appointed date for resumption). Stay tuned.