Where are we now?

Kansas Capitol domeThe Kansas Legislature has ended the the first, and most significant part of their session. They are scheduled to return on April 26, for the so called "veto session," although there are still several issues to resolve, among them a budget for next year, and the fate of the education amendment we talked about last week.

Over the next few weeks, we will take some time to analyze the legislation passed (so far), update our Legislative Tracker, and begin a preliminary assessment of votes taken (again, so far) for our voting scorecard. But today, we wanted to talk a little about what happened this weekend in the Legislature. 

You may have heard something about it. It was a desperate and shameful display of bullying and brinksmanship by the Kansas Senate leadership like we have rarely seen before. Senate President Susan Wagle and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning threw decorum to the wind and tried every tactic in the book to sway legislators to their side. They refused to work any education bill until an amendment to the Constitution removing judicial review was passed and sent to the Governor. When that did not work, they crafted and pushed a bill offering half of what the House offered. Then in conference committee, the House made concessions to the Senate but the Senate refused to budge on the total funding amount. Finally, when the House forced the issue, Senate Leadership petulantly threatened to close the entire session with work undone unless they got concessions from the House. Thankfully, and almost entirely due to how voters chose legislators in 2016, the House stood firm.

Warning: Politics Ahead

In a final spiteful act, the Kansas Senate's Leadership team forced an adjournment bill on the Kansas House which is unusual in one specific way. It dramatically shortens the time between when lawmakers return for the veto session and "Sine Die," their final day of work. Practically, this reduces the time lawmakers have to review any vetos from the Governor. The Governor has eight days to veto a bill after it is sent to him, but if he takes all eight of those days, the Legislature will have already signed off for the year, and there will be no option to override a veto. What this means has yet to be seen, as Governor Colyer has already indicated he will sign the education finance bill sent to him. What else is waiting in the wings for an unassailable veto? We're not sure. It is clear, however, that the actions of the Senate have stirred a hornets nest of the ugliest kind of politics in Topeka. Here's an article for some background:

What does it mean?

There are a couple of points we can generalize from this conflict over education.

The House needs help. The House and Senate passed education finance by the minimum number of votes required. There was no margin for error. True, some Democrats voted against it, unwilling to pass a bill they felt did not raise enough to satisfy the Court. Others, and moderate Republicans, voted for it, to move the issue forward and unable to see any path to actually funding a higher total with current revenue. Nobody involved Republican or Democrat, was ready to suggest raising taxes in this, an election year, to pay for increased funding. Everyone is hoping tax revenue (currently running $300 million ahead of predictions) will bail them out.

The Governor holds the keys. In 2018, Kansans will vote for a new Governor. With conservatives and ultra-conservatives like Kris Kobach and Gov. Jeff Colyer running, the prospects for continued change Topeka hang in the balance.

The Senate will continue to play spoiler. The Kansas Senate, whose members are not up for a vote until 2020, will continue to makes decisions on a knife's edge. The Leadership team of Sen. Wagle and Sen. Denning will continue to support the actions of ultra-conservative diehards like Sen. Molly Baumgardner and Sen. Ty Masterson until the people send them home. Until then, efforts to pass good measures, especially if they are vetoed by the Governor, will be difficult.

2018 is a crucial year: vote! In the 2018 elections in August and November, the Kansas House of Representatives is up for election. Protecting our moderates, both Republican, and Democrat, is imperative, and sending even more to help is important.

Please vote. Every year is an election year now, and every year we vote in August and in November. Put it on your calendar: August 7, 2018, and November 6, 2018.

Thank you for all that you do. Change begins with you.

It starts here. Do more than vote.

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