LEGISLATIVE UPDATE:   Snow slows legislature

Representative, 74th District

The snow caused cancellation of session Feb. 21 and 22 and we began session two hours late Feb. 26. I’m not complaining as snow provides some great moisture that is much needed.

Taking two days off session has caused committee schedules to be upset. That may mean some legislative issues may simply have to wait until next year. Very few items are so important that they cannot wait until next year. I have mentioned before the only issues that must be resolved are the budget and making the revenues and budget match up so we have a balance.

Two bills that were most controversial were changing the selection process for appeals court and rolling back the renewable requirement on electrical energy.

What occurred on the appellate selection process was that the votes were not there for a Constitutional Amendment to change appeals and Supreme Court appointments, so a statutory change was advanced for only the appeals court. The appeals court change narrowly passed. There is negotiation under way to create a compromise Constitutional Amendment, but the process is slow.

The Renewable Energy Standard in Kansas requires 15 percent of the electrical energy to be from renewable sources by 2016 and 20 percent by 2020. The bill we considered took out the 20 percent by 2020 requirement. Then a motion was made to re-refer the bill back to committee, which essentially kills the bill. While the motion passed narrowly, the committee can rework the bill.

The end-of-year budget balance is an interesting issue. State statute requires a 7.5 percent ending balance, which converts to about $450 million. The legislature can set aside the 7.5 percent requirement, so while it is nice to have that cushion, there is always pressure to spend it on programs like education or safety nets.

After setting aside the requirement for a few years and having virtually zero ending balances, it is better to have a balance rather than to do sequestration. Yes, the state had to reduce funding for programs at the end of the budget year for three or four years to remain in the black.

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