Kansas legislators are stuck in the middle of their wrap-up session, which leads one to wonder: What, exactly, are they wrapping up?
They’re still debating tax reform, school reform, public pension reform and redistricting — all major issues. Seems like they could have dealt with one or two of those problems in the 90 or so days before they gathered to “wrap things up.”
A couple of hundred miles down the road, Missouri legislators face a May 18 deadline to close up shop. But Jefferson City seems as reluctant as Topeka to actually pass something that matters: Missouri school finance may not get fixed, but the House just approved a bill that would make it illegal to enforce Obamacare.
Okay, we get it. You don’t like the health care law.
I’ve often argued that state legislators hold the most thankless job in politics — and the most important. The laws passed in state capitals, from transportation to education to public safety, almost always have a greater impact on the way we live than anything in Washington, D.C.
And unlike local politicians, who at least pop up on TV when the ribbon is cut on a new bridge, state lawmakers work in relative obscurity for low pay in what’s essentially a part-time job.
But this year, legislators seem intent on making a botch of their important agendas. In Kansas, legislators couldn’t agree on the simple blocking-and-tackling of new legislative districts two yearsafter
the census, and there’s talk of delaying the August primary. Will Kansans get a different tax system this year? Will public pensions get fixed? We’ll presumably know once Topeka wraps things up.
Missouri is just as bad. Highways crumble, but a House-passed bill states that anyone with a concealed weapon permit “may briefly and openly display the firearm to the ordinary sight of another person, unless the firearm is intentionally displayed in an angry or threatening manner.” Glad we cleared that up.
It isn’t that guns and abortion aren’t important — they are. And legislators have every right to offer bills on those issues, or anything else they want.
But spending time on those concerns only works if you’ve also addressed the routine work of government. Sure, talk about whether homosexuality should be discussed in the classroom, but after you’ve made sure the state will actuallyhave
Missourians seem fed up, and they’re increasingly turning to petitions to make law. Dozens were introduced this year, including a measure to reduce the number of state legislators — a plan which, predictably, lawmakers oppose.
Here’s a better idea: Keep the current number of legislators, but cut the session. Two weeks ought to do it.
Kansas? Just drop your regular session. Go straight to the “wrap-up.”