Wednesday, April 12, 2006

No joking matter

House Minority Leader Tom Cross began Wednesday’s brief day of business with a question about what was going on with the legislative schedule. The previous afternoon, the Senate adjourned for two weeks while Democratic leaders could continue negotiating the budget. The meetings have excluded the Republican Party since January, but Cross said he just wanted to know how to plan for the next few weeks.

Democratic House Speaker Michael Madigan politely replied, “It’s my hope, shared by the governor and Sen. (Emil) Jones, that first week in May would be the last week. That’s our hope." In a jovial tone, he continued, “Tom, I’d like to share with you that we have spoken of your absence. We would like to have you there (in the budget meetings in the governor’s office).”

Cross, returning the lighthearted comments, hinted that his counterpart, Senate Minority Leader Frank Watson, also might like to be present in the meetings.

Flat out laughing, Madigan joked, “The governor would particularly like to have Sen. Watson in the meetings. He seems to enjoy Sen. Watson in those meetings.”

That would be an interesting dynamic, but unlikely to be productive for a budget that doesn’t need any Republican votes to pass. Democrats, meanwhile, will continue to debate how to divvy up the money. The House is expected return for two days next week, two days the last week in April, and, if needed, a few days in May, well before the Constitutional deadline of May 31.

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