UPDATE 3/29/2019

The $2 million dollars in the DFA Budget has successfully survived the 2019 Legislative Session and is now headed to the Governor to be signed into law–and into the ESA. This comes after numerous attempts to extend and expand the ESA to provide help for students with special needs.


The morning opened rapidly with attempts to strip the $2 million from the budget.

“This isn’t a vote to table,” said Hughes. “This is a vote of secrecy.”

Hughes said this bill and the motion to table was a swipe at the thousands of state employees who were told there was no funding for additional raises. He also alleged that the presence of the $2 million for the ESA program was a “sneak” to get the money in.

“We were waiting on the Senate to finish the bond bill,” House Appropriations Chairman John Read tells Y’all Politics. “I called myself scanning the bill… I did not know it was in there. It was my responsibility as chairman… we didn’t say anything on the floor because we didn’t know.”

The motion to table failed 57-52.

This essentially delayed House discussion of the bill pending the conversation to be had by the Senate.

After a brief recess, the House again voted on the motion to table, with representatives taking the time to speak against the motion.

Rep. R. Johnson spoke against tabling the bill. “If you want to hang around your neck that you took $2 million away from first responders you go right ahead. I won’t be part of that. Vote no to table.”

The motion to table failed because it tied.  

After several attempts, the motion to table the bill passed 55-51, leaving additional action in the hands of the Senate.

The Senate voted for the motion by voice vote, bringing sine die and an additional $2 million for the ESA program.

——

While all attempts to extend and expand the ESA program failed during the session, one last ditch effort surprised lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

The Department of Finance Administration conference report (SB 3049) contained $2 million to be appropriated to the Department of Education for the ESA program, which would help subsidize private school tuition for students with special needs.

The conference report hit online just moments before the Senate was set to vote on it, and the allotment wasn’t discussed when the bill was initially presented. Once it was discovered, Democratic votes began to change on the bill.

Republicans joined in changing their votes as well, with Rep. Shane Aguirre being the first to change his vote.

Speaker of the House Philip Gunn told media that House Republicans would not be attempting to reverse the DFA spending set aside for the ESA. The bill passed the House 115-1, but was then recommitted after a motion to reconsider was made by Rep. Jay Hughes.