Weekly Legislative Update 6.8.15


From:        Jay Aronson

Date:      June 5, 2015

Re:          Legislative Update


This Week At The Capitol:

I’d like to say it’s all over!  I’d like to say the Legislature finished its business on time and has gone home for the summer.  Unfortunately, I cannot!  While the Legislature barely eked out enough votes to pass the budget, neither the House nor the Senate had time to pass any of the Implementing Bills that make the budget actually work.  Thus, there remains work to be done.  Unless they are lumped together in one giant bill, there are potentially four, maybe five Implementers which still must be passed:  Education, General Government, Public Health/Social Services, Transportation and a Bond bill.  Look for the General Assembly to come back within the next two to three weeks to finish this important business.


As for the budget…By Sunday morning, it was reported that an agreement had been reached between the Governor and legislative Democratic leadership on a budget.  The problem was that no Republican would vote for the measure and moderate Democrats were jumping ship, fast!  Not all 151 Members were available in the last few days of the session due to various illnesses, so the actual number needed to pass the budget fluctuated between 71 and 74 all week.  By late evening on Monday, it was clear the Speaker did not have the necessary votes for passage.  Hours passed on Tuesday and individual Legislators were brought in to the Speaker’s office for a little chat.  The Speaker needed votes and votes he would get, one way or the other!  As the night turned into morning, it still wasn’t clear whether or not the Speaker would call the budget bill.  If he did, he had the votes.  If not, Wednesday at midnight was looming large.  Then, at 5:20 a.m. on Wednesday, the Speaker called the budget bill and debate began.  By 10:30 a.m., the budget had narrowly passed the House by two votes.  It was immediately transmitted to the Senate.  However, debate did not begin in the Upper Chamber until 5:30 p.m. on Wednesday.  After Senators Bye and Fonfarra explained the budget and tax package respectively, the Republicans began their attack and began filibustering for the next five and half hours.  By 11 p.m. the President Pro Tempore of the Senate was ready to end the debate by enacting a rarely used procedural motion known as “Calling the Question.”  This is akin to the nuclear option!  However, with time running out and the budget hanging in the balance, Senate Leadership was willing to proceed with the motion.  The threat of that motion however, was enough to end the filibuster, as Senate Republican Leader, Len Fasano, ended debate with a closing speech.  With that and under a half hour left in the regular session, the budget passed the Senate and was sent to the Governor for his signature. 


How did Youth Service Bureaus do?  Before I answer, let’s look at this in a historical perspective.  Coming into the Session in January, we knew that there was a $1.4 billion deficit in each of the next two fiscal years.  Warnings were sounded from all corners.  Drastic cuts to the budget would have to be made in order to keep the budget balanced. The Governor first showed his hand in February when he released his fiscal plan for the next two years.  It was for all intent and purposes a social services Armageddon!  Youth Service Bureaus took a massive 19% hit.  A nearly $800,000 hit to the main grant line item and a complete zeroing out of the Enhancement line item, $620,000 gone with a swipe of a pen (not to mention a proposed move to DCF!).  Together, we set our strategy and immediately began working the Legislature to mitigate those cuts through grass roots lobbying.  If we didn’t know it before, we most certainly do now...YSBs have a lot of friends, on both sides of the aisle, in the Legislature!!  For two and a half months we worked to preserve the funding.  By the time the Appropriations Committee and GOP budget alternative were released, every penny was restored in each of those budgets!  Every penny!  Now that’s support!  Unfortunately, the Governor still wields a lot of power during tough budget negotiating times and it was no different this time around.  So, how did YSBs do?  In the end, we were able to mitigate a nearly $1.4 million cut down to $150,000.  Yes, it is a cut and I hate every penny of it!  However, but for the work WE ALL DID, it could’ve been so much worse!!!  Every single person who made a phone call, sent an email, spoke to their legislators, deserves credit for showing the power of what a dedicated group of people can do to change policy.  I thank you all! 


This will be my last update until the Implementing bills are passed.  Once they are I will be back in touch to let you know what they said and if they have any impact on YSBs.  Frankly, I don’t think they will.  

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