The Senate is going to be hearing the House budget bills on the floor Wednesday so it’s about to get very wonky in the upper chamber. It’s difficult to remember all the nuances in the budget process from session to session so we brought you the rundown so you know what will be happening in the coming days.
There were 14 budget bills and two supplementals sent to the Senate by the House, and now that they’ve gone through Sen. Dan Hegeman’s Appropriations Committee, they’ll head to the floor. The Senate essentially treats appropriations bills the same as any other House bills that are third read on the floor with one significant exception: Appropriation bills are the only ones that can be brought to the floor from the formal calendar out of order. Normally, if a bill the chamber wanted to hear was low on the formal calendar, lawmakers would move to place the bills before it on the informal calendar to get to the one they want to take up.
Appropriation bills can be heard at any time, regardless of the order. That’s about the only real procedural change.
Outside of that, the two chambers handle budget bills a bit differently. For example, the Senate doesn’t require offsetting amendments like the House. If the House puts $30,000 toward X, it has to take away $30,000 from Y. No such rule exists in the Senate. It can add the money where it finds appropriate without pitting issues against each other.
Once the bills are third read on the Senate floor, any item that the two chambers failed to agree on will go to conference — which will consist of three Republicans and two Democrats from each chamber. The Speaker and Pro Tem officially appoint the members of the conference, but the minority leaders in each chamber get to chose their representatives.
Conference rules also highlight the difference between the two chambers. Although the bills can pass out of conference committee with a simple majority, House rules state that conference reports cannot be submitted to either chamber unless at least three House members and two Senate members sign the report.
Per usual, expect budget debates to take up a lot of time in the Senate this week. Although folks have been calling for Senate Democrats to stand until their feet bleed on the Medicaid expansion funding issue, they may decide to trust Chuck Hatfield in court more than they trust a filibuster on the floor. However, there are other issues that may draw their attention — like, where is the state planning on putting money for medical marijuana?