"We know why we were elected. We must focus like a laser on the budget." – Newly elected Speaker of the NH House, Rep. Bill O’Brien.
OK, we are going to "focus like a laser" on the budget. So why are we seeing all of these ancillary items such as the Evergreen Law for school contracts, pension reform, and gay marriage, showing up in the news?
It is because those bills have been introduced in the NH House and assigned to committees. Although the concentration of this session will be on budgetary items, the public must understand that more happens in the legislature than merely creating the budget, important as that is.
The budget is created by only two bills, House Bill 1 and House Bill 2. HB1 in the Finance Committee creates the spending plan and HB 2 in the Ways and Means committee creates the taxes necessary to fund that spending. These must be passed by the House, sent to the Senate, probably amended there and then reconciled by a Committee of Conference by June 30.
But, the NH House has 21 other standing committees. What are the other committees to do while those two House and Senate committees debate and create the budget for the next biennium which starts on July 1, 2011? Do they twiddle their thumbs? Of course not. Over 1000 bills have been filed for consideration during this half-year session.
Even though we are "focusing like a laser" on the budget, we
must let those two "money" committees do their jobs while the
other 21 committees (like Justice, Commerce, Consumer Affairs, Election
Law, etc.) do theirs.
One way that the focus has been implemented is that the Speaker has admonished all committees to look closely at any spending that may come from committee action that might impact on the eventual budget.
We will already have a head start on the new budget by the time the Governor presents his budget in mid-February. Rather than starting with a zero slate, the Legislative Budget Assistant’s Office now tells us that the new budget will be nearly $1 BILLION short when we start. It will be a difficult budget to construct, especially if we do it without additional taxation which is our goal. We will need to concentrate on needs versus wants. Continuing as before is not an alternative – that trajectory is unsustainable.
Three new additional Special Committees are being instituted for this session only, a new approach never before taken in the NH House. These new committees will function as the equivalent to ‘ad hoc’ committees. That is, they will be disbanded when their work is done. Those committees are the Pension Reform Committee, the Education Funding committee, and the Redistricting Committee.
My standing committee assignment is to the Executive Departments and Administration (ED&A) Committee. Our job is to look at the funds being allocated and spent by all of the departments that come under the Governor (Health Care, Education, Parks, etc.). We have a difficult job ahead.
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Contact: ken.s+sunacom.com (replace "+" with "@")