Stateline Story

Rhode Island Lawmakers Rush To Adjourn; Two States In Overtime

While the legislatures in Maine and Louisiana closed their sessions as expected on June 19 and June 21 respectively and Rhode Island was poised to adjourn, lawmakers in Oregon and New Hampshire are pushing beyond scheduled closing dates to address unresolved issues.

The number of statehouse legislatures which have adjourned remains at 37, leaving only 13 still at work, though many states allow for governors to call special sessions without advance notice. Several governors have already done just that, or plan to do so in the near future.

In a frustrating turn of events for New Hampshire legislators, the House of Representatives unexpectedly abandoned a GOP budget proposal and adopted a larger Senate version that leaves unresolved the state's $90 million gap in the state's new education funding plan.

Several senators suggested that the Senate and House take some time off and come back to deal with the funding gap at a later date. Others expressed outrage that a hard-fought compromise had met such an abrupt end.

"We have not met our new obligation to public education and we have shirked our long standing responsibilities," said Senate Finance Committee Chair Beverly Hollingworth.

New Hampshire statehouse observers say that for the first time in memory, there will be no joint House-Senate budget committee to study the state's operating budget. However, legislators have promised action on the school-funding plan and other key bills by the June 30 end of the fiscal year.

"For right now, we're calling the session 'indefinite,' but hopefully it won't be too indefinite," a spokesperson for the New Hampshire House Clerk's office told stateline.org.

While Oregon legislators had anticipated a June 30 adjournment, lingering issues have forced work to continue.

Facing a budget deadlock and in no hurry to adjourn, Oregon legislative leaders say the session could last until mid-July, making it the third longest in history. The 1999 session is in its 163rd day and is already the 11th longest on record.

The final impasse in budget negotiations remains school-funding levels. Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber wants to spend $4.95 billion on primary and secondary schools. His request is $200 million more than the Republican controlled House will stand for.

On the special sessions front, Oklahoma lawmakers have been called into a second special session to address capital improvements for higher education, the state's truth-in-sentencing law and money for the state's prosecution of the Oklahoma City federal building bombers. The session is technically a continuation of a special session called before the regular session to address the state's oil crisis.

Additionally, Utah Governor Mike Leavitt has confirmed plans to call legislators for a special session in the fall to address the gun control, a move that has angered some of his core party constituency at the statehouse. At least one Republican group, the Professional Republican Women, has applauded the governor's move.