The end of the session is near and this past week’s political maneuvering created hurried, co-opted legislation. Nearly all committee work wrapped up, leaving the least transparent legislative process to remain. It is our intent to shine a light on the bills being worked and the procedural process used in these final days. We hope you remain engaged in these advocacy efforts and participate in the process of shaping the outcomes.
The week ahead: House Appropriations will meet March 24, 25 and 26 at 8:00 am in Room 112—N. The agenda is school finance. Last week’s first attempt was a debacle. Ray Merrick, Speaker of the House, quickly thwarted the first bundled bill containing financial provisions linked to a host of education policy changes. Watch for alerts this week as the education funding and policy pieces are worked. We support a clean bill, which financially fulfills the Supreme Court’s ruling and leaving unpopular education policy changes off the table. Sign the petition.
The plan is for both chambers to work Mon-Wed “on the floor” debating the final chosen bills. Thursday and Friday they will be off with a return on March 31. First adjournment is scheduled for Friday, April 4.
Here is a glimpse of some of the tactics and procedures that may appear in the final weeks:
- Gut & Go. In last week’s update we described the orchestrated “gut & go” process. This political maneuver involves removing the language of a live bill and inserting “new”, usually controversial, language. This tactic was used in committee meetings to change a cheerleading bill into a sex education bill, a historical property review bill into a repeal of the Kansas Non-game and Endangered Species Act, and finally an ex-spouse inheritance bill into a repeal of the Renewable Energy Act. These bills are now eligible to be debated on the floor of their respective chambers, if passed they are sent to the other chamber for a simple concurrence or non-concurrence. The House Speaker or the Senate President can consider these bills ‘materially altered’ and send them back to committee. Look for the “gut & go” process to continue on the floor of both chambers this week through amendments.
- Conference Committees. Usually consists of three members of each chamber, with two from the majority party and one from the minority party. These committees discuss the policy differences of a bill and attempt to reach an agreement, which will be acceptable to both chambers. Once the committee agrees upon the content of a bill, which may include amendments, it is presented to both chambers for consideration. This report is either adopted or rejected; it cannot be amended. Conference committees will be deciding the final week’s legislative bills. This is a frustrating time for many legislators as they are left out of the debate.
- Emergency Final Action. Bills passed out favorably may be up for emergency final action (Final Action is usually the next day). If the house is of the opinion that an emergency exists for immediate action on any bill, the rules may be suspended by a two-thirds vote and the bill can advance directly to Final Action, subject to amendment, debate, and roll call vote. This essentially speeds up the process, not giving time for legislators to ‘re-think’ their vote or for anyone to influence their final action vote.
- A “call of the House” or “a call of the Senate”. This is the method used in the Senate and House to require every member to vote. There are primarily three reasons for a call of the house: to enforce the attendance of a quorum, to compel members to record their vote publicly on controversial bills, and to attempt to secure passage of a bill which is in danger of failing for lack of a constitutional majority.
As you can see, the final weeks are full of last minute efforts to pass controversial bills. In the past, legislation hung in the balance as heated budget debates went long into the night. This year, with no substantial budget debate, gotcha and postcard votes have already begun trying to pin down a representative on a controversial subject. An example came this past week when Representative Scott Schwab presented an amendment to restore taxes to the levels prior to 2012. He verbally said he wouldn’t vote for his own amendment but had grown tired of those who spoke of the coming doom to our state due to the tax cuts. No one voted in favor of the amendment but the attempt shows the political nonsense found in an election year.