Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Sen. Haley: Kansas Legislature did not accomplish much prior to adjournment

By DAVID HALEY, Kansas Senator

After 73 days of Regular Session, the Kansas Legislature adjourned last week failing, in my opinion, to pass any major legislation and leaving a number of critical issues to be hurriedly considered during the Veto (previously known as the “Wrap Up”) Session scheduled to commence on April 25th.

Perhaps THE most egregious delay is the Kansas House’s refusal to debate a state budget needed to keep vital state services afloat this fiscal year. 

For a week, House and Senate negotiators worked out details for a compromise budget plan. After countless hours of debate, the Kansas Senate gaveled in at 4 p.m. last Friday afternoon with the understanding that an agreement on the $14 billion state budget had been reached. 

But in a totally unexpected turn of events, House negotiators announced that they would no longer honor their agreement.  Shortly thereafter, the House adjourned the 2012 Regular Session leaving a majority of the Kansas Senate angered and bewildered.

More than just numbers and sums, a budget represents the values we hold as Kansans. 

With no budget in place, the House has left funding for K-12 schools and the Children’s Initiative Fund in jeopardy; employees of the Judicial Branch (our court system) will be furloughed; local parks will be unable to hire seasonal employees; and  necessary renovations at Rainbow Mental Health Facility will be postponed.  

These are quality of life issues that ALL Kansans should expect.   

By spending the past three months driving privatized health care and attempting to gerrymander state legislative and congressional districts through the legislative process, the Governor and House leadership have postponed the restoration of full funding to Kansas public education; failed to reduce waiting lists for services on which seniors and disabled Kansans rely; to reform taxes in a way that is fiscally fair and responsible; or to pass a state budget. 

How ridiculously sad.

The people of Kansas elect all of us to represent interests in Topeka. 

We passed a few good pieces of legislation this year – including new laws to help military spouses get jobs; bringing state law into compliance with federal ADA standards; and improving the rights of grandparents – but the conservative “leadership” spent far too much time on partisan political issues.

Legislators will have to tackle the entire budget – in addition to redistricting, Medicare and taxes – when the Veto Session begins April 25th.  To me, it’s completely inexcusable that so much has been left on the line so late in this “election year” Session.

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.