Busy weeks on both sides at the Capital

By CHRIS CAUGHMAN,

It has been a busy last 2 weeks at the Capital as both sides of the chambers finished floor debate on their respective bills.  Now these bills are being referred to the other chamber to be vetted.  A lot of bills have already died but during this next period you will see a lot more bills die as well.  This is a very good process as only the bills that will survive will be those that have been vetted thoroughly and have survived both chambers of the State Legislature. 

This past week in the Senate we had floor debate on appropriation bills.  The overall fiscal year 2020 total state support appropriation reviewed by the Senate 2.38 percent more than the current budget.  Some of the highlights include:

• A $1,000 pay raise for teachers, teacher assistants, counselors, and librarians.

• Appropriations of almost $62 million from the general fund for increased retirement costs. This action by the legislature provides funding for each agencies increase in PERS costs and results in no change to the employment contribution rate.

• $3.4 million for additional highway patrolmen who will graduate with Trooper School Class #63 which is currently ongoing.

• $1 million to the Department of Mental Health for community based mental health services.

The Senate also passed Senate Bill 2505 which would give an extra $1.4 million to the William Winter Teacher Forgivable Loan Program for nontraditional licensed teachers in school districts designated by the State Board of Education with a critical shortage of teachers. It would pay teachers who qualify an additional $3,000 a year for four years toward their student loan debt. This is seen as a valuable recruitment tool. Also, through appropriations we will maintain are raining day fund of about $410 million.

As always it is my honor to serve as your Senator for District 35.  Please let me know at any time if there is something I can help you with.