TOPEKA — After 2015’s record-length legislative session, some lawmakers want to dial things back a bit.
Legislation in the House Appropriations Committee would limit session lengths.
Under House Bill 2315, the session length during odd-numbered years couldn’t exceed 60 days. Currently, the state constitution only limits the duration of even-numbered sessions, which can’t exceed 90 days unless a supermajority of lawmakers waive the limitation.
Rep. Marvin Kleeb, R-Overland Park, argued the change would help ensure the Legislature remains a citizens’ legislature.
“I think we need to be able to make the Legislature an available process and an available opportuniy for everyone,” Kleeb said.
Kleeb indicated only a small percentage of legislation receives votes under the current session lengths. According to Kleeb, during the 2015 session — the longest in state history at 114 days — only 14 percent of all bills advanced to a final action vote.
Lawmakers meeting for longer amounts of time are a relatively recent development, Kleeb argued. Prior to the mid-1970s, the Legislature routinely met for 40 to 60 days, he said.
Committee members expressed both support and skepticism toward the idea. Rep. Amanda Grosserode, R-Lenexa, said a shorter session can be accomplished by legislative leadership without a law.
Grosserode also worried about the impact a shorter session would have to the budget process.
“I already feel like many times we’re rubberstamping what the agencies are putting before us,” Grosserode said.
Kleeb said a legally mandated shorter session likely would prompt the administration to present a budget earlier. He argued passing a budget is possible in 60 days.
Rep. Gail Finney, D-Wichita, wondered how the idea would affect constituents.
“We have constituents that have bills, issues they want addressed by their Legislature. Would this bill stymie what our constituents want done?” Finney said.
Sen. Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, also spoke in favor of the proposal to the committee. He said lawmakers need to be prepping legislation in the fall, well before the session begins.
Rep. Dan Hawkins, R-Wichita, indicated long sessions affect the businesses of lawmakers. He said he was initially hesitant but was convinced by Kleeb’s testimony.
“I, for one, have a business, and many of you have business, and it is difficult being here as long as we’re here,” Hawkins said. “There’s many times it would be helpful to have another break to go home and work.”