Legislative Report (Vol XXIV No 13) April 4, 2005 Another Funnel Deadline
This week marked another of the legislatively imposed funnel deadlines used to pare down the number of bills left to be debated. Under rule all bills, with the exception of appropriations and tax bills, must have passed one house and the appropriate committee of the opposite house. The following bills remain eligible due to actions that occurred this week:
SF 220 – PPEL This bill initially provided additional PPEL flexibility, however changes were made when debated by the Senate. One limited the PPEL flexibility in the bill to school districts with below-average property tax capacity per pupil and another amendment eliminated the school start date waiver process and set a school start date no earlier than Aug. 22. The House Education Committee on Thursday amended out the first and postponed the school start date change for one year, so there is no impact for calendars already approved for 2005-06.
HF 740 – DE Bill This bill is commonly referred to as the Department of Education clean-up bill. Among other items it includes; requiring the department to submit an achievement gap report, changing deadlines and adding reporting requirements related to dropout and dropout prevention programs, changing testing requirements for the issuance of high school equivalency diplomas, eliminating certain requirements for school district payments and settlements.
SF 245 – Core Educational Goals This bill sets a goal of 80 percent of high school graduates completing a core curriculum, to be defined by the state board of education. There is no penalty for not reaching the goal and special education students are exempt. As amended and passed unanimously by the House Education Committee, the bill also now requires districts to plan with 8th graders and their parents for future high school and post secondary decisions.
HF 729 - IPERS Contributions The purpose for initiating an IPERS bill this year was aimed at insuring the solvency of the fund. HF 729 made changes to the contributions made to the system by employers and employees. Currently, the employer rate is 5.75 percent and the employee rate is 3.7 percent of a member's covered wages. The bill provides that for the fiscal period beginning July 1, 2006, and ending June 30, 2014, the base employer rate may increase from the current rate by .3 percentage points per fiscal year and the base employee rate may increase from the current rate by .2 percentage points per fiscal year thus maintaining the current 60%-40% split.
On Thursday the Senate State Government Committee approved a committee amendment, which among other things changes the contribution split to 50%-50%, and sent the bill to the Senate Calendar. Democrats on the committee supported the amendment only to keep the bill alive, but they are expected to oppose it on the floor. There is a good chance, given the equal split in the Senate that this bill will die unless compromise can be found.
HF 288 - School Formula Change While not subject to the funnel the House Ways and Means Committee passed and sent to the floor HF 288 (now HF 848). The bill increases the foundation level annually, beginning in FY 2006, until it reaches 100 percent in 2012, but does not alter the uniform levy of $5.40. This bill would impact school funding in the future by putting the entire burden on the state to fund. The fiscal note estimates the cost to the state upon full elimination of the additional levy as $473 million annually.
HF 742 - Early Intervention Block Grants This bill extends the class size/reading program, also known as the Early Intervention Block Grants, through June 30, 2006. The bill retains the current distribution formula. It is expected that $29.2 million will be appropriated in the Standings Appropriations bill, likely in the closing days of the legislative session. The bill also requires that the DE report reading proficiency information.
HF 761 - Early Childhood Reporting This bill requires community empowerment areas to take steps to report directly to the public and directs the Community Empowerment office to physically colocate with other state programs that it assists and works with. The bill passed the senate human resources committee to keep it alive, but at this point in time it appears that the senate is not inclined to accept the colocation requirement.
Debate Likely on Cigarette Tax
Republican leaders of the evenly divided Senate on Thursday conceded for the first time that there likely will be a floor debate on raising the state’s cigarette tax. Sen. Iverson lifted his veto over the issue and debate will likely take place in a couple weeks. In the divided Senate each party leader has the ability to say they do not want to debate a particular issue. No major action can be taken on determining the final budget figures until this issue is resolved and no adjournment can occur until the budget is resolved.