What’s Happening (OSCC Political Observations)
Last week, a COVID outbreak in the House chamber shut down floor sessions. Members were sent home to quarantine, resulting in a full lost week of activity on the House floor. The House is expected to reconvene sometime this week, but a second positive COVID test has pushed that back until at least Tuesday.
House Republicans are still engaging in delay tactics, including enforcing the Constitutional mandate that every bill is read word-for-word before the House can vote on it. For longer bills, this can mean hours spent reading just one bill before a vote can even take place.
Bottom line: The House is getting completely bottlenecked with bills. This threatens to potentially disrupt session timelines in a major way.
While floor sessions were shut down in the House last week, policy committees continued to move bills forward. Legislative committees have only 4-5 meetings left to advance bills out of committee for those bills to stay alive.
Committee agendas are packed. In many cases, OSCC is monitoring three committees and corresponding with committee members at the same time.
Budget. This week, the Joint Ways and Means Chairs released the official 2021-23 budget framework. This will serve as the starting point for budget discussions as over the next three months the legislature will turn its focus toward crafting the next biennial budget.
Thanks to the anticipation of federal funds under the American Rescue Plan, the legislature starts out with a plan that would spend nearly $28 billion for the next two years. The draft plan released this week increases funding for K-12 and prevents cuts for the state’s Medicaid program, despite the growing number of caseloads. Legislative leaders also have resources available to address ongoing issues created by COVID-19 and last year’s wildfires. The plan would also set aside $520 million in new federal funding to address any future budget needs beyond 2023.
Please review the priorities and offer feedback. OSCC adopted these priorities much later than usual due to the very unusual nature of the 2021 session, coupled with a lack of certainty around the business issues the legislature would actually pursue.
Bottom line: OSCC will be focused primarily on issues that help business with cash flow and getting re-established in the wake of business shutdowns.
The OSCC Board will vote to adopt these policies in the coming week.