We’re probably two weeks away from getting a good handle on just what this year’s House and Senate are going to produce for us or do to us.
Yes, lawmakers convened in formal session Monday afternoon, at which time they became locked and loaded and worth paying attention to.
The key this session, of course, is either fixing the public K-12 school funding formula the Kansas Supreme Court has ruled unconstitutional or convincing the court it was wrong — and maybe just a little tune up here or there can yield a public education system where every kid has the support necessary to earn a high school degree and continue education or find a good job.
But education funding is going to be fixed, one way or another, with or without tax increases and so far, the legislative leaders are pretty predictable. Everyone wants the best schools possible, and that’s where things start to splinter. Most Democrats generally want more money spent on K-12 education without any specific source for that new money. And most Republicans aren’t sure just what K-12 should cost, but once that is determined by someone in authority, it’s figuring out where to get the necessary money.
It’s virtually everything else that is going to take a few weeks to learn just how lawmakers lean on issues.
Restrict concealed-carry of guns? Probably not, but there’s a shot at keeping those guns out of hospitals without extensive and expensive security measures at the front door. Those “bump-stock” devices that turn a military-style rifle into a machine gun? Probably not a bunch of opposition from anyone who has ever spent a night (and most of their paycheck) in Las Vegas. But watch opposition rise — not to the bump-stock provisions — but the possibility that while the National Rifle Association is looking the other way that something else gets added to the measure.
Transparency? That’s something that ought to be kicked off pretty quickly, with bills that are designed to, or at least purport to, tell Kansans more about what happens at the Statehouse.
The simple start is, of course, putting the sponsor’s name on each bill as it is introduced, not just the “Senate Tax Committee” or something generic like that. Now, there are bills — say the governor’s annual budget bill — introduced through a committee as a simple matter of getting the issues up for hearings and debates and votes. Nobody’s for it just as it is introduced, but everyone is for having a bill as a start for debates.
Maybe recording the vote by committee members on the bill introduction would tell us something, but if those votes to introduce are recorded, there’s the chance that the budget bill might not be introduced. And where do we go from there? Do lawmakers get more political points from voting to introduce a bill, or from amending-up the bill they voted to introduce to do what they and their constituents want?
Somewhere, there’s a balance. We probably ought to know the vote on getting the bill out of committee and to the House or Senate floor where votes are recorded for us to read on a slow day. But some legislators are wary of leaving too many tracks in the snow and having to explain that they really didn’t want a bill introduced, but figured they needed a piece of bread to put their own amendment jelly on.
Couple weeks and we should have an idea where individual bills are going — and, of course, what they can be amended up to do. It’s just going to take some chatting in committees and in the hallways and while waiting for service at the snack bar to find out.
Syndicated by Hawver News Co. of Topeka, Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver's Capitol Report.