Senate Sneaks Funding for Vouchers into DFA Bill (8:00 p.m. 3/28/19)
Thursday, March 28, 2019
Posted by: Kelly Riley
The Lt. Governor and Senate leadership couldn’t get the House to agree to additional funding for vouchers in the teacher pay raise bill, so they hid an additional $2 million for vouchers in SB 3049, the Department of Finance and Administration’s appropriation bill. Lines 439-440 of SB 3049’s Conference Report #2 provides for this funding. HB 1643 (the K-12 appropriation bill) already provides level funding for vouchers, so this is $2 million in new money for vouchers to be expanded in our state.
Senate conferees on SB 3049 were Senator Buck Clarke, Chairman of Senate Appropriations who is running for State Treasurer; Senator Terry Burton, who has been absent since suffering a stroke in January; and Senator Gray Tollison, Chairman of Senate Education who has pushed for the expansion of vouchers this entire session, which will be his last as he is not running for re-election. House conferees were Reps. Read, Denny and Staples.
Both the Senate and the House approved SB 3049’s conference report earlier today, but it has been held on a motion to reconsider in the Senate by Senator David Blount when he discovered the voucher funding. It is also being held on a motion to reconsider in the House by Rep. Jay Hughes. This is a perfect example of what happens in the last days of the session when conference reports are rushed through for votes.
House members are livid that the Senate would use such a tactic and a string of House members requested to change their vote on SB 3049 just a short while ago before the House adjourned for the day. Unfortunately, Speaker Gunn has told reporters that he will not back efforts to reverse the DFA spending bill. Needless to say, Speaker Gunn’s response is disappointing, but rank and file House members from both sides of the aisle are demanding that something be done, so his position may change. Word is that Lt. Governor Reeves is threatening bond projects in the district of any senator who votes to recommit the conference report, so we’ll have to wait and see what happens in that chamber.
The House goes in at 8:00 in the morning and the Senate goes in at 9:00. Email or call your senator and representative TONIGHT to share your thoughts on these latest developments. Click here for contact information. Remind your legislator that he/she is there to represent the voters of your district and not the legislative leadership’s political agenda. Get your family and friends to call the capitol switchboard (601-359-3770) tomorrow morning to leave a message for your senator and representative explaining that you demand better from your elected officials.
Finally, several members of the Senate leadership are going to be asking for your vote later this year, including Lt. Governor Tate Reeves who is running for Governor. It is critical that educators hold the Senate leadership accountable for such tactics when they exercise their right to vote later this year.