Kansas legislative reforms not adopted

Gavel

In her newsletter, Kansas State Representative Amanda Grosserode explains several reforms that are needed regarding legislative process. Unfortunately, none were approved.

However, another area of legislating that has been abused in the past has been the practice of bundling several bills into one bill. An amendment to the rules was brought by Rep. Rubin to limit bundles to just two bills, which would have minimized this practice. Unfortunately, that amendment failed.

This was quite troubling to me, as this practice has several consequences:

  • Too often legislators, particularly those who weren’t part of the particular committee forwarding the bundle of bills, aren’t familiar with each bill in the “bundle”. Thus they end up sometimes not completely sure what they’re voting on. This isn’t healthy.

  • Related to this, Kansans trying to follow our legislative process can also become confused about exactly what’s being debated due to the shifting bill numbers, etc. This should be minimized.
  • Though the bills are usually related in some degree, that doesn’t constitute being of the same subject being addressed. As such, bundling puts many legislators in the bind of whether to vote yes or no on bundled bills which contained legislation they had both supported and opposed together in the one bundled package. Of course, this can happen in one particular bill, but it would be curtailed greatly if bundling of several bills were not allowed.

Despite the failure of the amendment to the rules, it is my hope that we will try to limit this practice as much as possible, even if it isn’t banned. One way to do this is to not hesitate to send bundled bills back to conference committee if we feel they should be separated by the way of a nonconcur with the conference committee report.

There was also an amendment to the rules offered that would have concluded debate on any given day at 11 pm and guaranteed a 10-hour off period. I was disappointed to see it fail, as well, and I voted yes on this amendment. Though I am a night owl, most legislators are not particularly when many end up getting up around 4-5 a.m. That’s practical reality, and we shouldn’t have legislators voting on major legislation when they are extremely tired. This would also prevent the clock being used as an agent for debate – legislators voting for something to pass simply so they can go home. I also believe the legislature should be as family friendly as possible.

Finally, an amendment that wasn’t offered would have provided every “division” vote be recorded. That would provide greater transparency and not allow individual legislators to hide their votes on division that can often shape legislation. We shouldn’t be afraid of any vote we take, and the public shouldn’t be required to “guess” who voted yes or no on a particular item. They should all be recorded. I would have supported this amendment.