Still no budget. It’s Day 93 of the 2015 legislative session, three days into overtime. At $43,000 per day, it’s not clear why the House and Senate both chose to adjourn before 2:00 pm yesterday afternoon, with plenty of daylight left to burn.
Yet, the Kansas legislature still has not produced a budget, the one and only constitutional duty they are tasked to accomplish. During the 90 days of regular session, not one plan to close the $420 million budget gap was passed. So in lieu of any proposed revenue streams, the Senate has turned to generating a list of additional cuts. Overland Park’s Senator Jim Denning took one of the first swipes and chopped $30 million out of the Block Grants. His amendment has passed out of the Senate Ways and Means Committee.
65 new bills have become law. GovernorBrownback has signed 14 bills into law so far during the veto session, bringing the grand total of new laws up to 65 and one overridden veto. Most recently signed includes the declassification and elimination of state employee protections, allowing the conversion of classified civil service positions to unclassified positions (HB 2391) and of course JoCo Rep. Brett Hildabrand’s bill to legalize fantasy sports (HB 2155).
Warning – bad bills. The unprecedented number of end-of-session, post-session hearings on policy related bills continues to rise. These include the expansion of the tax credit scholarship law (the voucher-cloaked bill passed last year), the elimination of the Kansas Bioscience Authority (surfacing just yesterday), and weakening of the Renewable Portfolio Standards (to quiet down the coal-special-interests groups who were scaring off energy investors with their extreme bills repeatedly pushed through the Kansas legislature). The ultimate game-changing policies are still waiting in the wings:
- Local elections: changing local elections to the fall partisan cycle (no compromise has been reached – school boards and local business chambers across the state still OPPOSE any changes to local elections),
- Judicial selection: changing judicial selection from the merit-based system, to partisan, behind closed-doors, hand-picked selection by the governor, and
- Teachers: legislative overreach into the teachers’ Professional Negotiations Act compromise agreement, negotiated by key stakeholders at the command of the 2014 legislature.