Committee Easily Breaks the 3-hour Budget Barrier

The Senate has a plan. Not everyone may be in agreement, but at least there is a plan. And the Appropriations Committee fulfilled its part of the mission this afternoon by passing a budget bill (expectedly much more similar to the governor’s proposal than the legislation that passed the House on Thursday) in just over two hours.

Sure, the amendment and full bill were approved on 8-4 party-line votes and the real differences have yet to be heard. While most on both sides applauded the work of the committee in preparing the budget bill, Sen. Earline Rogers (D-Gary) did offer that "it’s not as bad as it could have been."

Limited testimony came from a wide variety of sources (including the Chamber’s Bill Waltz and Derek Redelman), most of whom have worn out a path to the Statehouse for similar sessions the past six months. Redelman, by the way, was questioned by Sen. Lindel Hume (D-Princeton) about the role of the Chamber and why the organization is so interested in education and charter schools. Redelman eloquently answered (no need for further details), Hume lauded the Chamber for its overall work and life went on. An interesting and strange sidebar it was.

Senate President Pro Tem David Long (R-Fort Wayne) outlined a plan for second reading amendments to the budget Monday (session begins at 2:30 p.m.; Republicans in caucus at noon and Democrats at 1:30) and third reading passage on Tuesday, leaving one week for conference committee negotiations. Long also introduced a bill that puts a contingency plan in place in case an agreement is not reached by June 30. He explained that the process needed to be initiated today to maintain the rules for bill passage and not force legislators into session (when not needed) and costing the taxpayers more money.

Senate Minority Leader Vi Simpson (D-Bloomington) expressed concern that the language gives the state budget director too much power, considers the movement of this bill as "admitting defeat" and called Long’s reasoning for needing to introduce the bill today as a "straw man" argument. Her concerns will likely appear in amendment form on Monday.

The day ended with the full Senate accepting the committee reports on the budget bill and contingency legislation. The drama resumes on Monday.