–As the regular session draws to a close (there is one week remaining), lawmakers are focusing on the major legislation that they view as a priority. That includes a pension reform bill that is headed for conference committee after senators rejected the latest House proposal Thursday… While both House and Senate will return for special session after the June 7 deadline, their focus at that point will be on the budget.
–Meanwhile, Senate leaders remain confident a deal can be struck on the massive government restructuring bill that is already in negotiations between the two chambers. The key disputes seem to be over who will oversee government purchasing and what agencies should report to the governor’s office. The conference committee will meet again Monday.
–The Senate accepted a conference committee report on a bill that would bar prison inmates from keeping Facebook or other social media accounts. Supporters say prisoners often use smuggled cell phones to maintain their accounts, which they can then use to intimidate others outside the prison. If the House approves the report next week, it will head to the governor for her signature.
–Legislators are close to reversing a recent state Supreme Court decision that gave the state environmental agency authority to regulate “isolated wetlands.” That court ruling also created an avenue for environmental groups to sue polluters they believe violated the law. But Republican legislators believe the court went beyond the law’s intent and created uncertainty for businesses.
–The State Election Commission announced Thursday that it would refund the filing fees paid by 193 candidates who were removed from the June 12 primary ballot by the state Supreme Court last month. A commission spokesman told the Associated Press the agency would return roughly $194,000 in fees to the state GOP and Democratic Party. The parties would then distribute it to the candidates.