Friday, April 4th is the 82nd day of the legislative session. At this point, the Legislature is aiming to be done in two weeks. As such, this will probably be the last update until final adjournment, but be watching for Legislative Alerts!!
The last two weeks at the Capitol have moved very much into "closedown" mode. This means the days are much longer, and are filled with more extreme moments of lulls and panic than earlier in session. Anyone tracking the process has to have a lot of patience, be very diligent and, if they have kids, have an excellent babysitter on call that is available for long periods of time.
The typical day, at this point in session, starts early with 8:00 subcommittees on budget bills or on tax bills that have usually passed a chamber but need work in the second chamber. The chambers both start official business by "gaveling in" at about 9 or 10, but then they typically stand at ease while committees meet and the parties in each chamber meet in caucus to strategize about the day's debate and other issues. Each party in the chamber may meet in caucus for anywhere from one hour to several hours PER DAY during this part of session. Debate in the chambers can begin mid-morning, but more likely mid-afternoon and can stretch late into the evening. They also will often hold committee meetings after debate, as they did this week with the House Oversight Committee adjourning Wednesday night at 11:15PM.
The focus right now is to keep negotiating and keep all of the bills that are still in play moving forward. At this point, nine of the 11 spending bills have at least passed a full Appropriations Committee in one chamber, while six of those bills have passed at least one full chamber. The two bills out of the 11 that are still not public are the Standings Bill and a special Debt Reduction bill that will include some one time funding for projects. The Standings Bill is typically one of the last 1 or 2 bills every year, and contains a wide assortment of items, including policy changes that leadership jointly decides should be enacted and automatic appropriations such as homestead property tax credits.
As we near the finish line, it becomes more important than ever that all legislators are present as often as possible. Regardless of how many people are present, you need 51 votes in the House of Representatives and 26 votes in the Senate to pass bills. The House Republicans' 53-47 margin and the Senate Democrats' 26-24 margin means the House can only spare two members being away from the Chamber during a vote and the Senate cannot spare ANY members being absent. One legislator being sick or having a family event can slow down the process. Next week, for example, a Senator has a brother that is playing in the Masters, an immensely proud moment for any family. However, that Senator's ability to be in attendance to support his brother remains in doubt due to the legislative schedule.