Hawver: At the Rail – Week of December 24

OK, it’s the holidays, which means cheer, gifts, family gatherings…and starting to figure out what scraps the Kansas Legislature is going to have in its upcoming session, who is on which committees, how the tilt looks on those committees, and what issues we’re likely to see starting at noon on Jan. 14.

Kansas Political Columnist Martin Hawver
Kansas Political Columnist Martin Hawver

Yes, there are gifts to be opened, dinners to cook, pets to keep away from the Christmas tree, and all that…plus preparing for New Year’s Eve celebrations.

But for a group of Kansans, the holidays mean time to figure out just what is possible from this session’s Legislature.

It’s going to be tricky. There are brand new members who are going to learn that life in the Statehouse probably isn’t what they thought it was when they were sweating on the doorsteps of voters in August.

And there are returning members who are going to be sizing up those new members to see whether they can scooch them from one position to another on issues and convince them that it’s possible—often good politics—to trade votes on issues so both have something to carry home to their constituents.

Atop all that legislative shuffling with new committees and new members, there’s Democrat Gov. Laura Kelly. She’s still putting together her cadre of Cabinet secretaries, making sure that they will be supportive of her positions on issues, and can find a way to carry them out.

Oh, and then there are those new Cabinet secretaries who are going to have to hire their top-level staffers—and make those very important decisions on which staffers they inherit, who though not part of the campaign, have the technical and management skills to make sure that the agencies operate fairly and efficiently.

Over the holidays, Kelly is going to have to make a major decision on the upcoming budget.

Should a Democrat governor with a House and Senate run by Republicans offer up the former Gov. Sam Brownback-era two-year (biennial) budget, or should she propose a conventional one-year budget, which might politically give her a little more focused negotiation on just how the state is going to spend taxpayers’ money?

And there’s that new House committee that was established for the upcoming session, the Rural Revitalization Committee. It’s going to study specific rural development issues as the state’s rural population shrinks. There are issues out there that probably aren’t as thoroughly considered as they might be, but there’s also the background issue—reapportionment in 2022.

Beef up the rural areas, make it easier for those western Kansans and their children to stay at home, for businesses to have broadband access and find a way to keep schools open, and that remap of House and Senate districts ahead might just have a different outcome.

There’s lots of work to be done in the next three weeks, while most of us wonder when they’ll be able to use that new Christmas snow thrower on the driveway, or whether you can convince yourself that you can actually cook with one of those new air fryers that let you see through the plastic while the chicken browns.

So, while most Kansans have a holiday week ahead, there is intense work being done by those folks you elected back in November. They’ve fought for the right to represent you and start trying to figure out how to do to that.

Might just keep that in mind as you run into legislators at events over the next week or so…

By Martin Hawver

Syndicated by Hawver News Company LLC of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report—to learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit the website at www.hawvernews.com

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