As we begin our final two weeks of the 2011 legislative session, there is still a significant amount of work to be done on both the House and Senate sides. The House is now spending much more time on the House floor, debating bills and holding voting sessions, and the committees are mostly holding voting sessions at this point. It is certainly a busy time to be in Annapolis.
House Passes Budget: The House of Delegates passed the Fiscal Year 2012 budget and the Budget Reconciliation and Financing Act (BRFA) this past week, with votes of 97-42 and 96-42, respectively. There are no new taxes in this year’s budget. The budget also maintains a 5% Rainy Day Fund, which amounts to $640 million in the state of Maryland. Additionally, the House voted to restore $58.5 million to Maryland schools for K-12 education spending. Baltimore City schools will receive an additional $12 million in state aid due to the Guaranteed Tax Base of the Thornton formula, which gives more state aid to school systems where there seems to be an increase in support for the school system. The budget will also provide an additional $13 million to counties and municipalities for road maintenance. The operating budget and BRFA now go to the Senate and will both be debated this week.
Crossover: Today, Monday, March 28th, begins crossover in the 2011 legislative session. This means that each chamber sends to the other chamber those bills it passes favorably by today. If a bill hasn’t passed the House or Senate by today at midnight, it is most likely not going anywhere this session and may be brought up again next session. If a bill is referred to the opposite chamber after today, it must go through the Senate or House Rules Committee, which creates an additional obstacle before it can be voted on.
The Next Two Weeks: Over the next two weeks as the Senate bills come to the House floor, the House will hold hearings on these bills and will then vote on them. The schedule in Annapolis changes a bit at this point as we typically have “double sessions” each day where we hold one session in the morning and one in the afternoon. Instead of beginning session at 8PM tonight as we usually do on Mondays, we begin session today at 2PM. The House of Delegates met for three hours this past Saturday and voted on 60 bills that will now be sent to the Senate.
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