The second half of the legislative session resumed last week with an abbreviated week in Topeka. We did make some progress in committee on some important pieces of legislation that I will address in this newsletter, but a lot of the focus last week was on the Kansas Caucus.
Last year, the Kansas Legislature met for a record-length of time, extending all the way through mid-June and it appeared we’d never get finished. The opposite seems to be the case this year, as we’re quickly moving through our work with a goal of getting done on time--if not early.
The last weeks have been full of interesting news, mainly on the budget, and I want to give you an update as to where things stand.
We are now about ¼ of the way through the session and we continue to make progress in committee on a number of bills, including the budget. However, this past week, much of the attention was focused on the issue of judicial selection. This issue is one of the most significant topics before us, as it impacts every other issue we deal with. Whether you’re talking about school finance, education in general, abortion, criminal law, the death penalty, or even the power of the purse – who are judges are and how they are selected has a profound impact on what we do in Topeka.
This past week was marked by the celebration of our state’s founding in 1861. Kansas’ rich history is one all should study, since the day we joined the Union we have been at the center of many national debates over the meaning of liberty.
We’ve reached the two week point of the legislative session and our work continues on a number of fronts. This week, however, I want to talk about something very important to me: our courts.
As I wrote you earlier this week, the Kansas Legislative Session began on January 11th, and we immediately began our work. Though this was not a week where votes were cast, it was a week of important fact-gathering which will serve as the basis of critical decisions later in the session.
The Veto Session concluded last Sunday in what ended up being the longest legislative session in state history. While the length of the session was not what was preferred, the reason for the extended session is due the seriousness of the issue we were facing and the difficulty that comes with reaching a solution that could earn the votes necessary for passage.
The Veto Session is now almost a month old, as we continue to work through the budget and tax discusses which are dominating the debate here in Topeka. The challenge we face is to balance the budget as required by the Kansas Constitution in a way that is as non-burdensome to the taxpayer as possible. This historic session represents a test of our ability to work together, and also a test of our resolve to not go back on our word to the people of Kansas with our paradigm shift to a consumption economy.
The 2015 Session is proving to be one of the most challenging legislative sessions in memory. Lawmakers are working on an array of issues during the “veto session” but much of the focus and energy is, of course, on the budget and tax policy, which are directly tied together. That relationship between spending and taxes has never been more evident than this year, as we try to make up for a decline in projected revenues.