Legislature goes home for a month, but watch out!

The Kansas Legislature adjourned its regular session last week without coming up with a budget and how to finance it.

It has become the norm in recent years to use parliamentary procedures to push controversial legislation through without hearings in both houses. This process shuts the public out of the kinds of opportunities for discussion that help inform legislators of the consequences of their actions.

Instead, a few key members make the decisions for the entire 125-member House of Representatives and 40-member Senate.

So, even if a bill hasn’t made it through both houses of the Legislature, it can return from the dead to become part of another bill – or even completely take the place of another bill that has passed the Senate or the House of Representatives.

“The Joint Rules do not allow conference committee reports to be amended in floor debate so, through parliamentary maneuvering, the budget will be decided by lawmakers only voting yes or no on a conference committee report,” said Richard Gannon, director of governmental affairs for the Kansas Press Association. “Essentially, the budget is now virtually in the hands of four lawmakers on a six-member conference committee.

“The two Democrat members will still participate in the discussion but their votes are not needed to submit the conference committee report to the full House and Senate for a simple up or down vote.”

“These tactics are anti-open government and should be rejected by every Kansan who truly believes in a transparent legislative process,” said Doug Anstaett, KPA executive director. “No one can argue with a straight face that this is the way things should be done.”

Reprinted from Kansas Press This Week, April 8, 2015, newsletter of the Kansas Press Association.

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