Posted By Joseph N. Molina III,
Tuesday, January 16, 2018
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The Kansas Legislature returned last Monday, Jan. 8, 2017. While the first week is usually uneventful, this year things got off to a rocky start.
First, a report came out that Rep. Steve Alford (R-Ulysses) made racially charged comments during a townhall discussion in Western Kansas. See: http://bit.ly/2qKhYgC; See also: http://bit.ly/2CJvIK4.
There is actual video footage of the exchange up on YouTube now. See; http://bit.ly/2CSpw6G. Rep. Alford resigned both of his committee chairmanships and issued a formal apology.
Second, Missouri Governor Eric Greiten admitted to an affair before he was elected. The report goes on to allege that Greiten attempted to use personal sensitive photos to blackmail his mistress. See: http://bit.ly/2CPoIeP; See also: http://bit.ly/2mkYn1g. There are Missouri legislators calling on Greiten to resign.
Third, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback gave the annual State of the State address on Tuesday evening. Many thought Lt. Gov. Jeff Coyler would be giving the speech since Brownback was in line for a U.S. Senate-confirmed Ambassadorship. The US Senate vote never came, so Gov. Brownback was obligated to give the speech. He focused on K12 spending and recommended adding $600 million over five years to school funding. He also stated he wanted to add 150 school counselors a year for 5 years as well.He stated that this could be done with no new taxes.
You can watch the State of the State address here: http://bit.ly/2ExDabE
Republican leadership responded quickly to the $600 million proposal and the governor’s budget, and it was not kind. Sen. Ty Masterson (R-Andover) is quoted as saying “I’m not sure what the logic is behind this” proposal. Rep. J.R. Claeys went even further tweeting “The governor has waved the white flag of surrender from the dome, and tossed every ally he had left under the bus... Then put the bus in reverse... Then lit fire to the bus.” Senate President Susan Wagle also made comments criticizing the governor’s plans. See: https://twitter.com/APjdhanna.
For more news of the budget proposal please see:
This will be a hard sell for many conservatives. How they plan on approaching the governor’s recommendation and the court’s deadline remains to be seen, but this is not a good start.
Fourth, there is a growing concern about transparency in the Capitol regarding bill introductions. In the past, it was not uncommon for a bill to be introduced without a known sponsor (which means if you were not in the room when the bill was requested, you would never know who requested it.) On some occasions, conceptual bill would be introduced without a sponsor, making it hard to track the origin of any one proposal.
This year many committees are altering rules to allow more transparency into the bill introduction process. This is true for House Judiciary and House Federal and State Law Committees. This will be helpful going forward, but it is not without controversy. For instance, last Wednesday, two democrats objected to the introduction of a bill citing transparency concerns because they did not know what exactly was in the bill. This was the first time I ever witnessed an objection to merely introducing a proposal. The committee debated the objection and voted on the objection, ruling to allow the bill to be introduced. This is a highly unusual process for bill introductions. However, it happened again on Wednesday when a legislator objected to the introduction on a budget proposal from the Governor’s Office in a different committee. It will be interesting to see if this pattern holds, and we see more objections to bills being introduced.
Fifth—committee hearings start next week. We will see hearings on SB 181, dealing with fines and fees; SB 199, dealing with appeal bonds; and a few carryover bills from 2017. The KBA continues to track legislation of interest to its members and you can find it here: https://www.ksbar.org/bill_tracking
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