Each legislative session, we provide northeast Johnson County’s elected officials with the chance to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Incoming Sen. Barbara Bollier submits this week’s update:
Many moving parts. Wrapping up a session in Topeka can always be described with those words, but this year that is an understatement! With a tax plan, a budget plan, and a school funding plan still not passed, the legislature continues to slosh through multiple bills and ideas for bills on these three critical topics. To be clear, each issue is dealt with individually in specific committees, so not all legislators are included in the formative discussions. As bills move out of committee, they ping-pong their way back and forth between the House and Senate, often ending up in a Conference Committee. A Conference Committee is made up of the two ranking Republicans and one ranking Democrat from the original committee that carried the bill. Once in conference, the bill can only be amended in by the members of the committee, but not by other legislators. Also of note, ideas that were not presented previously can be added in to the bill by the Conference Committee. That is how additions to the school voucher program in the school funding bill occurred.
So as of 11 p.m. Sunday, the Senate has passed a budget bill, which now moves over to the House for a vote. As for the school finance bill, leadership has combined a huge portion of the tax bill with the school funding formula bill. This school funding formula/tax plan was passed out of Conference Committee after eliminating the Democrat members from voting. Included in this combination plan is the need for an “adjunct tax bill” that contains other parts of needed tax policy but cannot be included for legal reasons with the school funding formula. If this sounds convoluted, I AGREE, and I do not support combining these huge issues together. The bill did go to the House for a vote last night, but the House adjourned without working it since leadership could not find the votes to pass it (63 are needed). The saga will continue today.
From the inside, wrapping up this session is proving to be extremely difficult. To find a tax package that can pass both the House and the Senate with a constitutional majority (84 and 27 votes) to sidestep a Governor’s veto is nearly impossible. With three political factions in each chamber, it takes two of them to come together, and then the same must happen in the opposite chamber. The math is just not working out at this point, but we will press forward to find solutions.
In good news, an anti-gun violence bill passed both chambers last week and now awaits the Governor’s signature. The bill will allow our state mental hospitals, mental health clinics, and the University of Kansas Hospital to continue with the exemption from requiring concealed carry. Other government-owned hospitals and university campuses were not included, so they now must either allow guns OR provide check points to ensure that no guns have come into their buildings. The Governor has not yet decided if he will sign the bill into law, choose to not sign the bill but just allow it to become law, or veto the bill.
Because it is the end of session, our office staff have been “retired” for the summer. Thus, there is no one to answer our office phones. If you want to contact a legislator, you can e-mail us at FirstName.LastName@Senate (or House). ks.gov