Every now and then when the House and Senate work on compromising two similar bills they ask members to let negotiators “exceed the differences.” If the House approves $1.00 for a program and the Senate approves $1.10 for the same program but negotiators agree the state actually can afford to spend $1.25, Normally the negotiators have to find a number between the dollar and the dollar and a dime. But sometimes House and Senate members are asked to let negotiators “exceed the differences” so the appropriation can go above the highest amount already approved.
But what if there are no differences, just some House members changing their minds about how to spend that dollar?
Presumably, you can’t exceed something that does not exist.
Here’s the deal. The House passed a schools funding bill that cuts funds for about 60% of Missouri’s school districts. But now some House members apparently have changed their minds and want the Senate to let negotiators exceed the differences.
Problem is, the Senate has already approved the original House provisions.
The House request set off a flurry of discussions among Senators and veteran Senate staffers late yesterday afternoon with a very earnest Senate Secretary explaining to lawmakers how things work. Or are supposed to work.
Senate President Pro tem Charlie Shields, speaking with reporters after yesterday’s session, put it pretty succinctly: “There are no differences.”
There are some parliamentary things that can be done including reconsideration of a string of motions as the Senate approved the bill—-kind of like unraveling a crocheted afghan. The Governor could veto the bill and the House could write a new one with differences included. Of course, that means the Senate would have to approve those differences. And if it doesn’t, there would have to be a conference committee to work out a compromise.
There are some senators, however, who think the House has fouled its nest and should just have to lay in it.
Some House members who find that possibility uncomfortable are studying rule books to find ways to exceed non-differences after all.
UPDATE (2:20 p.m.): Shortly after noon today, as the Senate was wrapping up its morning debate, it told the house,
“No, we don’t want to talk about something we both previously agreed upon just because you have changed your mind. Pass the bill and send it to the Governor. There’s nothing to talk about.”
The issue is a supplemental bill that deal with school finance. Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Mayer outlined the situation to his colleagues including Brad Lager of Savannah and while he was at it, he provided a political science lesson as well as a lesson in parliamentary procedure.
AUDIO: 7 min Mayer’s explanation of why the Senate is not going to talk about this bill with the House.