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LEGISLATIVE UPDATE: State has money to comply with school funding ruling

Representative, 74th District

There are only 2 weeks left until first adjournment. That means we need to make a decision on the school funding issue and finish work on several other issues I have talked about in the past. Very likely anything that does not get finished by first adjournment, except the school funding issue, will not see action this session.

On school funding, the task of resolving that issue has been assigned to the budget committees of the House and Senate. Attorney General Derek Schmidt spoke to the appropriations and ways and means committees, essentially saying the state can pull out the checkbook and pay it or change the law. His recommendation seems to be more along the line of just paying it and putting the issue behind us.

Changing the law to meet the court determination could be tenuous as then the court would have to review and approve it before July 1. Normally both the legislative process and the courts move slowly, so getting that done in the time frame required may be difficult without going into special session.

The amount of money involved is about $130 million. The state has that much in the account for now, but paying that out makes the future ending balance projections look rather lean. If done in a certain way, though, the state payment to school funding could result in a reduction of local property taxes.

Issues of changing voting dates and possibly additional legislation on gun rights may be coming along soon. For now, anything having to do with the “Fair Tax” and eliminating the death penalty seem to have fallen away. Not to say those issues won’t come back but the chatter about them has died down.

Yesterday the Senate passed the mortgage registration bill. It has changed into a per page filing fee rather than being based on a dollar amount of the mortgage filed. There are still questions regarding fairness and what happens when we go paperless. Many of these bills have not been through both the Senate and the House, so it is unknown if, or how, they may come before us for final action.

Two bills before the full House on Friday were quite technical in nature regarding the law. The first one, SB 311, has to do with increasing the caps on economic damages. An amendment was used to take out the controversial part known as collateral sourcing. The Supreme Court recommended the caps on economic damages should be raised as the current level of compensation has been in place since the early 1990s. This bill advanced for final action.

A second bill, HB 2553, is also legally technical. The bill basically asks for Congressional approval to allow several states to form a compact in order to administer any program that receives federal money, including Medicare and the Affordable Care Act exchange.

It is controversial in that it attempts to preempt existing federal law and requires Congressional action to create an exemption for these states. The controversial part is whether the state can preempt federal law. Congress has to approve the compact before it takes effect. At first, the state did not want to administer the health care exchange but this bill would take that responsibility back, if enacted.

Last modified March 27, 2014

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