Kansas legislators returned to work yesterday with a very light agenda for the week. Not much is scheduled except for a small number of new bills being introduced. It is important to remember that there will be no bill "carry-over” from last session. We are in a new cycle so bills will need to be reintroduced and work their way through the process.
Hallway talk centers on budget issues, possible tax increase on alcohol and tobacco, a possible raid of the tobacco settlement money to pay down the deficit, and a renewed effort to change merit selection. At this point these ideas are mere conjecture as we should know more when Gov. Brownback releases his two-year state budget.
The governor will make his proposals during the State of the State address this Thursday. We have seen the governor focus on morality issues and family unity concerns while addressing possible budget fixes. We could probably expect more of the same during the speech. However, the gorilla in the room remains the school finance formula and how that affects the state budget.
As far as committee meetings are concerned, the Senate Judiciary Committee will meet in Room 346-S at 10:30 a.m., Monday through Friday. Sen. Jeff King (R-Independence) continues as Senate Judiciary chair with Sen. Greg Smith (R-Overland Park) as vice chair. The House Judiciary Committee will meet in Room 112-N at 3:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday. Leadership for this committee has changed with a new chairman, Rep. John Barker (R-Abilene), a new vice chair, Rep. Charles Macheers (R-Shawnee), and Rep. John Carmichael will sit as ranking minority leader. For other committee meeting times and locations, please access http://www.kslegislature.org/li.
Chief Justice Lawton Nuss will give the State of the Judiciary address on Wednesday, January 21 at 2:30 p.m. The public can access a live webcast of the State of the Judiciary address by following the Watch Supreme Court Live! link in the right-hand column of the Kansas Judicial Branch website at http://www.kscourts.org. The address will be recorded for viewing afterward by anyone unable to attend in person or watch it live online.
For more information and bills new to the legislature please check http://www.ksbar.org. The KBA will be updating its bill tracking chart weekly with more information as the session moves along.