Donovan v. Williams—No Minimum Wage Increase & No Jobs Bill

As lawmakers’ aplomb and self-congratulations of the 2012 legislative subside, there is an interesting, sort of behind-the-scenes story to be told. One would think that with Democrats controlling both chambers of the legislature and a Democrat in the governor’s office, everythimg in the party should be copacetic. Well, it isn’t.

For the first time in The Shad’s memory, the top legislative priority of both the Senate President and the Speaker of the House, failed to pass the other chamber. There must have been some serious back and forth between Don Williams and Chris Donovan.

Speaker Donovan made it clear his first priority was a bill to raise the state’s minimum. Donovan’s plan was scaled down in the committee process and watered down even further when it came to a vote. It passed the House but was never taken up in the Senate. Why? Because Sen. Williams didn’t have the votes in his caucus to pass it. Williams said many times during the process that those senators who support increasing the wage wouldn’t do so now given the economy. It was bad timing.

Sen. Williams bestowed the moniker “Senate Bill No. 1” on a job-creation and retention bill. Whatever is the top priority for the Senate Democrats in any given session is Senate Bill No. 1. Williams’ jobs bill passed the Senate but was never taken up in the House.

There’s been finger pointing all around when the jobs bill wasn’t taken up in the House. Democrats blamed Republicans for not agreeing to a reasonable debate time on the bill. But the real reason may have been, “He didn’t do my bill, why should I do his?”

It had to be particularly insulting to Donovan because this was his last session in the House; he’s leaving to run for Congress. Williams, meanwhile, plans to bring his jobs bill back when the chambers have to pass laws to put the budget in effect; the so-called “implementer bills.” Stayed tuned.