The legislature has recessed twice this session without passing a budget for the Department of Marine Resources (DMR), but today the House and Senate gaveled in, in hopes to resolve this issue, and luckily did just that.
The main problem was that House and Senate leaders could not agree on who should have the spending authority of the funds in the budget that is from the GOMESA (Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act) funding, which is derived from oil and gas leasing revenues that are split with the five Gulf States.
For the last 15 years, the Governor has had the spending authority for these funds and the Senate leaders are wishing to keep it that way, but members of the House say he should not have this power and would like for legislators to have the spending authority.
So with the disagreements, members of the committees in both chambers refused to sign any conference report, leading to no budget whatsoever for the DMR for this fiscal year.
This, of course, led to many problems with fisherman, licensing, and losing revenue.
So today, in hopes to get this worked out, both sides of the Capitol gaveled in and quickly called meetings and filed conference reports for HB 1726 in both the House and Senate, and shortly went into recess subject to call.
When coming back, the chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, introduced this conference report on the floor and it passed with a vote of 113 yea and 3 nays.
The Senate brought the conference report up on the floor that was just passed in the House.
Senator Briggs Hopson spoke on the bill in the Senate noting some changes that were “hashed out over the last few weeks” to be made to HB 1726.
“We have itemized the projects that had been committed in the previous year, the total of those projects is $27,048,494.00. Also, we included language that would take care of the furloughed workers at DMR to make sure we get them paid for the time they were out that we were unable to get their budget,” Senator Hopson stated. “We have also agreed that we would leave $10 million in the GOMESA funds to be utilized by DMR in consultation with the Governor, DEQ, and MDA to handle projects that might be coming down the pike, and then next year when we come back in session, there will be the other $10 million we will try to list and appropriate those in next years budget.”
This conference report passed with a unanimous vote in the Senate.
This has now been released and sent off to the Governor’s desk to get his final signature.