February 20, 2011
- 1. Changes to the Initiative Process
- 2. Balancing the Budget with Cash Funds
- 3. My Bills
1. In second reading on Friday, the 18th, SCR-001 was considered. This bill ratchets up the voting majority requirement for constitutional changes. Currently it takes a majority (50%) to approve any constitutional change. This measure would increase it to 60%, except for repealing any amendment approved prior to 2013. Those measures could be repealed, in whole or in part, with a simple majority. I, and several other Republicans, spoke against and voted against the bill, but it did pass second reading.
One additional observation: it takes a 2/3 majority in both houses to pass a referred measure, so it will take a few Republican votes to get it passed. The sponsors apparently have those votes, hence they will call this a bipartisan effort. However, all legislative opposition that does exist (including myself) is on the Republican side of the isle. The Democrats seem to be totally locked down in favor of this measure.
2. SB-164 takes $107,000,000 from eleven different cash funds and moves it all to the general fund, to help balance this year’s budget. I opposed the bill, for it bundles legitimate cash funds (funds we can legitimately move to the general fund) with funds that were collected only for specific purposes through fees created only for that fund’s purpose. Each fund transfer should be a separate vote.
Two examples of the funds we should not be sending to the general fund are: 1. the Domestic Abuse Program Fund, which includes money from an income tax checkoff for domestic abuse programs, and, 2. the Major Medical Insurance Fund, which receives revenue from a surcharge paid by insurance carriers and self-insured employers on their workers’ compensation premiums.
On the floor the Senate amended one final fund robbery to the bill, which is a big slap at the new Secretary of State, Scott Gessler. In this case they are taking $4,000,000 from his office, from funds originally collected through business filings intended to help run the Secretary of State’s office.
SB-164 is a bad bill. It steals money from funds we have no right to take and, with the Secretary of State amendment, it becomes an ugly political football.
3. My Bills
Last Monday two of my bills were heard in State Affairs. Both were tax relief measures. SB-56 would have eliminated use tax for out of state sales. SB-121 was designed to redirect portions of severance tax revenues to property tax relief, send millions to the general fund, and start to payback the money we have taken over the past few years from water project funds. Unfortunately, but predictably, State Affairs killed both bills on a party line vote.
I was deeply disappointed to have my junior lienor foreclosure bill (SB-122) killed on a party-line vote in Judiciary on the 16th. This bill would have fixed an inequity in the process of foreclosure sales. Today a junior lien holder can buy out the bid winner of a foreclosure sale for essentially the price of the winning bid. This invites a lot of gaming of the system, as a shrewd investor can buy a junior lien and try to force the bid winner to buy them out, usually with a high premium added (usually thousands of dollars). SB-122 cures this problem, nearly all of the groups in this industry supports the bill.
In other words, it is designed to make all interested investors to come to the foreclosure sale and bid on the property. This increased competition should drive the sale prices higher, protecting our lagging real estate prices from being further eroded by low foreclosure sale prices.
Nonetheless, the bill was killed on a party-line vote.