Lawmakers back in Statehouse this morning for budget vote

After negotiating budget details throughout the night Saturday, lawmakers will return to the Statehouse this morning to vote on a $14 billion state budget and try to work through a few more last-minute bills.

The state’s budget contains about $40 million in additional funding for schools, less than many lawmakers wanted but more than initial proposals by the House.

Meanwhile, some are trying to work through last minute legislation relating to esoteric segments of antitrust law.

Lawmakers expect today’s session, which begins at 10 a.m., to be the last of the year. It comes after a grueling 98 day session that highlighted the divide between moderate and conservative Republicans.

House and Senate leaders needed only to approve a state budget and new political boundaries during this year’s session. But their focus was trained on a wide-variety of issues, including income tax reductions, Medicaid reform and changes to the state’s pensions system.

Their failure to agree forced them to extend the usual 90-day session into a 99th day. House and Senate negotiators finally agreed on a budget at 11:30 Saturday evening, and leaders intend to leave their duty to draw new political boundaries once a decade up to the courts because of political infighting that has left the legislature unable to agree on a set of maps.