This week Kansans variously have heard that the private talks on taxes involving Gov. Sam Brownback and top GOP lawmakers are going well and at an impasse. Such important fiscal negotiations should be held with a broad, bipartisan range of legislators participating and the public watching. While we wait in the dark, though, here are some hopes for what will and won’t happen in the session’s remaining days:
• Having aired their understandable concerns about increasing the state’s debt, House members must bite the bullet and authorize an additional $202 million in bonds to help build the $1.15 billion National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility at Kansas State University, as senators did Tuesday. Kansas fought hard for the project and cannot turn its back on the jobs, stature and federal dollars that NBAF will bring.
• Lawmakers should show some sensitivity to the special needs of Kansans with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and to the heartfelt concerns of their caregivers, and act to keep the long-term care and support services for the I/DD population out of KanCare for at least another year. They also should get rid of an offensive House budget proviso, pushed by Rep. Dave Crum, R-Augusta, that would bar any new spending to reduce the long waiting list for services should long-term care be carved out.
• The session has seen enough unnecessary change to the judiciary with the law politicizing appointments to the Kansas Court of Appeals. The House should resist a revised constitutional amendment still aimed at doing much the same to the state Supreme Court. Kansas’ appellate judges should be chosen because they know and will follow the law, not because of their political connections and beliefs.
• Legislators should not revive efforts to override the Kansas State Board of Education on the multistate Common Core standards for English and math, which the state has been working toward implementing for years. The costs of shelving them and starting over would be too high. And much of the growing paranoia about the Common Core standards is baseless.
• Lawmakers should not enable Secretary of State Kris Kobach to prosecute voter fraud or anything else. Kansas already has county attorneys and an attorney general to handle such prosecutions. And if there is one thing Kobach does not need, it’s more power.
With GOP legislative leaders having blown their self-imposed Monday deadline of holding the session to 80 days, the goal becomes wrapping it up within the usual 90. Lawmakers should be quick about reconciling revenue and spending numbers for fiscal 2014 as responsibly as possible. Every day without adjournment raises the taxpayers’ tab and risks further legislative mischief.