Lawmakers Pick Up Pace As Session Winds Down

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By Fanna Haile-Selassie

SPRINGFIELD -- It was a fast-paced day in Springfield Thursday. But with just two days left in the session, the budget is not a done deal yet.

One bill now headed to the Governor's desk would put a question on the November ballot asking voters if the state should add an extra tax on millionaires. It's among several referendums lawmakers have approved this year, including whether to increase the minimum wage. And on Thursday, Senators approved yet another ballot question, asking if prescription drug coverage plans should include birth control.
 
It also didn't take long to get another downstate lawmaker yelling on the House floor.
 
"Let's be realistic, let's govern, let's pass a responsible budget, the most responsible budget we can pass in this climate, given the fact that everybody's against every thing. Vote aye," said Representative John Bradley.
 
The Revenue and Finance Chair got heated as he urged lawmakers to vote for a new revenue estimate that's $1 billion more than before. He says the state budgeting agency came out with new projections, adding $200 million. The new estimate also relies on borrowing among agencies.
 
"It's not the best case scenario, but people don't want to vote for a tax increase and they don't want to vote for cuts," explained Bradley.
 
There were two bills that passed out of the House Thursday that are expected to help downstate residents. The first would benefit current and future tornado victims who who lose commercial property. It would allow them to rebuild at previous property tax levels.
 
"I did a similar bill when Harrisburg had the tornado, for residential and I didn't have time to do commercial then," Representative Brandon Phelps said on the House Floor. "So I wanted to commend my friend, I'm honored to work with him, Representative Hayes, for doing this because he's going to make sure our small businesses are taken care of."
 
The House also passed legislation that would allow certain psychologists to prescribe some medications. The bill is set up like the law that allows nurse practitioners to write prescriptions. Bradley has been working on it for nearly three years.
 
"It's about access to care and it's about opening up mental health care to under-served areas."
 
Both the psychologist bill and tornado victims bill now head back to the Senate for re-approval, but Representative Bradley says he doesn't expect any problems.
 
The Senate will likely take up the budget bills on Friday, but there's still the capital bill on the table, as well as the 911 service bill, which could have a major funding impact for rural communities.
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