Another week of virtual meetings, hearings, and floor time! Legislators, as well as others, are Zooming (or Teaming) 10, 12, who knows how many hours a day…. all with very few breaks. Most hearings and meetings typically are starting and ending right on time. Also, when they’re not in hearings or on the floor, it is common for legislators to go from meeting to meeting every 15 minutes for a good part of the day…. It’s pretty incredible how quickly people have adapted to the virtual world.
With more and more bills getting out of their policy committee of origin, as well as their respective fiscal committee (if the bill had to go to Appropriations or Ways and Means) legislators are spending more time on the floor of the House/Senate. With amendments, speeches, and virtual voting, floor action on a bill is taking longer than it otherwise would, which likely means fewer bills will be able to be passed. We’ll see!
A few bills of note that have passed, including HB1368. HB1368 appropriates $2.2 billion of federal funds for K-12 public schools, public health, healthcare, assistance to individuals and families, housing assistance, and business assistance. The funding comes from a combination of the federal Consolidated Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, the Coronavirus Relief Fund under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, and Medicaid. Specifically, the bill funds:
- $714 million for assistance to K-12 schools, including $46 million for non-public school assistance;
- $618 million for public health, including $438 million for testing and contract tracing;
- $100 million for epidemiology and laboratory grants and $68 million for vaccines—this funding is deposited into a newly created non-appropriated account;
- $365 million for a variety of housing-related items, including rental assistance;
- $240 million for business assistance grants;
- $91 million for other income assistance programs, including $65 million for immigration services, $12 million for disaster cash assistance, $9 million for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and $5 million for food assistance;
- $50 million for a variety of childcare-related items; and
- $26 million for food banks and other food related programs
It is likely there will be another bill dealing with other federal $s that the state will be receiving. It is unclear how the dollars will be allocated; however, likely there will be a push to spend a portion on behavioral health, as well as child welfare, childcare, and other critical areas.
Also of interest is a bill that deals with Family Resource Centers, HB1237. The bill came out of the House the other night with 1 no vote, 3 excused, and the rest in favor. Now on to the Senate where it will likely be referred to the Human Services committee.
We work closely with a number of fabulous agencies, organizations, coalitions, and more, developing, and hopefully passing legislation. We also share information and help each other out when needed. A good example of this is the relationship we have with Start Early. They prioritize early learning issues and as such are involved with the Fair Start for Kids Act (which by the way, passed in both the House and Senate policy committees yesterday!). The Act is very lengthy and the House and Senate bills, while they share quite a bit in common, have a number of differences. Keeping everything straight can be a challenge but thanks to the generosity of Start Early, we are sharing the link to their website where a fabulous side by side comparison of the two bills can be found. Thank you so much!!
Just a reminder…. Cut-off for bills to be out of their policy committee of origin is Feb. 15th and cut-off for the original fiscal committee is Feb. 22nd. And… the next revenue forecast will be held on March 17th. Hopefully it will continue to improve!
Questions, comments, etc. Please be in touch with us (email addresses below)
Thank you and have a good weekend and week ahead!