The Kansas Legislature isn’t known for getting down to business quickly. Too often, sessions dawdle along for weeks or months, until business concludes in a whirlwind of activity during the final hours.
Representatives and senators have even been known to literally stop the clock in the final moments, extending session past its final moments as they squabble and cut deals. This last-minute wrangling seldom leads to transparent, nonpartisan breakthroughs. Instead, it often creates a cloud of animosity, broken promises and varying, Rashomon-like accounts of what actually transpired.
That’s why we’re pleased to see the Legislature moving with relative alacrity this year. The Medicaid expansion proposal has been heard in Senate committee, and the hot-button abortion amendment to the state Constitution has been voted on in the Senate and is headed to the House of Representatives for a likely vote this week. Gov. Laura Kelly’s proposal to refinance the state’s KPERS payments has likewise been debated, and various tax suggestions are being batted back and forth in committee.
This relatively early action allows the voices of voters and advocates to be heard plainly. Whatever the outcomes, senators and representatives are doing their business in the open, where it can be reported on and followed. We have consistently and forcefully advocated for transparent, open government, and we’re glad to see lawmakers acting in a way that allows for increased levels of both.
Of course, just because the Legislature is acting this way now doesn’t mean that it will continue. Much remains to be done.
Medicaid expansion needs to be brought across the finish line. The state’s budget for the next fiscal year will need to be shaped and passed. And while these important bill work through the legislative[ process, the outcome of abortion debates could shorten tempers and sharpen rhetoric. In other words, the final days of this session could still see an abundance of last-minute wrangling.
But the business of the House and Senate is the business of Kansas. Everyone in this state deserves to know what’s going on in our government, and deserves to have their voice heard. Early, clearly defined action allows that to happen. The more that legislators accomplish early, the better for all of us.
So get back to work, senators and representatives! We’ll be watching.