Because the only thing the Legislature absolutely, positively has to do this session is adopt a budget that leaves at least $1 in the state treasury July 1, you’d figure this year might be simple.
Except, that the budget Gov. Sam Brownback presented to the Legislature is based on the shifting sands of state revenues, and already legislators are dubious that if they adopted it, say, at the end of the week, it would hold up.
And, they are having that feeling that the real work of balancing the budget as revenues continue to drop below expectations is going to be on them, just months before they stand for re-election.
Besides that giant problem, you’ll be glad to know the first week of the 2016 session — well, four days because they took Friday off — was accomplished with no apparent (compensable) injuries and some interesting bills introduced that will make nice distractions for the next few months.
Say that little bill that will raise from 75 mph to 80 mph the speed limit on four-lane divided highways where we spend much of our travel lifetimes. And, if nobody gets too finicky, that boost means that practically, you probably aren’t going to be pulled over until you are clocked at 84 or 85 mph, and even then, it’s going to be 90 mph before the speeding ticket becomes a moving violation, which will spike your auto insurance premiums.
Or, the unusual bill that essentially marries you to a firearms or ammunition dealer? Huh?
Yes, the measure called the “Kansas firearms industry nondiscrimination act” says you can’t refuse to do business with, or quit doing business with, any legally licensed firearms or ammunition seller. Not sure where that goes. If your local store, say, moves the gun rack to the front of the store, so that you have to walk to the back to get your ice cream and it starts to melt as you are standing in the checkout line, well, you might have discriminated against the Kansas firearms industry — or maybe not. Someone thought that was a good idea, and it might take a public hearing to get it explained.
Because bills dealing with guns always bring a crowd to the Statehouse, we’re wondering also about a bill that would make it a criminal offense for a gun dealer to sell guns to “anyone on a watch list.” Now, that appears to make sense, if people on federal watch lists — who can’t board airplanes — are people we want to have guns, anyway. But, it appears even if those folks on watch lists can’t buy guns, well, they might be able to drive 80 mph.
Yes, there are lots of things to keep lawmakers busy, or at least distracted, during the session, and some of those bills might make headlines.
There are, of course, more serious issues facing lawmakers — financing K-12 education at a constitutional level; but that is likely to be put on hold while the Kansas Supreme Court decides just how much money is necessary to provide every child in the state the same chance to get a good education so they can take care of us grown-ups.
Don’t look for school finance to get solved this session, and also, don’t look for the Supreme Court to make a ruling with dramatic budget consequences this spring while lawmakers are in session. At this point, a majority of legislators believed they know how to finance public education and the courts ought to stay out of it. Five of the nine justices of the Kansas Supreme Court stand for retention election this year, and they might just be mindful of whether they want to stir up legislative angst before the election.
And, they might just want to keep things quiet so they can drive 80 mph this summer.
Syndicated by Hawver News Co.
of Topeka, Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report.