The annual meeting of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee is scheduled to begin September 21, in a little less than a month. Politicos, lobbyists, and state employees look to the hearings for early insight as to what issues the legislature might take up in the next session, as well as making sure everyone still has a job.
While in years past, these hearings were spread out over several days and allowed agencies plenty of time to present their budgets, the schedule has been consolidated more and more over the years. Now down to a mere two days and missing quite a few agencies, the JLBC seems to be indicating to the public that the members have already made up their minds in back room negotiations about where the funds will go, and these hearings are a just a formality. Or perhaps, they have no genuine interest in where and how the money is spent.
Noticeably missing from the list of agencies with scheduled hearings include: Department of Transportation, Department of Insurance, the Supreme Court, Department of Public Safety, Public Service Commission, Gaming, Department of Agriculture, Attorney General's office, Secretary of State's office, Gaming, Treasurer's office, and PERS.
Some of these committees might not be as glamorous as Medicaid or Education (with a combined 90 minutes to present the largest portion of the state budget at the hearings), but there are definitely issues such as reduced gaming revenue, the alarming road and bridge reports, the status of our public employees retirement account, and the costs and consequences of Kemper's overruns that should be discussed in a public forum.
But this is all quite reminiscent of the first legislative session of Bryant, Gunn, and Reeves in 2012, where legislation was kept hidden and rammed down the public's throat at the last minute.
Here's the schedule as it has been distributed: