Legislative sessions in Kansas typically last 90 days. This session, however, the speaker of the House and the Senate president have stated their desire to finish in 80 days. At this writing, we are 20 days into the session, leaving only 60 days to deal with some very large and important issues.
The typical session builds from a slow start to a flurry of activity as the state budget gets set late in the session. Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback now has released his budget and both the House and Senate have budget plans going through committees. The biggest issue is that the state is facing a projected $265-million shortfall in revenues for fiscal year 2014 (the state’s fiscal year runs July 1 to June 30, so FY 2014 begins in July and ends the following June). Note that the proposed shortfall would exist after the state spent all of the $470 million now held as the ending cash balance. That means the real difference between revenue and spending is about $735 million. The debate is just beginning, but this is the most important part of the legislative process.
The House passed its rules earlier last week with a series of amendments considered and debated. One of the most interesting would have required the House to shut down at 11 p.m. each night unless a majority voted to keep working, and to take a 10-hour break between adjournment and the start of another day’s business. The amendment failed and the rules were passed largely as submitted.
The first dose of controversy came through the House last week when HB 2023, concerning payroll deduction for public union dues, was debated on the floor. The bill narrowly passed. It will not be the last bill concerning public unions this session. My explanation of vote is posted on my Facebook page, and I will add it to my website, www.finchforkansas.com
In other news, I have filed my first bill, which would reduce the time for adoptions to be heard if all interested parties have waived notice and have no objection. This could cut up to a month off what is already a very long process for many children.
I also am working with Speaker Pro Tem Peggy Mast on a bill that would eliminate or extend the statute of limitations for certain sex crimes against women and children. Prosecutors now must bring those cases within five years. This bill would eliminate the time period for rape cases and, in the case of crimes against children, would allow the case to be brought up to 10 years after the child becomes an adult.
Finally, I was honored to be elected as the chairman of the Freshman Republican Caucus. This 42-member class is one of the largest in the history of the state. I am looking forward to working for and with my very talented colleagues.
Thank you to Cooper Gollier and Madelyn Crowley for serving as pages this month.
Blaine Finch is Kansas House member, representing Franklin County. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (785) 296-7655.