Breakneck pace sends bills forward while still working kinks out
Tuesday, February 18, 2020
The 2020 legislative session is moving at a daily sprint. The work session deadline to move bills from policy committees flew by on Thursday, Feb. 13, reducing the number of bills in the race to the governor’s desk. Fewer bills should concentrate the activity this week.
I sat in as the Oregon Department of Education updated the Joint Ways and Means Education Subcommittee on Student Success Act implementation.
Colt Gill, director of the Oregon Department of Education, and Scott Nine, assistant superintendent for the Office of Education Innovation and Improvement, spoke to the committee. Having helped in the passage of the Student Success Act, I was interested in what the department had to say and how the committee would react. The act expands 16 existing programs and adds 12 programs, which requires hiring staff, writing rules and providing districts with general guidance and technical assistance. This is a tremendous lift for the department, which hasn’t even had time to complete the hiring.
The education subcommittee members seemed quite impressed and asked only clarifying questions. Overall, ODE received great feedback for their work so far.
So let’s talk revenue. State economist Mark McMullen went before the Senate Revenue and House Finance and Revenue committees to share the March economic forecast. Lobbyists always pack the committee room for economic news. Not much gets done without a budget to pay for it.
McMullen did not disappoint, reporting the general fund and lottery fund revenues for the 2019-21 biennium have increased. The Legislative Revenue Office reported the forecast has increased $183.4 million since the December forecast and $674.3 million since the Legislature adjourned in 2019. Some agencies will likely see a budget adjustment with this kind of revenue growth, but education is not expecting any further resources during the short session.
This week it will be interesting to watch which bills get hearings in the opposite chamber from where they started. This short session I’ve noticed more bills being sent out of committee with legislators not entirely sure of the policy choice and asking advocates to work together in the second chamber to fix, clarify or fine tune the policy.
This trend is concerning, especially if you are the stakeholder who does not want the bill to move at all. But this may be the new norm for the short session bills, with severely limited time to fully discuss even the most basic technical fix-type bill.