Editor’s note: Throughout the week, we’ll be running columns from northeast Johnson County’s legislators sharing their thoughts on the key takeaways from this year’s regular session. Today we bring you Rep. Stephanie Clayton’s thoughts:
The Kansas Legislative Session concluded in the middle of the night last Sunday after passing a number of bills, the most important and concerning of which is the budget reconciliation bill.
The recently-passed budget signifies everything that is wrong with the way that your state government currently functions. While some members of the state legislature praised the 73-day session for its brevity, that frantic pace gave me cause for alarm. An all-too-common tactic used by leadership in both chambers to pass poor legislation is to deprive lawmakers of sleep, information, and the opportunity to return home to hear from constituents. The legislative body was pressured to, and eventually voted to, suspend a rule that stated all work should stop after midnight. (I did not vote in favor of this suspension). In addition to this, a dizzying amount of legislation was passed in the final hours of the legislative session in order to procure votes on this budget, a sort of if-then set of sweetheart deals made in haste, over a weekend, and in the dead of night, while you, the taxpayers, were sleeping.
As a result, a budget was passed that violated the legislature’s constitutional obligation to balance the budget, swept large amounts of money from the fund meant to repair, maintain, and expand highways, delayed payments to the State Employee Retirement Plan until 2018, and slashed higher education funding by 17 percent. This unbalanced budget is on its way to the Governor for his consideration, and passes the responsibility of making an additional 3 percent of cuts to his office.
The full budget bill was not available for us to read at the time of the vote. There was, of course, no way that the poor staff in the Statehouse could have time to produce the entire bill in such a short amount of time, but, it is inexcusable that a vote was taken on a bill that did not yet exist in its full form. None of the members of the northeast Johnson County delegation voted to abdicate our power of the purse to the administrative branch, and I am proud to serve with those who steadfastly adhere to their constitutional duties under pressure. The region is fortunate to be represented by those who refuse to vote for a bill and wait to find out what is in it later.
The Governor now has the bill in its full form, and I would like to invite you all to contact his office and ask him to exercise his power to line-item veto portions of the bill of which you may disapprove. I recently spoke with a constituent of mine who is pushing for a veto of the cuts to higher education. Please remember that many voices joined together can make a difference, and perhaps, together, we can improve a bad bill.
I enjoy hearing from you. If you have any questions, you can call me, email me at Stephanie.Clayton@house.ks.gov, or attend my monthly legislative forum at Foo’s this Saturday, May 14th, at 10 a.m. Thank you for allowing me to serve.