Thursday, April 26, 2012

GUEST EDITORIAL: Kansas Legislature has full plate during “Wrap-up” Session

By DAVID HALEY, Kansas Senator

The Kansas Legislature reconvened this week for our annual “wrap-up” session. Normally during this time legislators complete the state budget, finish conference committee reports, and if needed, consider any vetoes by the governor. 

Once these final compromises are reached – typically within four or five days – the Session adjourns and legislators return to our home districts for the interim months.

Unfortunately, this year is not like most. Kansas’ ultra-conservative Governor and Republican leadership have pushed every major issue to what should be the final waning hours of the Session instead of taking care of business from the start.

And in our first week of wrap up, nothing substantive was completed.

Legislators still must agree on a $14 billion state budget needed to keep vital state services afloat this fiscal year, including a $1.4 million appropriation to keep our state courts open this summer.  We must approve a tax plan that won’t increase the tax burden on middle class families and seniors living on fixed incomes.

Most importantly to me, we must redraw the state’s congressional, state senate, state house, and state board of education districts in a manner that is fair, impartial, and represents every Kansans right to be represented in Topeka and Washington D.C. The final deadline to file for all of these offices is in early June of this year and the boundary lines aren’t even done yet.

These are just a few of the issues still left on the table this wrap up session.  Others include school finance, KPERS, and under market pay for state employees.

Each of these issues deserved thoughtful consideration, sincere debate, and thorough scrutiny.  Instead, conservative legislative leadership has wielded its political power to push the most critical concerns to the end – with little transparency and a total lack of public input.   

The time for procrastination is long over.  If we are going to prevent this Session from being the least productive in recent memory, it’s past time for legislators to get their priorities in order and start taking action.


Senator David Haley (D-Wyandotte Co.) is Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee.  He also serves on the Redistricting; Federal & State Affairs; Public Health & Welfare; Joint Corrections & Juvenile Justice; and State Tribal Affairs committees.