Lawmakers facing a difficult session

Meghan Flynn
Garden City Telegram
Rep. Russ Jennings talks about budget funding Saturday during a Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce legislative coffee at Garden City Community College.

Difficulties of this legislative session was discussed at the April Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce's legislative coffee event Saturday.

Rep. John Wheeler, R-Garden City, said the session has been particularly difficult because there has been a "we, them and they" mentality, with they being outside, special interest groups.

An example Wheeler gave is with a bill wanting to direct the State School Board to create a gun safety curriculum to be distributed to local school boards, which can then opt whether or not to have that gun safety class or not.

"The State School Board is to adopt a curriculum and then they were told the only one you can adopt is Eddie Eagle – Eddie Eagle is NRA," he said. "I'm not opposed to NRA, I have an A-rating from the NRA, I don't belong to the NRA, but when something is wrong I'm going to vote against it, so I voted against it."

Wheeler said the session has been very contentious and there has been a lot of "arm-twisting" going on.

Rep. Jim Minnix, R-Scott City, said too many bills have been bundled this session, and legislators don't have enough time to read through all the bills.

Sen. John Doll talks about various bills being bundled together Saturday during a Garden city Area Chamber of Commerce legislative coffee at Garden City Community College.

Legislators have to be given a bill at least 30 minutes before it can be voted on, however that bill could be 120 pages.

Wheeler said the bills go through a life cycle on the floor of the House of Representatives, they typically start out as one bill but then can get bundled together with other similar bills at the end of the session and sometimes a bill he voted for at first he later has to vote against because he's not entirely sure what's all in it.

"It's just start bundling in other bills into a single bill and then sending it across the Rotunda and we're supposed to figure out whether to vote for it," he said. "What that results in ... is sometimes acrimony on the floor."

Rep. Russ Jennings, R-Lakin, said there can be a lot of bills bundled together.

In the past three, four days of this session (as of Saturday), 47 bills crossed the floor of the House, Jennings said. Within those 47 bills there were over 100 separate bills bundled together.

"Some of those were by themselves, some of them had three or four," he said.

One example of a bill that he was originally in favor of but had to vote down was to lower the age of concealed carry to 18.

Wheeler said the Senate added what the attorney general requested, which is reciprocity for concealed carry permits, which he was also find with, but then other things were bundled into it including a section that said certain convictions which were expunged could still entitle a person to have a concealed carry permit.

Wheeler said he couldn't tell what those convictions were so he had to vote no.