Sometimes, just about a quarter of the way into a legislative session, you see bills introduced that make you wonder what those legislators were thinking about last summer.
A handful of those bills — given a little thought — sounds like interesting ideas that we’re surprised nobody thought of before.
Say, that House bill after all the TV coverage of a Kansan who was incorrectly sentenced to prison for a murder he didn’t commit. Now, he got a trial, and the evidence that would prove he wasn’t guilty wasn’t readily available.
The solution? How about innocent people who are later found innocent and have spent years in prison get some compensation that essentially was stolen from their lives.
The answer, or at least the opening bid in a bill introduced last week: Pay the wrongly convicted felon the minimum wage ($7.25 an hour) for 40 hours a week they were in prison. Works out to $15,080 a year. You have to wonder whether that’s too high, or too low, or whether getting it in a lump sum payment changes things.
• • •
Some legislator probably was driving when he or she noticed the car ahead was weaving, but there’s a bill that would make it a crime to drive while holding a cell phone to your ear. No, it probably isn’t safe, and is probably less safe for others on or near the road if you tend to gesture with the other hand instead of steering. There is that loudspeaker setting on most cellphones that are still likely to slide around the dashboard and complicated car radios that will carry your phone calls if you can get a teenager/computer wizard to teach you how to use them.
• • •
Another bill would give you a way to help finance schools, beyond the property taxes and state income tax you pay. After all, who doesn’t want to support schools that educate the kids who are eventually going to support all of us as they leave the workforce and we retire?
That idea is to have the Kansas Department of Revenue add a few lines to your income tax form, for those who actually see a tax form on paper or on a computer screen, that gives you the option to add money above what you owe to be sent to any Kansas school district you want. Revenue will take care of sending the money to the right school district.
Now that might be handy for some folks who decide to round-up their tax check to the nearest $10 or $20 or $50 or such, but we’re betting many folks who use the convenient school-finance checkoff just round up to the nearest dollar.
• • •
There’s another idea lawmakers will consider for the first time in memory: A proposed constitutional amendment that would prohibit the administration — any administration — from taking money from the Kansas Department of Transportation, the so-called Bank of KDOT. With hundreds of millions of dollars having been shuffled out of the road department and into the state’s general fund to help balance the budget, it might be a good idea for some.
Now there is, of course, that need to balance the state budget and in recent years without much revenue streaming into Topeka, that Bank of KDOT has been handy — but not necessarily popular, especially among highway contractors. Good deal? Bad deal? We’ll probably never see it pass, and if it did, remember, those proposed constitutional amendments are at the very bottom of the ballot, where many voters don’t bother reading.
• • •
Good ideas? Bad ideas? Or are they just ideas that might keep lawmakers busy for the session so they don’t get into trouble? No way to know, but some of ’em sound relatively interesting on a slow day.
Syndicated by Hawver News Co.
of Topeka, Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report.