A "conference committee" is a parliamentary device to reconcile differing versions of legislation passed by both houses of the Legislature, but in California's Capitol is rarely used except to produce a final legislative version of the state budget.
The 2013 budget conference committee is scheduled to convene on Friday - 15 days before the constitutional deadline for budget passage - but there are few major differences between the Senate's version of the 2013-14 budget and the Assembly's version.
That doesn't mean that there aren't some serious differences over the budget. However, the conflicts are not within the Legislature, but between its Democratic majorities in both houses and Gov. Jerry Brown. And they will be aired when Brown's representatatives appear before the committee.
Brown wants to take a conservative approach on estimating revenues while the Legislature's budgets embrace a projection by its budget analyst, Mac Taylor, that the state could have $3.2 billion more to spend than Brown assumes.
The legislative budgets would give most of the extra money, if it materializes, to schools, as the state education financing law dictates, and spend much of the remainder to bolster health and welfare programs.
Brown has warned the Legislature publicly that he'll resist any expansion of spending beyond his parameters.
Another point of budget conflict has to do with how the school money, whatever its size, will be distributed. Brown wants to shift more money into districts with large numbers of poor and/or English-learner students but the Legislature has balked at Brown's plan and wants to scale back the extra spending on those students in favor or broader grants of aid to all districts.
PHOTO CREDIT: Gov. Jerry Brown stands for applause with Assembly Speaker John A. Perez, D-Los Angeles and Senate President Pro Tem Darrell Steinberg, D-Sacramento before delivering his State of the State speech in January. The Sacramento Bee/Hector Amezcua