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March 9, 2014

FRIEND: Hashing out our difference

March roars in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. It appears that 2014 has the ability to live up to the old adage!

The Legislature has completed the second half and is in the midst of conference committees. The final two weeks of session are devoted to conference committees, or the time that differences are worked out on bills which the authors have dissented. If a House bill is amended in the Senate and the author agrees with the change, he/she can file a concurrence motion. The bill is then handed down by consent and goes to the governor for his signature. If the House bill is amended by the Senate and the author disagrees, he/she files a dissent motion. A conference committee is appointed to try to work out a compromise.

Four members, one Republican and one Democrat from each chamber, are appointed to the committee. All four signatures are required before a vote from each chamber. If passed by both chambers, it goes to the governor. If it does not pass, it is not dead. The conference committee report can be amended again and brought back for a vote. The danger in this process is that if the clock runs out on the effort – the Legislature must Sine Die (Latin for the last day of session) by March 14 – the legislation fails.

In conversation with the chairman of the Miami County commissioners, Josh Francis, he told me that expenses on overtime for highway workers has maxed out, and the county needs to do an additional appropriation due to this harsh winter. Surely, most counties are experiencing similar circumstances.

The General Assembly continues to consider more funding for highway construction and maintenance. Highway dollars are good for our economy because they put our workers to work right away. We proposed in our agenda, which was unveiled in January, that $400 million be allocated for highway construction with $25 million dedicated to local government. This is still under discussion, but a final proposal will be reached. My wish is that the additional highway funding can stay intact. It would be good for our district and the rest of the state.

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