Turnaround Day

The Kansas Legislature is only in session for about five months, give or take a late night extension for partisan arm-twisting. It has some definite deadlines as the year progresses, and we are coming up on one of the most important this week: Turnaround Day. This is the last date on which non-exempt bills may be considered in the chamber in which they were introduced. This year it is this Thursday, February 28.

Let us explain.

Bills are introduced to the Kansas Legislature in either the House or the Senate. They are then (usually) referred to a committee in that same chamber for discussion and changes. If they survive and are passed out of the committee, they return to the floor of that chamber, where they are again debated, amended, and either passed or rejected. The last day to do that step is this coming Thursday.

There were a bunch of deadlines last week to introduce new bills, which is why we saw a flurry of passion-project style bills last week. But this week is the deadline to work a bill in the chamber which created it.

Bills that are passed on the floor of their original chamber by Thursday then go to the other side of the rotunda, to (usually) be referred to a committee over there. They have until the next deadline, March 27th, to be passed in that other Chamber. Basically, the House and Senate have to finish the business they have generated by Thursday, and then they can start working on the business generated by the other chamber.

Drop Dead day is Friday, April 5th (the last day to work any bills, except those vetoed and those needed to fund the states budget, basically). And the veto session is set to start May 1st.

You said "non-exempt"

Yes, we did. That's because there are some committees in the Legislature that are "exempt" from some of these rules, usually because the issues they handle have to do with money. If they couldn't work bills after the deadline for bills, there would likely be some that would mess up the budget for next fiscal year (which starts July 1). So these exempt committees need ot be able to keep working bills to make sure that doesn't happen.

The exempt committees are, "House and Senate Federal and State Affairs, Senate Ways and Means, Senate Assessment and Taxation, House committees on Calendar and Printing, Appropriations, Taxation or select committees of either house when so authorized." (Source: kslegislature.org)

Wait, "or select committees... when so authorized?"

You saw that? Yes. Legislative leadership can designate other committees as exempt, when needed, and bills that might not normally be exempt can be moved to exempt committees so they can keep being worked. In all honesty, this is pretty important for keeping state government running, but you're right, it is rife with potential for abuse. And we might be able to point out a time or two when that might have happened (depending on which side of an issue you're on, of course). But generally speaking, this is the sausage making.

Late nights this week?

Family members of Kansas Legislators should expect some late nights this week as they rush to work on bills before Turnaround. We'll have a report next week on what did or did not make it through, and what might look like it is headed for an exempt committee.

It's not the end of the line for many bills, however. A bill could receive new life as an amendment to a bill that makes it through (though it has to be related, or "germane"). A bill could be plopped into the gutted shell of another bill that did make it (the infamous "gut and go"). And of course, this is the first year of a two year biennial Legislature, so bills stay "on the books" for next year, too. A bill not worked this year could turn up again in the 2020 session, already officially introduced and heard in committee.

We will keep an eye on all of this at MainStream, and let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, you can keep track with our KS Legislative Tracker, or by following us on Facebook or Twitter.

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