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Legislative Session Update - May 18, 2008 PDF Print E-mail
Sunday, May 18 2008 - 12:00 am
One More Month!! There is only one more month till the regular session is over and all then the damage assessment can begin. We have been in session since January 10th almost continuously and my business partners at DFC need a break. To tell the truth so do I! As many of you know I sit on the Senate Finance Committee and Monday we receive the budget from the House Appropriations Committee. There is an interesting scenario beginning to show itself and it is that this budget is not far below the constitutionally mandated spending cap. With the number of constantly increasing mandated expenditures, dictated by what is called the Continuation Budget, it is possible we could reach the limit of our ability to spend below the cap within two years. The reason that this is significant is because if the budget, all by itself, exceeds the spending cap than the Governor would have no choice but to begin cutting so that his budget would not exceed the cap. The only two areas in our state that he can cut is higher education and healthcare. It is obvious that we need a Constitutional Convention to correct our spending habits and to allow the legislature to do its job. Senate rules require that any bill that carries a fiscal note over $500,000 be dual referred to Senate Finance. What we have been doing is holding bills with large fiscal notes and not approving them until we see the budget and can decide if the expenditures are fiscally responsible. The Appropriations Committee in the house did a nice job of holding the line on expenditures – I hope we do as well on the senate side. If you will recall the senate passed a bill (SB 87) rescinding the Stelly taxes and also requiring the elimination of all income tax, 4 billion dollars, over the next ten years. The house deleted the 4 billion dollar tax cut and is leaving the 303 million dollar Stelly tax cut on our SB 87. The amended bill will be returned back to the senate where it will receive an overwhelming approval (I think). I am receiving panicked emails from members of local boards and commissions regarding the new proposed disclosure requirements. A bill currently on the way to the senate requires a Tier-II disclosure, on their part, which is the same disclosure that is required of Legislators. The bill requires disclosure by local hospital boards, fire districts, lighting districts, museum boards etc. I do think that if these disclosures becomes the law of the land we will see massive resignations from local boards and commissions all over the state. I am personally trying to fix this problem because I don’t think our communities will be well served with this provision requiring such stringent disclosure. Healthcare mandates continue to be a major item of debate in this session. The mandated coverage we defeated last week on the floor of the senate required the state government to pick up the cost of the increased monthly premiums. Once we allow state government to start picking up the tab for healthcare insurance coverage than government sponsored healthcare is right around the corner. Let me know how I can help you. JOHN (JACK) DONAHUE, JR., P.E. SENATE DISTRICT 11