The end of Week 2 of the legislative session marks an important budget milestone, the passage of base budgets. We use a “base budget” process to help streamline the budgeting process in our short 45-day session. We are required by legislative rule to vote on base budgets in the second week. Ideally, the budgets are meant to match the prior year’s funding. This means if the Legislature did nothing else for the remainder of the session, the State would continue to operate on flat budgets.
Base budgets account for 95% of the total State budget, the other 5% will come as new programs or other one-time spending initiatives are added over the coming weeks. The 5% of the budget still to be allocated includes $400 million in revenue growth, much of which is likely to be used to fund student growth in public education.
At this point, the Legislature has sent 33 bills to the Governor to sign or veto, but we still have 1,073 bills awaiting consideration. Not all of these bills will make it to the Governor’s desk. Some will fail to pass muster in committee, others will stall in floor debate or be held due to needing funding for implementation. Obviously we still have a lot of work to do over the next 5 weeks. Below are some of the bills that saw legislative action this week that I thought you might find interesting. Please feel free to contact me with any comments or questions on bills during the session. I always enjoy feedback from constituents and find it very helpful when gauging how to vote on the important issues that come before us.
HB 15 Statewide Adaptive Testing
For the past few years, the State has been running a pilot program on computer adaptive testing (CAT) in a few districts. The State Board of Education, upon reviewing the results, has recommended this type of testing be implemented statewide. The basic idea of CAT testing is that test items are selected by the computer to individually match the ability level of each student. The test is essentially “adapting” the difficulty level of each question on the test depending on the students answer to the previous question. The real-time results can better gauge the student’s individual growth and knowledge than any type of testing previously available.
With this new testing, we can more accurately measure an individual students growth through pre- and post-testing. Individual students capabilities could be assessed in the first weeks of school to immediately place students in appropriate skill level groups. Teacher and parents would have the feedback available to better teach a student and more effectively use teaching time and resources.
HB 44 Theft Amendments
This bill enhances the penalty for an individual that commits repeated retail thefts. Essentially the penalty for a theft offense can be enhanced by one degree (i.e. class C raised to Class B misdemeanor) if the prior theft occurred in the previous 10 years. Merchants would be able to prohibit an individual who has committed retail theft from reentering the property in order to prevent serial offenders from continuing to have access the store.
HB 95 Retail Sale of Tobacco Products
Tobacco shops have started to spring up throughout the State, causing concern for law enforcement because some nefarious shops have been selling “spice” (synthetic marijuana) and other items that can be converted to drug use. This bill would require new shops to get a specialty license and prohibit the shops from being near schools, parks, churches, daycare centers or other tobacco shops.
If you are interested in a youth group tour of the Capitol during the session, please contact my intern, Blake Barcus, at firstname.lastname@example.org. As always, I welcome your comments, feedback and suggestions.