It’s Conference Committee Time — Again

House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Bill Crawford tells the House that work begins at 9:30 a.m. Wednesday on the budget conference committee, that those involved should be prepared to work each day through Sunday, possibly "morning, noon and evening" in the attempt to have a compromise ready by next Monday.

Those words came after, on a voice vote, the House dissented on the Senate budget that was passed earlier in the afternoon. But even that involved a few theatrics.

House Minority Leader Brian Bosma urged opposition to the dissent motion, saying, "It’s time to end the per-diem, end the travel, end the hotel expenses; end the misery for taxpayers, for employees wondering if the state will shut down. It’s time for all that to end."

Democrat Russ Stilwell countered that he wasn’t going to rely on "blind faith" in going along with a Senate proposal that passed three hours earlier. Plenty of shouts from the floor even prompted Speaker Pat Bauer to call for a little decorum.

Crawford and Jeff Espich are the House conferees. Advisors on the Dem side are Goodin, Pelath, Avery and Welch; for the Republicans, Turner, Thompson and Borror. On the Senate side, Luke Kenley and John Broden are the conferees; offering their guidance will be Republicans Hershman, Dillon, Lubbers and Senate Pro Tem Long; Tallian, Hume and Skinner for the Dems.

The clock is ticking. Seven days and counting.

Short Day on Budget; Senate to Revive CIB

I don’t know who wouldn’t want these work hours.  The House of Representatives is done for the day – at noon. 

Heard today were amendments to the budget bill. Among them were pet projects and technical tweaks – many of which involve additional funding requests. House Republicans did register their complaints, saying this session is about establishing the state budget and not a time to keep spending on other things.

The budget measure (SS 1001) was moved to third reading; the House could vote on it as soon as tomorrow, when it is set to reconvene in the morning.

One added bit of drama came courtesy of Rep. Jeff Espich of Uniondale and Rep. Bill Crawford of Indianapolis, chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, who exchanged barbs on the House floor. 

The topic was the way the Capital Improvement Board (CIB) bill was handled/manhandled – you can choose your own term – in committee yesterday. 

Espich wanted it known that the Republicans didn’t want the measure withdrawn as Crawford had done (due to lack of bipartisan support).  In his rebuttal, Crawford stated emphatically that “the CIB business now must be addressed in the Senate … it was my call to kill it and my call is it’s dead.”

And that, ladies and gentlemen, marked the end of today’s proceedings.

Charter School Amendment Puts Dollars at Risk

Despite professing he was concerned over the perception that the House Democrat budget proposal puts a moratorium on charter schools, Rep. Ed Delaney of Indianapolis introduced an amendment today in the House Ways and Means Committee that is, well, another moratorium. 

In short, the amendment states: for a school district in which 10% of its buildings are charter schools, the local school board and recognized authority (mayor and universities in some cases) must approve any additional charter schools. 

The amendment passed 15-10 along a party-line vote.

The impact for the Indianapolis Public School (IPS) system is obvious, says Indiana Chamber education lobbyist Derek Redelman, “This would put an immediate halt to any future charter schools since IPS Superintendent Eugene White has stated repeatedly that he doesn’t want any more.”

For smaller counties with one charter school but few overall schools, it could have the same effect, depending on local sentiment on charter schools – something that Rep. Jeff Espich of Uniondale pointed out to the committee.

What’s more, the amendment puts Indiana’s potential to earn federal Race to the Top Fund dollars in jeopardy.
“This is just another example of House Democrats ignoring multiple warnings from President Obama’s secretary of education to allow charter schools to flourish.  They may think this backdoor attempt is clever, but really it’s very transparent,” Redelman asserts.

“This moratorium puts at risk more than $100 million in federal money for all public schools … we can’t afford that.”