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< How would you spend conservation money? | Main | And we're off! >

A vote, finally

Posted at 1:54 AM on May 18, 2008 by Michael Marchio

Well, it's just past 2:00 a.m. but the Senate and House are about to take up Sen. Linda Berglin and Rep. Tom Huntley's heath care reform bill, SF3099. A deal was reached on it hours ago, but other budget negotiations meant it had to wait until all that was squared away to get a vote.

The scene inside the Capitol right now is a strange one. The only souls left in the building are staff, lobbyists and the press, and I've seen lawmakers sprawled out on benches trying to get some rest. Most of them are playing the same waiting game as all the rest of us are, with leadership calling them to caucus, giving periodic updates on budget negotiations. Many have that slightly bleary look in their eyes that only 16 straight hours rotating in and out of chamber can do, but they're still surprisingly alert.

This is the first time the Commish has been present in the waning hours of a session, but it seems to me that time could have been used more constructively. The House and Senate began session around 10 this morning, and were in until about 11:30. They took time out to go to the state's sesquicentennial events around lunch, and came back for, all told, about a combined 4 hours of debate broken up through the afternoon and night.

Some of the bills awaiting action have nothing to do with the budget deal, and I don't see why lawmakers couldn't have processed some of them while House and Senate leaders worked out budget kinks with the governor. Perhaps the governor is looking for promises on which ones will or will not get a floor vote in those last hours of session Sunday.

The Senate just passed the health care reform bill by a vote of 62-5. Lawmakers are tripping over some routine parliamentary stuff, probably an indication that these hours are best avoided in crafting legislation smoothly.

Minority Leader Seifert just walked past the conference room between the House gallery and the room where Republicans caucus, and said "Everyone looks chipper." We don't, but it's nice of him to say.