A few legislative leaders have selected their own pet education bills for inclusion in a giant omnibus bill that caught even most legislators off-guard when it was announced in a surprise news conference yesterday, two days before the session ends.
President Valentine and Senator Stephenson spent a lot of breath at the news conference trying to convince us that the omnibus bill will better allow us to consider each part and that the previously defeated bills were just "misunderstood." They of course claim they aren't trying to sneak anything through and that this was a "compromise." It was apparently a compromise between the various right-wing Republican leaders of the caucus of just how much they could get away with, but a compromise nonetheless.
"Do you think we could include a bill eliminating whiny teachers in favor of robots?" "No, Senator Stephenson. But we could revive the bill allocating 3.5 million dollars this year and 2.5 million each year afterwards to buy software and laptop computers for pre-schoolers... and 70% of those can go to rich kids!" "Ooooh! Deal! My lobbyists will love this!"This new omnibus bill, SB 2, contains parts of over 12 other bills (Here is an incomplete list. It is missing at least SB 91 for the $1,000,000 allocated to the American Board program.) and was rushed through the Senate in one day, apparently unamended. The House gets a crack at it tomorrow, the last day of the legislative session. (Edit: It's actually a complete list of the 12 bills in SB2. The ABCTE funding ended up in the SB281 funding, but was cut in an amendment at the last minute. See Mar.5 post.)
And you are supposed to believe that they care what you, the average voter, thinks.
My only reason for optimism is that my House representative sent me back an email saying he didn't like the idea of omnibus bills either and that he didn't believe the previously-defeated HB 278 was fair to Alpine District. But the fact that the bill sailed through the Senate today with no amendments makes me worry.
Listen to the last 30 seconds of the news conference, starting at about 18:00, for Senator Valentine's persuasive powers: "Any one component part may have difficulty passing, but when you look at the total, it says "This is a good plan.""
Both the principle of honesty involved in omnibus bills in general, and several individual bills within the omnibus, say to me "This is a plan to benefit special interests and assert legislative power." Jesse summed it up pretty well over in a comment over at Jeremy's Jeremiad:
It seems that any omnibus bill, state or federal, is a Frankenstein-like monster of competing interests hoping to ride the coattails to passage instead of being forced to stand on their own. It’s legislative laziness to even propose these bills.
Comment by Jesse Harris — March 4, 2008 @ 2:45 pm