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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Session Rhythm

The 82nd Regular Session is 20% complete. To a large extent, the Governor has outlined the agenda for the first 60 days of the session by declaring the following emergency issues: voter ID; eminent domain; sonograms prior to an abortion; sanctuary cities; and legislation to provide for a balanced budget amendment to the U. S. Constitution. The first 3 of these issues are already moving through the Senate.

Some have criticized these issues as not being emergencies. Unquestionably, however, they are extremely popular with Republican base voters. From the perspective of many in the Republican leadership, passing these bills along with a balanced budget will constitute a successful session.

I see each of these emergency issues passing in the first 60 - 90 days of the session. I also see other legislation passing in the next 60 days. However, beginning in late March and early April, the legislative process will become extremely random and unpredictable.

Why? The census numbers for redistricting are due April 1. Redistricting is the most personal issue that any legislature can address. You can already feel the tension building. Secondly, the House will also bring the budget to the floor late March or the first week of April. It will contain the major cuts that are currently being debated, and decried by many. As one member figuratively stated: "There is a lot of fuel on the ground. This place is liable to go up in flames."

The current rhythm of the session is that emergency items will pass in the first 60 - 90 days of the session; there will a productive period for other legislation through March; and then all bets are off once the budget and redistricting take center stage.