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Tue November 22, 2011
The House Holds Hearing that Almost Wasn't
Next week, the full House is expected to vote on Governor Lynch’s proposed education funding constitutional amendment. In advance of that, a House committee met to discuss the merits of the plan. The hearing struck some as a political ploy.
The most unusual aspect of the proceedings was who was missing.
The Republican Vice-Chair and the ranking Democrat were absent.
There was not a single senator, and most telling of all, no Governor, the man behind the plan.
It was a sign few took this hearing seriously.
But one man did.
“Thank you Madame Chair and thank you to members of the committee. ”
House Speaker Bill O’Brien has called the House back to Concord to vote on Governor Lynch’s amendment proposal at the end of the month.
Critics have questioned O’Brien moving so quickly.
The speaker’s answer, because he wants to make sure lawmakers have a chance to consider the governor’s plan.
“We want to break the logjam by giving the governor’s amendment a vehicle to be considered by the House. ”
Without getting into arcane legislative details, O’Brien is saying if the House doesn’t take up Lynch’s proposal by the end of this year, rules prohibit consideration next year.
And in O’Brien’s mind that would be a wasted opportunity.
Other lawmakers insist there are other ways to keep the governor’s proposal in play.
Democratic Representative Gary Richardson told the Speaker the hearing is little more than politics.
“To me, this is simply an attempt to defeat the governor’s proposed language before we even have a chance to discuss it. ”
Richardson pointed out that the person who moved Lynch’s proposal forward- O’Brien, himself- doesn’t even support it.
He scolded the speaker, saying the whole process didn’t make any sense.
Speaker O’Brien responded, telling Richardson, the House is going above and beyond to make sure there is a serious debate on the plan.
“We’re also giving the proponent of this language, the governor and his party to comment and testify to the merits of it. There is this transparency that goes far beyond what we’ve ever seen what is going to become a floor amendment. ”
The Speaker made no attempt to hide his dislike of the Lynch proposal.
He believes it gives the court too much oversight over future education funding plans.
That view is widely held among rank-and-file GOP House members.
But Special Committee Chair Republican Lynne Ober says she’d welcome another shot at the bill.
“Because I think the more public hearings you have, the more you can get the public involved, the better bills you can write. ”
While rank-and-file House Republicans might not care for this plan, they have reason to tread carefully.
For the first time in a decade, many amendment supporters believe the stars may finally be aligned to change the Constitution.
But to do that, it must be a bi-partisan effort.
And it’s hard to see that coming to pass if Governor Lynch isn’t on board.