A resolution introduced by Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, aims to prevent an impasse over the state budget like the one lawmakers hit last summer, which delayed its passage by two months.
The resolution, introduced on Tuesday, would apply if the Legislature's Joint Finance Committee has not completed its work on the budget bill by June 30 of the odd-numbered year during which the budget is introduced and passed.
Fitzgerald introduced the bill on Tuesday so it would be available for a vote when the Senate is in session on March 20, he said in an emailed statement. Senate Republicans will discuss it in caucus this week.
"Several senators expressed an interest in changing Senate rules to ensure that future budgets are completed on time and not subject to artificial delays by one house of the Legislature," Fitzgerald said.
Under the proposal, if the Joint Finance Committee hasn't finished work by June 30 — the end of the fiscal year — the Senate majority leader would be required to incorporate into the budget bill any changes the committee had approved up until that point.
If the budget bill is a Senate bill, it would be referred to the Committee on Senate Organization, from which it could be scheduled for a vote on the Senate floor. If the budget bill is not a Senate bill, the Senate majority would be required to introduce a bill incorporating the changes adopted by the Joint Finance Committee, which would then be referred to the Senate organization committee.
The resolution comes six months after Gov. Scott Walker signed the 2017-19 budget into law — a spending plan that faced months of delays as the Senate and Assembly failed to reach agreements on key issues.
As negotiations waged on between the two chambers, the budget-writing committee ceased meeting for two months. The budget was signed nearly three months after the start of the fiscal year, and tensions lingered even after work was completed.
Some tensions between the two houses have recently re-emerged, as the legislative session draws to a close. Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, has said the Assembly will not return — with the exception of a special session being called by the governor — after completing its work last month, meaning any bills passed by the Assembly and changed by amendment in the Senate would die.
A spokeswoman for Vos did not respond to a request for comment on Fitzgerald's proposal.