Week 18 : May 13th to May 17th
Signs or Spring
A couple of beautiful spring days this week and some time between votes to wander into the sun.
There was a remote chance that the session would end this week, but it did not. We are back next week for a couple days. Important bills are still stuck in committees of conference as the House and Senate try to find agreement.
Committees of Conference
What happens when people just disagree? A bill might start in the House of the Senate. After introduction, committee work, second reading on the floor and third reading, it is sent to "the other body." That's a big black hole. What happens to it there is anyone's guess. The bill basically goes through the same process again. It can be stuck in a committee and forgotten. It can be amended and sent back, it can even be completely re-written and sent back. One just never knows.
You'd like to think there is some discussion between the leadership in the House and the leadership in the Senate to kinda work out what bills have priority and what may happen to them. For all I know there are such discussions but I don't see much evidence.
When a bill comes back from the other body it is looked at by the committee that first handled it. That committee decides whether they like the changes or not. They then bring it to the floor with a recommendation. They can change it again with amendments, they can accept what the other body did or they can request a committee of conference. A committee of conference means they don't agree with the changes and they want to work things out. The speaker appoints three members of the House to the committee. The President Pro Temp of the Senate appoints three senators to the committee and they go off and do their thing.
I have not yet been appointed to a committee of conference so I don't really know the details of how they work. But the result should be a "report." That's the final agreement between the two bodies. That report is voted upon separately by the House and Senate. There can be no more changes, no amendments. It's either yes or no. In nearly all cases the report of the committee of conference is accepted and the bill is sent to the Governor, but committees of conference can also fall apart. That happened this session. The conferees just could not agree and the Senate walked out. It's possible then for new members of the committee to be appointed to try again, but that's not what happened. Instead, after all that work, the bill dies, or is put in a sorta coma until something is done. It might wake up next year, but I doubt it.
Right now there are 21 committees or conference, but only two seem to be scheduled for meetings. I'm pretty sure there's more than that actively trying to reach agreement. This coming Monday and Tuesday those committees will meet to hash out differences. On Wednesday the rest of us are scheduled to appear to vote on the results. Then the session should end.
Votes last Week
There were some tough votes this week. The minimum wage bill came out of committee. The original bill wanted to get to $15/hr by 2024. An amendment stretched that to 2026. I voted for both the amendment and the final bill. Generally I don't like wage and price controls but this seemed gradual enough to make it palatable.
There was also a firearms bill requiring a 24 hour waiting period for the purchase of a handgun. I received a few messages and emails urging me to vote against it, and some supporting it. After about three hours of debate the bill passed. I voted for it.
And there was an interesting bill having to do with labor negotiations which brought up a nice conflict between what Colchester's town government would like and what might appear to be a more equitable approach to negotiations. I ended up voting with the Republicans, against the unions and for what the town government would like. I may have made a mistake in the way I handled it, but that's water over the dam now.
This WILL be the last week of the session. Though we will probably come back for a day in June for any veto override votes. We have to get a budget passed before we can go home.