By most measures, the finally concluded though unfinished legislative session was ugly. It produced some ugly legislation and some ugly politics.
Kansas legislators went home Sunday night after 99 days in session — nine longer than scheduled but short of the record of 107 days in 2002.
They left some critical unfinished business, chiefly the failure to redraw the state’s legislative and congressional district boundaries, something that must be done every 10 years to account for changes from the latest census. Kansas was the only state in the country not to accomplish this business, and now it will be up to the courts to do the job.
The most significant holdup was disagreement over state Senate boundaries. Conservative and moderate Republicans squabbled over lines that would affect challenges to moderate incumbents in this year’s election and to the moderate leadership in the Senate.
Intraparty conservative-moderate clashes grew heated, as did those between the conservative-led House and the Senate. That also, notably, scuttled a compromise tax cut plan. Instead, Kansas is getting a sweeping tax cut that is forecast to put the state deeply into the red in the coming years and force severe cuts to education, social services and other state spending.
Gov. Sam Brownback scored some big victories in an aggressive agenda to reshape the state. He managed to swing Senate approval of the income tax cuts, the premise being it would allow House and Senate conferees to strike a compromise on something more moderate. But that never happened.
The ramifications could be felt for years to come, evidenced by the quality of public education in Kansas and the number of people able to be served by social services.
Time also will tell whether the tax cut will stimulate the additional economic growth the Brownback administration thinks it will.
Meanwhile, the Legislature produced some other lemons — some meaningful, some frivolous.
It wouldn’t be a legislative session in Kansas without something related to abortion. The Legislature passed and the governor already has signed a law allowing pharmacists not to fill prescriptions for drugs they think might end a pregnancy, including birth control drugs.
The House spent some if its valuable time approving a resolution condemning so-called Agenda 21, a 20-year-old United Nations nonbinding agreement on sustainable development. And the Legislature sent to the governor a bill that prohibits the use of foreign legal codes in Kansas courts, another unneeded measure, this one aimed at condemning Islamic shariah law.
Little about this legislative session was pretty, and some of it was downright petty. That goes for the legislation and the process.
— The Hutchinson News