19 May 2009

Committee action, May 19: HB 794, HB 776

HB 794 by Speaker Jim Tucker would create a commission to review post-secondary education. Tucker told the House Education Committee that improvement was needed in delivery of services, and this commission could point these out. It would be comprised of Regents’ and elected officials’ appointees and would report early next year. He said delivery currently was not efficient, and anticipated the Regents could make some changes, and the Legislature would have to make some other. After approval of some minor amendments, Rep. Frank Hoffman asked whether recommendations could have school closures as part of that. Tucker said yes, but thought it much more likely to be rearrangement of assets.

The bill was approved without objection.

HB 776 by Rep. Wayne Waddell would increase the standard by which party primaries would be held for federal elections, by closing party primaries as one with 40,000 members (a major party) as opposed to the existing “recognized” party (1,000 members). Sec. of State Jay Dardenne told the House and Governmental Affairs Committee the bill would not undo the closed primary system was needed because small parties could have party primaries, and this would increase costs, run up costs in terms of voting machines, and make matters more complicated for election commissioners and voters. This would mean party primaries would only happen involving Republicans and Democrats.

Questions asked about the mechanics involved, and Dardenne and his staff explained the complicated process. The big problem was that the closing of primaries were conditional upon the parties, so multiple forms of ballots would have to be presented requiring more and larger machines depending upon and more complicated ways of setting the machines depending upon what parties have candidates and whether they are closed.

Rep. Mert Smiley wondered whether this bill could be hijacked. Dardenne and Waddell assured them they resisted this notion; Waddell said “I resent that,” the implication that it was a surreptitious attempt, and Smiley said it wasn’t his intent to cast aspersions. First Assistant Secretary Tom Schedler said this could happen to any bill so then no bills would be approved, and that Waddell would pull the bill if an unfriendly amendment got onto it, and that he and Dardenne would ask the governor to veto it if it got that far in that form. Schedler also said if all five current “recognized” parties had multiple congressional candidates across the state, it could cost as much as $38 million more.

Rep. Karen Peterson thought the question should be redefined, that this was a machine problem that could be fixed although it would cost money. Schedler agreed, but said it was a policy matter (the numerical standards) and if it wasn’t to the liking of the Legislature, they would live with it. Rep. Noble Ellington then suggested a deferral, in order to gain time to better understand the bill to reevaluate their positions saying he gained knowledge this day, and said Chairman Rick Gallot had committed to hearing it next week if that happened. Waddell agreed, and it was.

It’s good to be no party at this time.
Rep. Dee Richard, during the HB 776 debate.

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