It is clear to us that the drumbeat of the legislature has returned to its ordinary cadence following the developments of the past month. Nevertheless, no legislative session in memory has unfolded as bizarrely as this one.
Significant pieces of legislation continue to move forward, which is uncommon for this early in session. This week, the House passed a four-year extension of the Provider Tax and a ban on conversion therapy, a practice aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation, to minors. The Provider Tax, typically shelved until the end of session as a bargaining chip for other legislation, was approved by both chambers by nearly unanimous votes. By passing this bill early on during session, it provides relief to what would otherwise be one of the most contentious negotiations of the year. The ban on conversion therapy, which now heads to the Senate, illustrates the confidence of the Democratic leadership to move forward on divisive partisan issues with striking ease.
The looming chamber of origin deadline, when bills must be moved from the chamber where they were introduced, has caused angst among lawmakers and lobbyists alike. The necessity to move bills out of committee increases the probability of action on bills that otherwise would need to be amended. However, due to time constraints, committees are feeling the pressure to move forward prematurely. While there are exemptions for the committees this deadline applies to (i.e. the finance and revenue, rules and budget-writing committees), the concern of the cutoff date is apparent throughout the building. For example, the House Revenue Committee passed a monumental change to the tax code for communication companies on Thursday as soon as amendments became available—committee members did not even have time to review them before taking a vote. This led the committee chair to explain that further changes will be needed this session but it was of utmost importance for the committee to pass the bill. Typically, a bill would remain in committee for changes.
Clearly, the crisis in the executive branch and the sweeping action on partisan agenda items early into the session has risen the temperature of lawmakers as they are forced to tackle challenging policy items.