Legislative dilemma: to extend the session or Sine Die on Friday
House Speaker Larry Cretul and Senate President Jeff Atwater just announced that the session will be extended for budget purposes only past Friday. The implication is that every bill but the budget and the revenue issues will die on the scheduled time.
Will that work? To extend the session, they need a three-fifths vote. That could be dicey if tensions continue to be high between the House's chief budget negotiator, Rep. Dean Cannon, and House's Democrat budget guru, Rep. Ron Saunders. Then there's the tension that has developed between Cannon and the Senate's budget chief, Sen. J.D. Alexander.
The other option is to adjourn, or Sine Die, and write a call with a limited agenda.
Here are what the sages of the fourth floor have to say:
Ron Greenstein, former Democratic state representative and now lobbyist: "It's always good to keep things in play because it keeps people's interest,'' he said. But he recommended they Sine Die on Friday and agree to extend the budget and limited related issues, such as a cigarette tax and gambling bills.
Pete Dunbar, former Republican state representative and now lobbyist: "The unspoken dynamics of getting to a point that gets you close is probably easier than starting over. The choice is dictated by how close you are.'' If lawmakers are close, they should just extend, that avoids having to go through the parliamentary procedures of introducing new bills and restarting the process, he said. In his 10 years in office -- all when the Democrats were in control -- they got out on time only once.
Guy Spearman, longtime lobbyist: "The presiding officers need to look at what votes they need and decide what to do. Do they make the call or does the governor? I'd be talking to the governor.'' He'd personally prefer they work through the weekend, but he believes it's important for legislators to go home, rest up and hear from their constituents that "they need to solve the problem.''
Jack Cory, longtime lobbyist: "If you extend, everything's on the table, and that's dangerous.'' He supports the idea of coming back to do the budget only as long as there is firm agreement. On the other hand, without having other bills that can be called up, a special session can fall apart quickly, he said. "It's easier for things to blow up in a special session because you don't have control of your members."