Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sine die update - done deals

Things have been moving quickly the past few days and just when we think we have a handle on the bills, they change. So here's a short roundup of the major late-breaking agreements that you’ve been hearing about in the news. We'll have additional updates in the coming days.

Workers comp – One of the most heated debates this year was over proposed reforms to the state’s workers comp system. The final agreement, which has already passed both chambers and been delivered to the Governor, includes provisions to help workers return to work more quickly, provides an optional structured settlement for workers 55 and older, establishes a Rainy Day Fund to minimize spikes in the premiums paid by employees and workers, and more. You can read House Speaker Frank Chopp’s statement here.

Operating budget – The 2011-13 operating budget passed the House yesterday and, as we type, awaits a vote in the Senate. It closes a $5.1 billion budget gap with $4.5 billion in cuts and some fund transfers. You can check out an easy-to-read summary here.

Capital budget and debt limit bill – The capital budget provides funding for infrastructure projects such as parks, wastewater treatment plants, community centers and school construction. The projects are funded by bonds and every year a portion of the state’s operating budget goes towards “debt service” or payment on those bonds. The constitutional debt limit is currently 9 percent. Some members, concerned that the limit is too high, sought to lower the limit but a very lively conversation ensued about details of the prop and whether it would hinder the state’s ability to fund projects that create thousands of jobs. Yesterday, House and Senate leaders reached an agreement and this morning the House approved a 2011-13 capital budget as well as the debt limit bill which phases down the limit to 7.75 percent. The capital budget awaits a vote in the Senate.

With just hours left in the special session, legislators are moving quickly to finish remaining bills.

To read this blog post in Spanish, go here.