OK, summer is officially over, even though the kids have been in school a few weeks, and we’re still using the air conditioner. But things are heating up.
The end of summer in the Statehouse means it’s just four months until the start of the election-year 2018 session of the Kansas Legislature; the issues already are piling up that lawmakers and statewide elected officials are going to have to deal with in the same year many of their names and voting records will be on the ballot.
Oh, and that little fire Gov. Sam Brownback might have cooled slightly with his 10 percent (El Dorado Prison) and 5 percent (all other corrections officers) raises has damped that prison pay issue but sparked statewide calls for pay raises for state workers who now-quite randomly received pay raises of either 2.5 percent or maybe 5 percent. That’s one issue heating up.
And, as a sidebar to that prison pay, at least one state agency is offering 2.5 percent pay raises to employees who haven’t already given up their civil service employment protection rights which essentially reduces them to day workers who can be fired or laid off or not returned to work on the whim of his or her supervisors.
Get the idea that this summer was a relatively simple one for lawmakers, if you manage to ignore the biggest income tax increase in state history that for most Kansans amounted to just a little more Kansas income tax withholding from their paychecks each week and those Kansas limited liability company owners getting ready for their first income taxes on non-wage income in four years.
Medicaid coverage? The expansion proposal that passed both chambers last session but was vetoed by Brownback? It’ll be back, under a new governor who isn’t a fan of allowing maybe 110,000 more Kansans to have health coverage but is going to have to pencil it out: Conservative voters vs. hundreds of millions of dollars of state revenue for the new guy in the job as Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer takes the reins and budget responsibilities from exiting Brownback.
Individual legislators? Well, the picnics are over and it’s state fair week in Hutchinson. But while lawmakers will have some events they can attend, they won’t have to wear their name tags and most — if they want to — can be just “that guy/gal with a Pronto Pup” wandering the fairgrounds.
Don’t forget, also, that now that school has started, the Kansas Supreme Court might in the coming weeks issue its decision on state aid to K-12 schools and whether it is adequate to provide good education for the state’s public schoolchildren. Will that take new money the state doesn’t have — or shift more of the cost of schools to local school districts? Nobody’s sure; this whole issue of “adequacy” becomes complicated because it essentially shifts responsibility to turning out those bright, ready for more education or entering the workforce children to the school districts.
But, remember those new legislators, approximately 50 who were brand new to the job last session after winning elections, probably didn’t have much of an idea of all the little scraps they were going to be dragged into, and it is quiet so far, but there is Statehouse hall talk about some not interested in seeking re-election. The job just turned out to be a lot different than the one they believed they were running for, and the complexity of issues in even the simplest of bills can turn out to make what seemed like a nice idea into a bullet point on an opponent’s campaign literature in the next year.
Summer’s over, but the winter already is shaping up to be interesting.
Syndicated by Hawver News Co. of Topeka, Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver's Capitol Report.