Martin Hawver: Legislature wasn’t representative

05/08/2014 12:00 AM

05/07/2014 5:30 PM

The Kansas Legislature passed the state budget early Saturday. Though that’s probably a good thing, there is this little procedural business in getting it passed that is troubling.

The state’s budget for the coming fiscal year was essentially written by four people. Yes, only four people.

There are still 40 senators and 125 state representatives, and the House and Senate have budget committees that consider the budget bills they send to the full House and Senate for debate.

But this year for the first time, the House passed a budget whose provisions never spent a minute being debated by the full House. The budget – as it was presented to the House – was assembled by two Republican senators and two Republican representatives, and sent to the full House for a simple up-or-down vote. That’s it.

The Senate earlier this spring passed a complete budget bill that established the chamber’s position on how to spend taxpayers’ money. The House never did. Instead, the House agreed to a conference committee report – the product of the budget views of two negotiators appointed by House leaders and two negotiators appointed by Senate leaders. Democrats on the conference committee were jettisoned by an agree-to-disagree motion that made them unnecessary to pass the final conference committee report to each chamber.

Once the conference committee report reached each chamber, it was “yes,” pass it and go home, or “no,” don’t pass it and sit around while a new spending package is assembled.

Most Kansans’ legislators didn’t get a chance to propose amendments or spending that might be good for their constituents.

That seems a little less-than-representative government.

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