Revenue crisis far from over

Rep. Kathy Skroch, R-District 26

The state’s 66th legislative session will consider a near-record number of bills.

To hear testimony and act on each of these many bills in 80 days will require maximum efficiency. Committees are processing bills at an intense pace.

Even though crude oil prices had recovered some, they have stagnated at near $42 a barrel. There is a public perception the revenue crisis is over, but sales tax revenues have not returned to the pre-crash levels.

With many stakeholders seeking to restore previous spending levels, appropriations will have its work cut out balancing the budget. That work is divided among the education and environment, the government operations and human resources divisions.

Impassioned speeches were delivered in the chamber as HB 1097 — repeal of all Sunday closing laws — was brought for a vote before the full house. It passed with 56 yes and 35 no votes. The same bill to repeal Sunday Closing laws failed during the 65th legislative session.

Rep. Kathy Skroch, R-District 26, serves on the human services committee. The real-life testimonies provided before the committee are often heart wrenching. HB 1359 asked for funding to provide a study of hyperbaric oxygenation therapy. Tears of joy were shed as testimonials were provided in support of the bill. Patients and parents described the life changing benefits of the therapy.

We heard from a young woman who suffered debilitating effects from a brain injury that occurred 11 years prior to the treatments. She and her family had exhausted every possible medical option for relief. She was forced to live with her mother due to her loss of functionality. Following a series of hyperbaric oxygenation therapy treatments, she is back to work as a public-school paraprofessional. The headaches, over-sensitivity and brain fog are gone. Her mother was in tears as she recounted the struggle they experienced those 11 years and the unbelievable recovery that resulted post treatment. The bill has not yet been acted on.

I also serve on the agricultural committee, where we hear bills related to water, soil, grain, livestock and all agricultural topics. Two of my favorite bills this week dealt with freeze branding of cattle and the inclusion of domesticated rabbits on the list of approved meats for human consumption.

A highly contested bill was HB 1086 dealing with the definition of Waters of the State. Based on opposition testimony, there will need to be heavy amending before acting on the bill.

Of special interest to many of you in District 26 will be the bills coming before the education committee — 48 in total. Many bills are related to courses provided and funding.

The government and veterans affairs committee heard a bill nicknamed the “Ban the Box” bill. It requires the removal of a check box on public job applications used to disclose applicant’s past felony records. Certain public job types would retain the box.

The judiciary and industry business and labor committees have near-record totals of 78 and 72 bills, respectively. Judiciary heard bills related to minors in restaurants that serve alcohol, a creation of a petition process for sealing criminal records and penalties for fraudulently claiming a pet as a “service dog.”

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