It appears that leadership is near reaching a consensus to end the regular session tomorrow afternoon (May 8th) with an expectation that the Governor will likely call a special session later in the year to address any needed COVID-19 response and budget issues. Senate President Karen Fann has indicated that the Senate will take such action. While no such declaration has come from the House yet, it is under discussion with an understanding that the chamber would be unable to move any legislation not already passed by the Senate if the Senate is no longer in session.
As part of the consensus to adjourn tomorrow, a compromise bill is being drafted that would address some immediate COVID-19 issues such as barring criminal or civil charges for anyone that disobeyed part of the executive orders, business liability protection from employees and customers who contract the virus and a prohibition on state and local jurisdictions from suspending or provoking permits or licenses for non-compliance with COVID-19 related directives. These are some of the immediate priorities of the legislators who would rather resume the session than adjourn.
These are unprecedented times and the scope of future legislative work remains unknown. When and if the legislature returns later in the year, there is sure to be disagreements on what legislation is "essential" or COVID-19 related and appropriate for consideration. As revenue uncertainties will continue, in all likelihood thru the remainder of the year and into next, it is less likely that lawmakers will take up bills that have any significant impact on the state budget unless necessitated by COVID-19. This includes the very substantial list of bills introduced this year appropriating one-time funding for transportation projects across the state. This also means that the efforts led by House Transportation Committee Chairmen Noel Campbell to raise transportation revenues will likely not resume.
Another unknown is the level of federal relief that will be provided to the states, local governments and transportation infrastructure. The Senate returned to Washington this week and the House is scheduled to follow on Monday. At the top of their agenda will be the next COVID-19 response and relief package. While they have yet to reach a consensus on what will be included, both President Donald Trump and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi have expressed support for substantial infrastructure investment to help spur the economic recovery. Support to offset the revenue losses that have incurred at the state and local levels will also be considered.