It is easy to be critical and question why it takes so long for the Legislature to do its work. Why couldn’t we have resolved at least one of the major issues by now? But the reality is that resolving the budget and its linking to the tax issues will take time. Specifically, funding education and a new finance formula with the Supreme Court watching for constitutionality will not be easy. Add to that dealing with our infrastructure problems, KanCare expansion, as well as guns on campuses and in our hospitals, and it is not too surprising we are at this point with all the heavy lifting still left to do.
It is also important to remember that this is nothing new. I know from direct experience in the 70’s we had very similar sessions, where key issues were not resolved until late in the schedule. Why is this the case? First and most important, it is a product of our Founding Fathers' direct intention to have a complicated system that makes it difficult to change laws and fund the budget in a speedy way. We have two Houses of the Legislature that have to reach agreement on every single word and/or number. In addition, with a House that serves two-year terms and campaigns every election, it is understandable that they might see issues differently than the Senate who has four-year terms. Then, of course, you have a Governor on the second floor who, with the stroke of a pen, can make it even more difficult to pass forward-thinking legislation.
This is where I see the session at this point in time. First, the 2016 election added a lot of new talent who have clearly made a positive difference and considerably improved the environment in the Capitol. Second, there are legislators on both sides of the aisle and in both chambers who are stepping up and, through their leadership, are making a real difference. I am therefore confident that almost all the major issues will be worked out successfully within the legislative process. The end result in each case will depend on the Governor’s pen. If he vetoes the legislation, it will take a ⅔ vote in both Houses to override the veto. That is possible, but as we’ve seen so far this session, it will certainly not be easy—with just a few too many legislators remaining who, regardless of facts or public opinion, cannot seem to break from the Governor and who continue to prop up the failed experiment.
Now, why the Governor cannot accept the facts or the public’s opinion is another story. On all the key issues, both seem to run counter to his thinking. So why not be willing to listen, adjust, or at least find some compromise with the Legislature? This is something I simply do not understand. Willingness to make changes in his positions would be a sign of critical thinking capacity and leadership, and I believe it would be met with appreciation and respect from people of all political stripes. Which is not a bad deal for someone whose image could use some help. And, most importantly, rolling back some of these failed policies would be a huge win for Kansas.
So what’s wrong with a win-win? Please let your legislators and the Governor know your views. Many legislators will be back in their districts, so look for opportunities to connect with them during this break in the session (here is a list of events coming up). Public input can make a real difference.