Credit: GPB's Lawmakers

Today, on Day 35 of the legislative session, the budget was the big-ticket item in the Senate. The Senate’s amended version of House Bill 911 followed most of the House’s recommendations, but also included raises for state troopers, forensic examiners and legislators. 

Improving third grade reading levels as well as more financial support for foster care programs were also Senate additions. 

But Senate Appropriations Chairman Blake Tillery was somewhat cautious when trying to predict the state’s economy in the next year. 

“So there is some cautiousness in this budget," he said. "We tried not to spend every dollar that we were sent. We tried to put the spending, if we could, into [a] one-time fund. So that next year when we visit the same issues, we again access state priorities and be at a position where we have not boxed ourselves in.” 

Despite Democrats’ criticism of the lack of spending on social programs like Medicaid, the budget passed unanimously. It will now go back to the House, where both versions will be merged.

On the House floor, contentious debate ensued over Senate Bill 226, a measure that makes it easier for parents to challenge books and materials their children read in school. They could also have these so-called “harmful materials” banned.  

Parents can first approach the principal, and if not satisfied, appeal to the school board in the district. The board would have the final say. 

Rep. Ed Setzler supports the bill. 

“Parents have an absolute right,” Setzler said while holding a copy of the bill, “to be shown in the school library, or in a means defined by the School Board, to look at the material their kids are being shown.” 

Rep. Matthew Wilson spoke out against SB 226. 

“Colleagues, I ask you: If you have any decency, stop making our school kids, our students, your political football," Wilson said, "and oppose this measure.” 

Debate took so long in the House on the first few bills, the body adjourned with bills still on the Rules Calendar.

The General Assembly returns Monday for Day 36 of the session.