Senate, Williams Get the Last Laugh as Session Closes

One of the hallmarks of the 2014 legislative session is the simmering tension between the House and Senate that nearly broke into outright hostility as the session closed at midnight Wednesday. Democratic Speaker of the House Brendan Sharkey spoke of a deal he had with Democratic Senate President Don Williams to pass each other’s favored bills only to have the Senate Democrats refuse to back Sharkey’s bill after the House passed the Williams legislation.

In reality, it was Sharkey who made things worse between the House and Senate. Last month, the speaker brought out a bill backed by Williams and passed by the Senate, only to see it soundly defeated. Since both bodies have Democratic majorities, it’s nearly unheard of for either chamber to bring out a bill the other chamber passed only to vote it down. To add insult to injury, the House suspended its rules to take Williams’ bill just to see it tank.

As the session neared its constitutionally mandated conclusion, the Senate didn’t bring out Sharkey’s bill and it died. Sharkey was understandably upset, saying he pushed Williams’ early childhood legislation through the House and expected Williams to persuade his caucus to get behind Sharkey’s property tax reform bill.

Ironically, Williams was doing Sharkey a favor by not bringing out the speaker’s bill. In the Senate Democratic caucus, the votes weren’t there. Senate Majority Leader Marty Looney said it was a “tough sell.” Senators simply didn’t want to tax nonprofits which the Sharkey bill would have done prospectively. Williams could have slapped Sharkey down by bringing out the property tax reform bill and see it solidly fail in a sort of tit for tat for what Sharkey did to Williams.

Williams decided to fly higher and focus on other last-minute business. He chose not to embarrass Sharkey and the House and the bill simply died on the calendar.

So why did Sharkey bring out Williams’ bill only to see it go down? The bill would have banned GMO grass seed. The Shad has a theory as to why Sharkey so publicly rebuked Williams and the Senate.

At the end of the day, the Williams-Sharkey animosity ends with the session—Williams is not seeking reelection.