A little after 12:30 a.m. on April 8th, the Kansas Legislature gaveled out. This ended a marathon 14-hour session and closed out the 2018 regular session. All that remains is Veto Session, beginning on April 26th. The late night (or early morning, depending on your point of view) was caused by some clever political maneuvering by the Kansas Senate.
As background, both chambers have been working on a school finance plan throughout the session, and it was thought that an agreement was reached between leadership that would have a school finance plan using dollar figures important to the House with policy changes important to the Senate.
Under this agreement, the House would pass the school finance plan first, which it did 63-56. The bill, HB 423, was then enrolled with the Senate which promptly sat on it in lieu of a tax bill, S Sub for HB 2228. The tax bill is designed to return to Kansas citizens the revenue windfall the state has seen due to the federal tax law changes. Doing this will reduce the amount of revenue the state has available, making it harder to pay for the school finance plan.
Only after the tax plan was passed by the Senate did they take up the school finance plan. The late start allowed the Senate to filibuster the school finance plan since the legislature is under a hard midnight deadline when an adjournment resolution is not passed by both chambers. The adjournment resolution allows the legislature to extend the session past the 90-day mark. Without this resolution, all bills not signed by the Governor are dead, and the session adjourns Sine Die. The House finally agreed to the Senate Adjournment Resolution with under a minute left before midnight. Once this was done, the school finance votes started rolling in and SB 423 was passed 21-16.
What the school finance filibuster accomplished remains unclear, but we do know that the Veto Session will last only 8 days, making it very difficult to override any vetoes from Gov. Colyer should he decide to exercise that power. This was about as much drama as we have seen in the Kansas Legislature this session.
For what its worth, Kansas Legislative Research just uncovered an error in the school finance plan. The error omits nearly $80 million from the total amount legislators intended to appropriate. See; http://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article208416824.html
Legislators are hopeful that this error can be corrected when they return.
Also still in play is HCR 5029, establishing adequacy of financing for education as exclusively within the legislative power of the state. This is an amended version from the initial resolution. The amended version points out that the legislature has the power of the purse, but the courts retain the power to review equity standards associated with school finance. The amended version also removes any mention of the courts in the explanatory section of the resolution.
Passing HCR 5029 will require a 2/3rd majority vote in both chambers. This is a hard sell in the Senate but an even more challenging proposal in the House. The Kansas House has 85 Republicans and 40 Democrats. Should the Democrats vote as a block, leadership could only spare to lose one republican vote. This is a difficult proposition since several moderate republicans have already declared their opposition to HCR 5029. How this plays out remains to be seen.
Finally, the Kansas Legislative Research Department provides a Summary of Legislation report. This report is provided in three summaries. The first summary can be found here: http://www.kslegresearch.org/KLRD-web/Publications/SummaryofLegislation/PreliminarySummaries/2018-preliminary-summary.pdf.
Look for the two remaining summaries in the coming weeks.