Hawver: Showdown is in Full Swing

It’s still a showdown, the GOP led Legislature, and Democrat Gov. Laura Kelly, and they’re holding their cards near their chests and looking at each other’s eyes to see who blinks first.

Kansas Political Columnist Martin Hawver
Kansas Political Columnist Martin Hawver

Those $88-a-day legislators (plus per diem, of course) are still on their Turnaround Daybreak, presumably exhausted from debating many of the bills in each chamber and sending them across the rotunda to the other chamber. And they’ve sent just one bill to Kelly so far. Best deal for those legislators is that they get paid by the day—not on commission—or we’d see them at street corners with signs seeking lunch money.

That single bill they’ve sent to Kelly is the $115 million-repayment of money borrowed from the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System, and Kelly isn’t saying whether she’ll sign or veto it, and it would be out of character for her to just let it become law without her signature.

The bills floating around? Well, they’re still floating at what is theoretically, or popularly, called the “halfway point” of the session. That’s the tax cut bill and the K-12 bill, which at least the Senate Education Committee hasn’t finished up yet and isn’t likely to move to floor debate this week.

The tax cuts? Kelly doesn’t think that the state has enough information on just what those federal cuts are going to do to Kansas revenues. She for the first time last week said out loud that she might not sign a tax cut bill this year.

For some number of Republicans—and mostly party leadership—those tax cuts are politically vital.

The leadership refers to making those federal tax cuts trickle down to Kansans vital. And cutting Kansas taxes now? Well, Republicans call not cutting Kansas income taxes a tax hike, because the less you pay to Washington, the more money is available for taxing by Kansas.

There are also some relatively clever little political games within the tax debate, like a one-cent reduction in Kansas sales tax on groceries, from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent.  Nobody doesn’t want to pay less sales tax. And no legislator doesn’t want to vote to cut taxes on nearly everything—and especially food.

While you read a lot about “helping the poor” with that food sales tax cut, the income tax part of the bill helps corporations and the upper-middle and upper-upper income Kansans who probably haven’t eaten bologna on white bread for years…

It might be interesting, though, to see how that Senate-passed, House committee-amended bill does in full House debate.

 

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

Hawver: First and Biggest Fight

It’s going to take a few days, but the first and biggest fight of new Governor Laura Kelly and, well, apparently the entire Legislature, will break out this week.

Martin Hawver
Martin Hawver

The bell that started the first round: Friday’s 117-0 passage by the House of the Senate’s unanimously passed on Valentine’s Day of a short little bill that sends $115 million to the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System to pay back the $97 million (plus interest) that it didn’t pay in 2016.

Repaying debt…not a bad idea, except that everything is different when the Legislature is dealing with the pension fund that, while “not actuarially balanced,” is still making those monthly pension check payments to retirees.

But here’s the big fight over the very first bill passed by this year’s heavily Republican Legislature to the brand-new Democrat governor Kelly: pay KPERS now, or pay KPERS later…

Why is this so mesmerizing? Because the governor clearly lost her argument to the Legislature for her own KPERS plan. Now, she can sign the bill, reluctantly, and say she just didn’t want to waste time with a veto.

Or, she could veto the bill and get overridden. Hard to say who would want to be in that picture with her.

Or she could just put it in her desk drawer, and after 10 days it becomes law anyway with none of her DNA on it.

The governor hasn’t said what she intends to do with the bill.

There really isn’t a good choice for her, and it’s going to be interesting to see how she describes what she’s going to do with the bill.  A well-thought-out explanation is necessary, one that will make the ultimate beneficiaries of the pension program believe she’s working for their best interests.

The “pay KPERS now” side of the issue makes sense to pay back money that lawmakers borrowed from the pension fund back when the state was scrambling to keep its annual balance out of red ink. That $97 million non-payment to KPERS was needed as the state started a series of tax increases to dig out of the former Gov. Sam Brownback “lower taxes and the economy will boom, and we’ll take in more money” experiment which just didn’t work.

The “pay KPERS later” side of the issue? Well, Kelly had a different idea. Refinancing the pension fund’s actuarial shortfall (basically the amount it would need to pay off all its members in one day) over another 30 years brings smaller annual payments that the state is more likely to actually pay. Everyone gets paid, it just takes longer…and the state pays interest on that refinancing for 30 years, a long time.

***

The politics are interesting because that borrowed money is from the schools/state workers’ section of the pension fund. Democrats voted for the bill because those two categories of pensioners are often solid Democrat voters.

Republicans decry that interest the state would pay on refinancing the pension system under the Kelly plan. They’ve made a big deal out of the $24,000 per day interest the state is running up by not paying that $115 million now. They apparently pay cash for their cars and houses.

What happens next? Nobody but the governor knows. But whatever Kelly does, it is going to influence future governor-Legislature fights, and whatever happens, she’ll go into Round 2 of the prize fight a little weakened.

Dramatic, and it might tell the future. Or at least change the relationship between the governor and the Legislature.

Get your bets down…

 

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

Hawver: Veterans

Everyone wants to be helpful to injured veterans. That’s just part of being an American. Those troops, whether volunteers or drafted, deserve our respect for their service…and especially if they have been injured in their jobs.

Now, does that respect make a bill more likely to pass the Kansas Legislature? We may find out this session.

Two bills specifically refer to wounded veterans for their provisions; one would put a cap on property tax increases, another would create the “Veterans First Medical Cannabis Act,” which would legalize medical marijuana and give those wounded veterans first access (for 60 days) to that medical pot.

Will respect or deference to veterans boost the vote, maybe get the bills passed, or is special treatment of veterans a gimmick to broaden support for the bills?

Property Tax

The property tax bill? It would freeze property taxes for some Kansans 65 and older whose household income is $50,000 or less, own outright (no mortgages) homes worth $350,000 or less…and veterans with a 50% permanent disability.

Sounds like a target group that many would like to see escape ever-rising property tax bills, like everyone else in Kansas, but a group which is identifiable and for which many Kansans have empathy.

Medical Marijuana

The medical marijuana bill? It basically legalizes under an extensive, nearly exhaustive list of rules, regulations, boards and commissions the growing, prescription and use of medical marijuana.

Oh, and prescription of pot grown in Kansas for those who have medical conditions which can be alleviated by use of marijuana is for the first 60 days of the enactment of the law limited to veterans. Just veterans. After that, well, it’s a matter of what you can work out with your physician, nurse-practitioner or midwife. Yes, midwife.

No telling how this is going to work out for the legislative bills, and their beneficiaries.

The property tax lid? It is predicted to freeze property taxes for as many as 42,000 Kansas homeowners, saving them about $10 million in property taxes as their neighbors’ homes see their tax bills rising. No numbers on how many of those are veterans with a 50 percent disability.

Polling

The medical marijuana? There are polls out there that show more than 70 percent of Kansans favor legalizing medical marijuana. And, veterans have for years advocated for medical marijuana in order to help with treatment of post traumatic stress disorder and other combat-related issues, supporters of the bill say.

There’s probably a fine line somewhere on just when inclusion of specific beneficiaries of a bill helps it pass or when it doesn’t. Nobody has suggested a property tax lid for, say, law enforcement officers or schoolteachers or injured construction workers or notaries.

This isn’t a group of beneficiaries likely to be used as ornaments for otherwise tough-to-pass legislation, and it isn’t likely that they have been tricked or persuaded to become the centerpiece of bills that otherwise make pretty good sense.

It just feels a little…strange. And is a veteran’s 50 percent disability the right number for some medical reason or is it a provision that most people wouldn’t question or care to argue about?

Well, that’s how the Legislature works. There are towns where a large portion of the population has either served in the military or has family or friendship ties to veterans. There are also towns where rising property taxes threaten to force some retirees to consider trading-down or moving in with their children or to a retirement facility.

We’ll see where this goes.

 

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

Hawver: Parliamentary Break Dancing

Martin Hawver
Martin Hawver

Time was when, with a little parliamentary break dancing, 63 votes ran the 125-member Kansas House of Representatives.  Something about a “majority of a quorum,” and more broadly majority rule.

Well, not sure that works anymore, this majority rule business that you explain to your kids.

The House this year passed a rule that requires 70 votes to pull a bill out of a committee to the House floor for possible debate. Oh, and it takes another70 votes to override leadership of the chamber to set the bill for debate and eventually a final action vote that either passes the bill to the Senate or kills it.

Used to take a simple majority of 63 to get a bill on the calendar for debate, and then 63 again to pass it. It now takes 70 votes to get to the point where 63 passes a bill.

Now, if it’s a bill that is popular, or politically advantageous, there’s generally no problem to have hearings in a committee which can consider, possibly amend, and then forward the measure to the full House. Majority rule isn’t a big deal when a bill is either popular or relatively inconsequential in the operation of the state.

Another distinctive license plate for members of a group or club that members pay a premium for? As long as it isn’t a flashy distinctive license plate for parolees, or maybe actuaries, there’s generally no real problem.

But say…that members of the House have a bill that would–let’s just use as an example–expand Medicaid in the state to about 150,000 relatively low-income Kansans. The governor likes it, the folks running the House generally don’t.

That bill is in a House committee, and its future isn’t very solid, and it just might take an extraordinary action to pull the bill out of committee and forward it to the calendar and to a floor debate and vote.

Of course, there are some reasons that just pulling a bill out of committee complicates the mechanics of the House, getting the debate calendar updated, giving members of the House a chance to familiarize themselves with the issue and maybe to draw up amendments to it that they might want. Getting ready for, a debate even on a relatively simple bill can be time-consuming, and that’s why it might not look like it from the street, but legislating isn’t simple.

Now, we’re not going to hear much about that rule until it gets to an issue like debating Medicaid expansion. So far much of the discussion of the new House has been focused on making sure everyone with Internet access can scan through committee minutes to see who actually thought up a bill and who introduced it and how everyone on the committee voted on its amendments and passed the bill out of committee. It’s that transparency stuff that few folks have the time or maybe bandwidth to spend their time on.

Once a bill gets to the floor of either House or Senate, the votes are widely made public.  But it’s that in-committee stuff that has drawn a lot of attention while the decision to hold or pass a bill out of committee is still largely that of the chair. The chairman can just not ask for a vote to pass a bill to the full House, or if things don’t look good from the chair’s viewpoint, can adjourn the meeting with just a rap of the gavel.

This might be a year that rules determine what happens to major legislation.

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

Hawver: Politically Red-Hot Issue

 

Kansas Political Columnist Martin Hawver
Kansas Political Columnist Martin Hawver

Brand new Gov. Laura Kelly has gotten one of her most politically red-hot issues introduced into the Legislature, printed out, and ready for the scrap over financing K-12 public schools in Kansas.

 

Her bill, that she told (warned?) lawmakers about at her State of the State address pumps another $93 million into state aid for public schools, apparently the amount needed to get the Kansas Supreme Court grinning about adequate financing of public education.

And, now that those bills are printed up nicely, we’ll see just how long it takes either the House or the Senate to start considering them. So far, it appears that legislative leaders want to make sure that the ink is good and dry before they start handling the bills.

Key to that Kelly initiative is that about $93 million has been penciled out as the amount of new spending for schools that the Supreme Court has determined to be adequate. It has a lot to do with past years’ legislative action which didn’t significantly increase funding, which didn’t keep up with inflation. Inflation is a big deal when you’re spending more than $5 billion a year to help finance local public schools. A percent or two, and you’re talking real money.

Her bill puts in that $93 million in additional spending for schools this year, as the court wants. Don’t go reading through the bill for a $93 million-line item. It’s fairly obscure and deals with increasing the base state aid per pupil, and this year, as the court wants.

Now, the governor thinks paying the money, essentially settling more than two decades of school finance lawsuits, is smart. And it meshes with her aim to increase school funding.

The Legislature’s Republican leadership generally takes three tracks. One is that it’s the Legislature that decides how much money to spend, not the court; another is that legislators are spending a lot of their constituents’ money on schools now, and the third is, of course, that lawmakers have other places to spend the money.

Oh, and while it’s early in the session, Attorney General Derek Schmidt would like the Legislature to act quickly on the bill, because he’s got an April 25 date to show the Supreme Court that the state has remedied the shortcomings of the school finance issue, and a May 9 date for oral arguments before the court to deliver the answer.

And time in the generally slow legislative process is important to Schmidt.

If he shows up with a new law that ponies up the money, that makes things easier.  He could almost just ask for a receipt from the court and have time for a nice lunch on May 9. Maybe something that goes with wine…

Or, the Legislature could dunk Kelly’s bill, just not passing it, cutting the amount of the new spending, or coming up with some new idea that lawmakers hope the court will buy.

That is also something that Schmidt would like to know as quickly as possible.

Because he represents the state, not just the Legislature, he’s going to have to figure out how to explain what the Legislature did, why it did it, and why it will adequately finance schools. Oh, and there’s always the chance the Legislature will come up with a plan that the governor vetoes. That makes the water a little deeper…

So, while we’re watching taxes and voting rights and possibly expansion of Medicaid and all the other partisan scraps, you might want to spend a little time wondering about schools. You won’t be alone…

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

Opinion: What is a Market-Based Approach to Water Quality?

Last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a joint letter encouraging market-based, collaborative approaches to reduce excess nutrients in waterways. But, few other details were offered on how to best take this approach.

There are three possible market-based strategies for water quality improvement: nutrient reduction exchange, wetland mitigation banking, and environmental impact bonds.

Comparable to a cap and trade program, the nutrient reduction exchange ties downstream municipalities to upstream partners through voluntary efforts. This approach focuses on reducing nitrogen and phosphorus by leveraging cost-effective projects that would be more affordable than removing nutrients at a water treatment plant. This strategy has been tried in the Ohio River Basin.

With wetland mitigation banking, flood risks can be minimized by holding and slowing the flow of water—also allowing nutrients and sediment to filter out. In addition, wetlands can provide a natural habitat for birds and waterfowl. The idea behind this approach is to encourage new investments in water quality and flood mitigation by restoring wetlands.

Environmental impact bonds have been used recently by major cities to finance infrastructure projects to improve water quality, particularly from stormwater runoff. Washington, D.C. first used this tool in 2016, followed by Baltimore and Atlanta. What makes environmental impact bonds different from other green bonds is that they use a “pay for success” model focused on achieving environmental outcomes, which requires them to have a measuring and monitoring component for investors.

Any of these three market-based strategies could play a key role in building a cleaner, healthier, and more productive future. Learn more at cfra.org.

By Katie Rock, katier@cfra.org, Center for Rural Affairs

Governor Laura Kelly: A Commonsense First Step for Kansas

After years of financial crisis, budget catastrophes and devastating cuts to Kansas’ most prized investments, last week I put forth a balanced, commonsense budget that is a first step on Kansas’ road to recovery.  

Governor Laura Kelly
Laura Kelly was sworn in during the Kansas Governor Inauguration ceremony this past week. Kansas Governor Kelly took office on Jan. 15, 2018, with a ceremony that was held on the steps of the capitol building in Topeka, Kansas.

This budget leaves us with the largest ending balance in 20 years and pays down the historic level of debt incurred in the past eight years. I’m also proud to say we did it all without a tax increase.  

Budgets reflect our priorities, and my number one priority will always be education. That’s why this budget restores funding to our public schools that were slashed in recent years – ensuring that we meet the needs of our students and teachers once and for all.  

 We Must Make Commonsense Changes

The days of doing the bare minimum to fund our schools are over. This year, we can end the cycle of litigation so our schools can focus on what they are designed to do: educate our students and prepare them for the future.  

This budget also paves the way for Medicaid expansion so we can provide high-quality, affordable healthcare to 150,000 more Kansans, and critical support to our hospitals and clinics, especially in rural Kansas.  

 

We also made investments in other crucial areas. We recommend adding 55 new child welfare workers to protect our most vulnerable children from abuse and neglect, reinvesting in roads and bridges and reducing transfers from the highway fund, and increasing funding for public safety to better aide Kansas communities.  

 

In addition, over the past few years, the state skipped and reduced payments to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement Fund (KPERS) to fund budget holes caused by the Brownback tax plan. These irresponsible changes have caused the state’s payments to skyrocket. My budget recommends a re-amortization – or basically a refinancing – of KPERS so that we can make our payments more sustainable over time. To be clear, no retiree benefits, current or future, will be negatively impacted by this plan. In fact, this will put Kansas in a better position to protect retiree benefits in the years to come.  

 

Of course this budget doesn’t fix all the problems created over the last eight years, nor does it fulfill all of my administration’s goals. But it is an important first step that will set the stage for a brighter, more prosperous future for our state.  

 

If we move forward with caution, and continue to focus on our shared priorities, we can make sure that Kansas succeeds for years to come.  

by Governor Laura Kelly

Hawver: Sounds Good

By Martin Hawver

Ever look at one of those new computer programs that sounds good? Like the ones to let you know whether the dog has jumped the fence? Or whether the cat is comfortable? Who doesn’t want that?

Well, after you hit the button and enter your credit card number, you get the chance to read a dozen pages of small type that are “terms and conditions.”

The Legislature doesn’t generally quickly hit the “agree” button, and this year, more than many years, there is a chance lawmakers aren’t going to hit that button on the governor’s budget.

Yes, the governor’s State of the State address sounded pretty good. More money for schools to finally get the state out of the lawsuit asserting that it isn’t “adequately” funding public schools, to protect the safety and security of children, and to swipe less money from the Kansas Department of Transportation so it can get back to building or at least improving the safety of roads and bridges.

That’s the program most of us want on our phones and computers, and generally in Kansas.

Those “terms and conditions” to get that program were explained in the budget that Gov. Laura Kelly presented on Thursday, and there are fingers on the “do not accept” button.

Key, of course, is her proposal to refinance the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS), which those fun-loving actuaries say is “actuarially underfunded” by essentially stretching by 30 years the payments to make it “actuarially funded.”

That stretching of the state’s payments, as one does with a mortgage or car loan, will solve the problem, but at an interest cost that is large. That interest cost upsets conservatives, but the state doesn’t have the money to pay cash and stretching the payments by re-amortizing the fund eventually gets it to the place actuaries say it should be.

That refinancing of KPERS? It frees up millions of dollars now that can be used to settle the K-12 school finance problem that the Kansas Supreme Court seems very serious about and may reduce by about $100 million the money that is swept from the Kansas Department of Transportation budget so it can improve our transportation system.

Oh, and it also frees up money for Kelly’s insistence (that got her elected governor rather than conservative Republican Secretary of State Kris Kobach?) that the state expand Medicaid (KanCare) health services to about 150,000 more poor Kansans and their children.

Republicans, who by numbers control the Legislature, don’t want that. They say it will cost the state too much money and it is a child of the “ObamaCare” Affordable Care Act that they oppose.

But, looking at Kelly’s one-year budget (rather than two-year, or biennial, budget that was thought up by former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback), it’s the KPERS refinancing that makes it work.

So, we’ll get conservatives who don’t want to refinance KPERS working to rile the 100,000 KPERS pension recipients and the 152,000 Kansans who are paying into the system to battle the governor and her supporters.

And, we’ll see whether parents of schoolchildren who want schools to stay open side with the governor since the KPERS savings will be used to meet Supreme Court orders on school finance. We’ll also maybe see roadbuilders who get more work by cutting the swiping of highway money decide that 30 years is about right for KPERS financing.

This might be interesting this year. Now, where’s the dog, and is the cat happy?

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

At the Rail – Martin Hawver

By Martin Hawver

By this time the new legislators have adjusted their chairs on the House and Senate floors and are

Martin Hawver, Columnist
Martin Hawver

presumably ready for business.

Which means, well, we’ll see when business starts. Could be a couple weeks, by which time lawmakers have met each other, learned about their families and pets, or whether the dramatically fast—Thursday—release of Gov. Laura Kelly’s budget for the upcoming year or two lights the fuse.

The weeks since Kelly has been governor-elect have yielded what most would consider relatively pro forma assertions that Kelly is going to “repair” the policies of the past eight years led by Gov. Sam Brownback and then Gov. Jeff Colyer. And mostly conservative Republican leadership responses have been that nearly everything Kelly wants to do costs money and threatens the budget—and possibilities of tax cuts.

***

Luckily for the governor and Legislature, there appears to be no dramatic catastrophe that requires first-week action by the state government, no bridge collapse, no wildfire, no flooding.  But the less-headlined issues ranging from care for children to school funding and health care for the poor are looming and will require administration/legislative action this session. Defining the problems will be the key to solutions, and those definitions and their costs are going to be the major issues for the session.

By week’s end, the dissection of Kelly’s budget will have started in both chambers, with her new Cabinet expected to have its input and changes to recommend. And, some issues, such as care for jeopardized children, don’t appear to have simple solutions because of the complexity of the agencies designed to protect them.

***

Much of what happens in this first dance will be under-the-covers, not generally reported and practically more complicated than most Kansans who have jobs to perform and families and children to provide for will notice. But those complex internal issues will impact just how the state provides for us.

For example, the House will this week adopt rules for the upcoming two years.

Rules? That’s a big deal? Sure, there’s no smoking or drinking in the House chamber, and you must be polite and not interfere with democracy. Behave.

But there are provisions—like whether sponsors of bills have to be named, or whether bills can be introduced by a committee, or whether committees will keep track of votes on amendments and such—that aren’t in writing and may or may not be.

Then there’s the big rule dealing with bills that make appropriations, and how they can be amended during floor debate. Now, if a House member wants to spend more money on something than the House Appropriations Committee approved, that member must propose cuts somewhere in the bill to keep its price tag at committee-approved levels…if the state’s general fund ending balance for the year is less than 7.5%.

We’ll see how that works out, and while it is not likely to spark dinner-table discussions in most homes in Kansas—we hope—it is a major decision that will influence deciding how to spend your tax money, and on what.

***

So, we probably have a couple or three weeks of debate ahead, generally not committed to legislation, about just where the state is going to head for the first year or two of the Kelly/Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers administration, and just how cooperative or combative the Legislature is going to be.

A couple House floor votes on Kelly-sought bills and we will have an idea about how state government is going to work for us.

Because, recall, state government works for us…

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

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