Of all the things the Lege does, none is quite as awe-inspiring and stomach-churning as the joint committee to reconcile the House and Senate budgets. Basically, everything that's happened so far - in particular, all of the victories by the Democrats on things like teacher pay, vouchers, and CHIP eligibility, can and may well be tossed into the trash can by the committee. It's much easier to persuade someone to cross over and vote against, say, a voucher amendment than it is to get them to vote against their party's budget.
Democrats tried to insert instructions to the committee to retain the aforementioned victories in the negotiations with the Senate, but they failed. Not that there's anything unusual about that, as Burka notes. The Dems recognize the position they're in:
"It was way too easy," [Rep. Garnet] Coleman said of his own amendments that passed with little debate - calling for shoring up the hobbled Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program with more funding and fewer roadblocks. "The leadership did a good job of appearing moderate to get through a bad budget," he said, "because they've been defeated by looking too far to the right and being draconian and evil." The budget process now moves to the Senate and then on to conference committee for final negotiations. The amendments "will be stripped off in conference," Coleman predicted. "Then they'll bring the conference report back and dare people to vote against the budget."
I don't have the vote for the vouchers instruction yet--it's not up online--but it will be interesting to see how the Parent PAC Republicans voted on it. Unlike merit pay, which is not a Parent PAC issue, vouchers is probably the biggest single issue on the Parent PAC agenda. Readers know, of course, that members of the majority are supposed to stick with the chair on procedural issues, but voters might not be so understanding.