A couple times this week I have been asked what my typical day is like while in session.
Well, session starts each mid–January and ends after the first week of April, with a veto session which starts at the end of April and takes about half of May.
My schedule Monday was pretty typical. I left my house in Wellsville by 6:45 a.m. and arrived in Topeka just in time for an 8 a.m. “Calendar,” which helps each representative know of, ask questions about and discuss possible amendments and bills that the “Committee of the Whole” will consider that day.
I typically go straight from there to my first committee at 9 a.m. — Pensions and Benefits — and we will “hear” bills, and at a later date, “work” bills to pass to the floor.Many times committee will conclude by 10:30 a.m., and I will have a lobbyist or a constituent to meet with for 15 minutes before I go on the floor of the House at 11 a.m.
After a prayer and the Pledge of Allegiance, the House conducts the business of the day, which can take as long or as short as determined by the number of bills, amendments, discussion, and members’ stamina. Most of the time, we are done by noon or 1 p.m., and we get a lunch from a special interest group visiting the Capitol or someplace close by.
Health and Human Services committee starts at 1:30 p.m. and typically is done between 3 p.m. and 3:30 p.m., giving just enough time for another 15 minute meeting while walking straight to my third committee, Education Budget. The committee chair tries to have everything wrapped up there by 5 p.m., and if I do not need to finish a newsletter or study for the next day, I’ll head home.
On Monday, I left a little late and headed straight to the Wellsville school board meeting, which lasted from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. After that, I went straight home, ate, packed eBay orders until 12:50 a.m. and went to bed.
This week, the House and Senate spent a considerable amount of time on the floor debating and voting on bills introduced in their respective chambers.
Bills, except exempt bills (those in the Appropriations, Taxation, and Federal and State Affairs Committees), must have passed the chamber of origin by the end of Friday, which marks the official halfway point of the 2014 session, or they would not be considered this year. After “turnaround” (Friday), legislation that has passed one chamber will be sent to the other chamber for consideration.
The long and difficult journey for a bill to become law is by design. This process was established a long time ago as an effort to minimize the likelihood that legislation that is not the right thing for Kansans, or has unintended consequences, does not become law. Even with the safeguards in place, bills sometimes pass that need to be repealed or “tweaked” in a future session.
College student tax break
Students enrolled in a public or private post–secondary educational institution in Kansas could get a sales tax refund on purchases of required textbooks if House Bill 2557 passes the Senate in its current form. Under the measure, students would pay the tax and then file for a refund for the state portion of the sales tax they paid. It is estimated that college students spent an average of $660 per year on textbooks; that would equate to a sales tax refund of about $40.
Another provision in HB 2557 delays penalties for income taxpayers who mistakenly file an incorrect tax return, provided they filed the return on a timely basis and paid the indicated tax liability in full. If they are subsequently found to owe additional taxes, the taxpayer will not be penalized so long as the additional tax and interest are paid within 30 days of receiving a notice from the Kansas Department of Revenue of the additional tax liability. HB 2557 passed the House 122–0 and now goes to the Senate.
I will be going on a long–awaited vacation with family today through Tuesday during the legislative break after turnaround.
Kevin Jones, R-Wellsville, represents Franklin County and the 5th District in the Kansas House. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (785) 296-6287.