Second Crossover is here. The thousands of bills introduced in January have now been boiled down to just a few hundred. All bills still in consideration will have been considered and passed by both houses of the Legislature. Most likely, each house has passed a different version of each measure, so representatives from each house will be assigned to negotiate the final draft in the notorious Conference Committees.
Conference Committee is where many bills go to die an inglorious death with little explanation. The pace of hearings in the final two weeks is chaotic and it can be difficult for experienced observers to follow all the action. It is painful for everyone who spent the last four months advocating and moving bills through the process to see them suddenly die in conference.
Sometimes, bills die because the Senate and House negotiators cannot come to agreement. Sometimes, bills get held hostage for negotiations on other measures. Sometimes, bills die for budgetary reasons. Sometimes, bills die because members are afraid to vote No earlier in the session, but really don’t want the measure to pass.
The Rail Tax Bill is heading to conference. This bill left the Senate as a repeal of the State’s 10 percent skim, but was amended in the House to extend the tax collection period, possibly for two more years. Of course, the five-year extension approved two years ago was supposed to be enough to complete the project.
The state property tax authorization bills are going to conference, and while there has only been one No vote cast, mine, it will be interesting to see if these two bills make it out of conference.
The Red Light Camera bill is moving to conference, but measures to triple fines for excessive speeding and speeding in school and construction zones are not.
The House Committee on Health did not advance the Death with Dignity / Assisted Suicide Bill, but moved out a measure to require Christian Pregnancy Counseling Centers to post information on abortions. I oppose laws that force religious groups to take actions that directly contradict their beliefs. Separation of church and state goes both ways.
Unfortunately, three bills I thought would easily pass this year died in their final House committees. SB700, the bill to increase penalties for cruelty to indigenous birds, SB698, the bill to improve enforcement against illegal dwellings and structures on agricultural lands, and SB1229, a ministerial correction to improve environmental court work flow will not be in the Second Crossover.
Sometimes, even the best ideas take more than one year to pass. I will push to get these measures restarted next year from where we left off. We’ll get ‘em next year!