Each legislative session, we provide the Shawnee Mission area’s elected officials with the chance to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Jerry Stogsdill, Rep. Linda Gallagher and Sen. Jim Denning were scheduled to send updates this week. (Sen. Denning has not replied to any of our invitations to participate in Capitol Update). Here’s Rep. Stogsdill’s filing:
In my estimation the 2018 regular session of the Kansas Legislature was a major disappointment. The biggest disappointment was the total failure of the ultra-conservative Republican leadership in the House and the Senate to perform their duties. The “leaders” in both those Chambers ignored the process which is designed to encourage discussion and debate followed by informed voting on bills which, hopefully, produce bipartisan resolutions on issues that impact the citizens of Kansas. Very little of that happened in the 2018 session.
The ultra-conservatives Republican leadership stacked most of the committees with ultra-conservative chairpersons who were more concerned with supporting their conservative, Washington-based political agenda than producing good legislation to support Kansas public schools, healthcare, sensible gun laws and economic development.
Good examples of their misuse of the committee system came from two of the committees I serve on, Education and Commerce. These are two of the most important committees in the House and yet we convened barely half the times we were scheduled to meet. We had some very dedicated and competent Democratic and moderate Republican members on both of those committees, members who were willing to put politics aside and work on issues that would have a positive impact on education and economic development in Kansas. Putting politics aside and working on any bill resembling a non-conservative agenda item appears to have been problematic for leadership. It seems that leadership and their committee chairs decided it would be much easier to push THEIR conservative agenda by simply canceling as many of the Education and Commerce committee meetings as they could get away with.
School finance was the most important issue before the Legislature this year and we should have started serious bipartisan work on this issue in October 2017. Instead, this issue was not brought before the entire House and Senate until the last few days of the session in April! We were literally voting on the school finance bill and a Senate Resolution to give us the few minutes of extended time we needed to finalize this issue MINUTES before midnight on the last day of the session, which was officially ending at midnight on Saturday, April 7! In my opinion, this rushed bill will not pass muster with the Supreme Court and we will, most likely, end up back in Topeka for a special session to address school finance this summer.
Staggering Senate terms
By the way, the Senate resolution that was jammed through the Legislature last Saturday night, at two minutes before midnight, also took away the Legislature’s ability to override any veto issued by the Governor this year. Forcing the House to accept that resolution was a function of the Senate having none of their members up for election this year and their determination to support their conservative political agenda over the best interests of our public schools, our students, our students and the people of Kansas.
The bill that I introduced in January to stagger Senate terms, where half the Senate would be elected every TWO years, would go a long way to keep this mess from happening again, would make the Senate much more accountable to their constituents and would have a very positive impact on the political process in Topeka. Obviously the Senate and the conservative leadership in the House wanted nothing to do with this bill. Accountability to their constituents does not seem to be a big priority for the Senate and House leadership. The House leadership buried my bill in the Election Committee and made sure it would never make it to the House floor for debate and a vote.
Another major disappointment this session was the leadership’s refusal to bring up Medicaid expansion which has kept BILLIONS of our federal tax dollars from coming back to Kansas. Medicaid expansion was an issue that had passed both the House and the Senate in 2017 before being vetoed by Gov. Brownback. Billions of dollars lost to Kanas and leadership refused to even bring the issue up for discussion.
Leadership in the Senate also wanted nothing to do with restoring due process rights for our outstanding teachers across the state. This is an issue that would save school districts money, insure that no teacher was terminated for an unjust reason and would help us retain and attract the very best teachers. This issue did pass the House this year, and last, only to be buried by the anti-public school and anti-teachers members of the Senate
We did make some progress on issues concerning cybersecurity, worker’s compensation laws and legislation to help assure the health and security of children in our foster care system.
Hopes after the disappointment
These issues are just the tip of the iceberg in describing how the Republican conservatives manipulated the system to favor their ultra-conservative political agenda which most Kansans and even a considerable number of their own legislators disagree with.
- HOPEFULLY, in the remaining days of the Legislature this year, which begins April 26 and runs through May 4, we will be able to keep some of the most onerous legislation from being introduced and from becoming law.
- HOPEFULLY, we will also have an opportunity to support some good legislation in education, healthcare and economic development. It will take floor amendments and a coalition of Democrats and moderate Republicans to make that happen, but I remain hopeful.
- HOPEFULLY, we will be successful in addressing the tax and budget issues still on our agenda. Again, these are very important issues that will take a bipartisan effort to address effectively and in the limited time we have left in the Session.
- HOPEFULLY we will NOT have to deal with more of the conservative’s “guns everywhere” legislation as well as their desire to change the Kansas Constitution to lessen our constitutional support for public education. These are two issues that most Kansans do NOT want to see become law
If you would like more details on any of these topics you can contact me directly at 913-384-3393 or attend the Legislative Forum on Saturday, April 21 at the Matt Ross Community Center Powell Center at 8101 Marty Street in Overland Park from 10 to 11:30 a.m.
As always it is a pleasure and a privilege to serve the people of the 21st District and if you ever have any questions or suggestions please don’t hesitate to get in touch at [email protected] or 913-384-3393.