During the 2022 legislative session, which began January 31 and ended May 22, the Legislature and the Governor focused on some key priorities. First and foremost was what to do with a historic $9.25 billion budget surplus. The other priorities included replenishment of the unemployment insurance trust fund, COVID frontline worker pay, and finally, what will be the makeup of the new legislative districts because of redistricting.
In early spring, the Legislature and the Governor agreed to and passed legislation that replenished the unemployment trust fund and provided additional COVID frontline worker pay. However, little else was accomplished by the end of the session, despite the legislative leaders and the Governor reaching a global budget agreement that last week. However, the Legislature ended the session without passing many supplemental budget bills, including an E12 education bill, a bonding bill, or a tax bill.
Significant differences between the House and Senate on E12 funding bills
Going into the conference committee, the House and the Senate were far apart in their support for E12 education. The Senate education funding bill appropriated a little more than $30 million in one-time funding, specifically for literacy initiatives.
In contrast, the House education funding bill appropriated over $1 billion next year and over $2 billion for the next two years. Highlights of the House bill included reducing the special education and ELL cross-subsidies, one-time declining enrollment and compensatory aid, additional reimbursement for school meals, funding to address student mental health needs, and expansion of public PreK programs.
Conference committee negotiations and global budget agreement
In the last week of the session, legislative leaders and the Governor announced a global budget agreement. This agreement called for $4 billion in tax relief and $4 billion in spending in all areas of state government. Of that $4 billion, $1 billion over three years was dedicated to E12 education.
Despite the global agreement, the Legislature went home without passing most spending bills, a bonding bill, or a tax bill.
In the E12 conference committee, the two main areas of focus included literacy and the special education cross-subsidy. During the negotiations, the House continued to advocate for funding for student support personnel and additional funding to help with the costs of school meals. While the House and Senate exchanged offers, they failed to reach a final agreement.
The tax agreement, which also did not advance, included equalization of the first tier of a district’s local optional levy, a new cooperative facilities lease levy, and an increase in the school building bond credit from 70 percent to 85 percent.
While the major appropriations bills and a tax bill didn’t pass, a few others did. First was the Student Data Privacy Act, which places expectations on what technology vendors and school districts must do to protect student data. The bill reflects input from education organizations and district technology directors so that it would minimize the impact on how schools deliver and use technology in the classroom.
The next is a mental health funding package that provides over $90 million for an array of mental health services, of which $2 million is for school-linked mental health grants.
The next was a pensions policy bill that included two provisions of interest. One suspends the earnings limitation for retired teachers who return to teaching through fiscal year 2024. Another clarifies that deferred compensation plan vendors must report 403B information to the Legislative Commission on Pensions and Retirement.
Lastly, legislation passed providing $50 million over the next three years for broadband grants and almost $61 million from the state’s capital projects fund to build or support broadband infrastructure.
Talk of a special session
As the leaders continued to negotiate the budget bills, there was a lot of talk about a possible special session so the Legislature could finish its work. It will take some negotiating between the House, Senate, and Governor to make this happen and to date, they have yet to reach an agreement about a possible special session.
MASA began utilizing a new grassroots engagement system to help you more easily connect with your area legislators during the session. We appreciate your response and use of the system, and hope you found it a helpful way to engage with your local legislators.