LEGISLATIVE UPDATE:   Less budget work this year

Representative, 74th District

Committee action picked up this week, but overall the session may be slightly slower. Since a two-year budget was passed last year, less emphasis will be placed on the budget process. Certainly some adjustments need to be made, but most of the work for the 2015 budget is done.

In some ways it is more efficient in that we do not need to hear and act on budgets for each department each year. It is also less time consuming for those departments, since they may not need to go through the entire budget preparation process each year.

The downside is that the legislature may lose some control over the budget as it is not scrutinized as closely each year. I agree that the legislature, at times, should do less. Sometimes the legislature should sit back a little and see how the changes are working.

It’s interesting to see some of the bills introduced and scheduled for hearings. One bill is putting a maximum time frame on when court decisions must be rendered and made public. In recent years, legislation has passed that limits the time until rulings are rendered, such as rate rulings for power companies. There seems to be some frustration among legislators that court rulings take so long.

Another bill would allow a business to refuse to provide services based on religious grounds and not be sued for discrimination. The basis of this bill is that some service providers for weddings are being sued for discrimination because they refuse to provide services for gay ceremonies based on their religious beliefs.

Two bills that are being pushed very hard by some legislators are the elimination of the death penalty and a bill that would add an autism component to health insurance plans. The autism bill is not available to read yet, but my understanding is the cost of autism insurance would be spread over all health insurance plans sold in the state.

The Agriculture Committee had hearings on the changes in commercial driver’s license requirements and regarding the changes taking place for commercial vehicle registrations. Most changes are because of changes or additional requirements at the federal level, but even after the hearings quite a bit of confusion remains.

A legislative coffee is scheduled for 9 a.m. Saturday at The Breadbasket in Newton. I anticipate Rep. Rhoades and Sen. McGinn will be there as well. It’s always good and informative to hear the thoughts of those that are at the coffees, so please join us.

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