The last two weeks of session are like the last two minutes of a ball game. There isnít a lot of time, but enough time to win or lose on any number of issues. The next two weeks will see about 250 bills come through the conference committee process. The possibility of a compromise on the budget is also a reality that may prevent an unnecessary special session.
I have been working especially hard on two items dealing with rural hospitals. One project has been trying to help Cimarron County Hospital with a way to utilize the nursing home to help the finances of the hospital. I have met with representatives from the Health Care Authority and the Health Department in order to find a way to maximize federal dollars for this arrangement.
I have also been able to find another bill to put Senator Laughlinís Small Hospital Self Help Act into during the conference committee process. This legislation passed the Senate, but did not make it through the House. This bill would enable local tax money to be used for federal match money. This would enable small rural hospitals to increase the tax receipts threefold. † I am hoping that both of these endeavors will help our health care facilities to become more financially stable.
Another bill that I have been working diligently on is a bill to help utilize wind energy in our area. This bill would create a task force to study the need and placement of transmission lines in the panhandle area. This in turn should lead to the implementation of this study into the Southwest Power Pool plan. This entity provides power to parts or all of about six states in the region. They would also be able to spread the cost of this project to its customer base. This would allow for the development of wind energy in the part of the state that has the most wind, the panhandle area.
Because of the lack of a budget agreement, I opted to allow one bill to become enacted during the fiscal year of 2008. This bill funnels money from General Revenue to a School Land Ad Valorem Reimbursement Fund. Right now counties are reimbursed about ten cents on the dollar for the school land located in their county. This bill would increase that amount to close to 100%.† The increase would help both schools and county government in our area. This bill has been signed out of conference committee in the House and is waiting for action in the Senate.
Another bill that has been signed out of the conference committee in the House is a bill to consolidate ABLE and OBN. This would both streamline government and insure better job performance by these agencies. Right now the ABLE commission and the Bureau of Narcotics both enforce liquor laws. This would enable them to work together to perform this function better and more economical. This is the first step of several to streamline state government and eliminate duplication.†
There is also some movement on the budget front this week. The final amount of money that will be available from the spillover from the Rainy Day fund will be made public this week. That amount will solidify the exact amount of money available to spend on both the normal budget and one time money available for special funding needs.† I expect that a budget agreement may be reached before the final sine die adjournment on Friday May 25 at 5 pm.