The Senate wrapped up final voting on a number of House bills Tuesday including the two-year state budget, education legislation and gun-related bills.
The Senate passed its version of the budget 40-8, which differs in some funding compared to the House budget. This version still calls for $34.6 billion in spending, but leaves $2.2 billion in reserves, an increase from the House’s $1.9 billion.
The Department of Child Services requested a $286 million annual increase in their budget, and the Senate stripped that down to $243 million in 2020 and $223 million in 2021.
The Senate still proposed using half of the budget to go toward K-12 funding, but does not specify a mandatory teacher pay increase, a contentious topic throughout the session. But the funding for a teacher appreciation grant increased to $30 million. Under the current legislation, teachers who have not reached their fifth year on the job and who are identified as effective or highly effective could benefit from the grant, of which 50 percent can be awarded as a stipend to the teacher’s salary.
In the late hours of the evening Monday, Senate Democrats tried to offer an amendment to increase teacher salaries by 5 percent, which would cost the state roughly $315 million, but the amendment failed.
The Senate’s version of the budget additionally allows less funding for virtual schools by providing them with 80 percent of the dollars going toward traditional brick-and-mortar schools. The House budget proposed fully funding virtual schools.
The budget is still tentative until the state revenue forecast is released Thursday, and leaders expect the forecast will require some changes to be made.
Now, the House and Senate will have to work to combine both budgets within the next week.
House Bill 1253 passed by a 32-14 margin, would require teachers, employees, and staff complete 48 hours of specialized training before carrying a firearm in school buildings.Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, sponsor of the bill, told lawmakers that the measure also allows the use of pellet guns to be used in active shooter training.
House Bill 1651 passed with a vote of 36-10 that would keep firearms out of the hands of individuals that are deemed dangerous based on past criminal records or who have the potential to harm themselves or others.
The bill would also let law enforcement agencies inform the National Instant Criminal Background Check System – known as NICS, the names of individuals that are deemed dangerous. In addition, the measure would allow licensed individuals to carry firearms inside houses of worship.
The Senate added cursive back into the elementary curriculum through House Bill 1640, which passed with a 31-18 vote.
The bill addresses other educational matters, adding e-learning days to the definition of instructional time and requires that two-hour delays and early releases due to weather or “student safety” count as full school days. It also establishes new requirements for the accreditation of public and private elementary and secondary schools.
House Bill 1641, which passed 32-16, is a wide-ranging charter school bill that affects everything from the sale of vacant public-school buildings to charter schools to an increase in the charter school board from seven to nine members. One of the provisions requires school districts to make certain unused property available to a charter school for an agreed upon price.
Vaping and CBD oil
A bill creating a study committee to examine the taxation of CBD oil and vaping products passed the Senate by a 45-2 vote.
House Bill 1444 aims to impose a tax on CBD oil, e-cigarettes, and e-cigarette products such as vaping pens and liquids. It also requires distributors and sellers of these products to have a proper license, and anyone who distributes or sells these products without the proper licensure, is subject to a Class B misdemeanor.
The Senate passed House Bill 1180, which prevents pharmacy benefit managers from having excessive profits for prescription drugs. Pharmacy-benefits managers are the middlemen who help select which drugs are covered for patients and negotiate discounts with drug makers. There was nearly an hour of debate before the measure was approved with a 47-2 vote
“It only costs the consumer and out insurance companies and our drug manufacturers to allow some of these practices to continue,” said Sen. Travis Holdman, R-Markle, sponsor of the bill.
None of the legislation passed Tuesday will go to the governor for his signature until House members agree to changes made in the Senate or House-Senate conference committees sort out differences in the bills between the two chambers.