The Tax Conference Committee met yesterday evening and put together yet another plan to bridge the budget gap of more than $400 million.
This plan includes two bills – HB 2109, the bill barely passed by the Senate, and SB 270, a “trailer bill” intended to address some of the concerns of the House. Both bills will have to be passed to enact the tax plan.
There were essentially three House concerns: the property tax cap on cities and counties needed a little more flexibility, the plans on repealing sales tax exemptions needed to have a few more that were not to be under review (schools and non-profit hospitals among them), and the voucher program need to require that students would attend an accredited school. They also wanted to keep the food sales tax credit for the poor.
The Senate agreed to all of the House concerns except the voucher requirement. Apparently Senate Republican leadership does not believe school accreditation is a good thing.
The plan then was to run SB 270 in the House, pass it and send it over to the Senate. The House would then take up HB 2109 while the Senate voted on SB 270. The House, if it passed HB 2109, would not send it to the Senate until the Senate had actually approved SB 270. In this way, if the Senate did not approve SB 270, HB 2109 would never go back to them and so the plan would essentially be dead.
The House had a relatively short debate on SB 270 and passed it with a vote of 66 to 49. Attention then turned to HB 2109.
Debate was pretty intense on this bill and when Tax Chairman Kleeb closed on his motion to adopt the conference committee report, the ayes came up short – the initial vote was 44 to 71, 19 votes short of the 63 required for passage.
A call of the House was enacted. The goal of this is to try to bring in as many of the missing Representatives as possible and then work to persuade others to change their votes to aye.
But Representatives were not interested in changing. At least initially. The call was going on for a long time. It was reported that Rep. Goico was on his way from Wichita.
The first change of vote was Rep. Kasha Kelley, going from aye to nay; she was followed shortly thereafter by John Bradford. The tally stood at 42 to 73 for a long time.
Shortly before midnight, the issue of the “Rubin Rule” was brought up. Under the Rubin Rule, the House may not work between the hours of midnight and 8:00 am unless they vote to do so. Rules Chair Barker told the body that they could simply stop for the night and reconvene at 8:00 continuing the call.
Once that announcement was made, the votes rapidly changed from aye to nay until the tally stood at 29 to 86. At midnight, Speaker Pro-Tem Peggy Mast announced they would hit the pause button and return at 8:00 to continue this call of the House and vote.
The Senate, not having yet taken up SB 270, was in caucus debating what to do next with some arguing that they should vote to send a message to the House. Others urged Senators to start calling their House counterparts, urging them to vote aye.
But in the end, Senate leadership simply decided to go home for the night and reconvene today at 10:00.
So there you have it. The House goes in on day 112 to continue a call of the House on HB 2109; the Senate goes in later to see what the House finally does.