Monday, September 15, 2014

FINCH: Settling legislative differences in Topeka

By BLAINE FINCH, Kansas State Representative | 3/25/2013

We are preparing to work bills on the floor as I write to you from the Statehouse. Almost all House committees, and for certain the ones on which I serve, have finished their business. Nearly all bills that are going to be considered by either the Senate or the House in the remaining days of this session have been passed out of committee.

The current schedule anticipates that we will be on the floor debating and voting on bills this week and then considering conference committee reports the week after. When the House and Senate each pass a bill, the versions often are different because of the different amendments tacked on in each chamber. The different versions of the bill have to be reconciled and that is done in a conference committee.  The chair, vice chair and ranking minority member of the appropriate committee from each house typically is appointed to form the conference committee. Once in committee, the members will attempt to compromise on differences and might bundle several bills together if they have a similar topic.

We are preparing to work bills on the floor as I write to you from the Statehouse. Almost all House committees, and for certain the ones on which I serve, have finished their business. Nearly all bills that are going to be considered by either the Senate or the House in the remaining days of this session have been passed out of committee.

The current schedule anticipates that we will be on the floor debating and voting on bills this week and then considering conference committee reports the week after. When the House and Senate each pass a bill, the versions often are different because of the different amendments tacked on in each chamber. The different versions of the bill have to be reconciled and that is done in a conference committee.  The chair, vice chair and ranking minority member of the appropriate committee from each house typically is appointed to form the conference committee. Once in committee, the members will attempt to compromise on differences and might bundle several bills together if they have a similar topic.

This bundling can lead to a situation in which a representative has to vote on a conference committee report that contains a bill he or she supported and one he or she didn’t. Every effort is made to be consistent, but sometimes that is not possible and a choice must be made between supporting something you don’t like or voting against something you do.

The past week has been very busy as the House has passed out its budget and its tax plan and the Senate has done the same. The House budget differs from the governor’s budget in some significant ways. First, the House budget contains almost $127 million in cuts over the governor’s proposed budget. Second, the House cuts the board of regents universities and community colleges by $48.1 million. Finally, the House budget does not call for continuing the majority of the one cent sales tax (an amendment retains 4/10 of a cent for the Kansas Department of Transportation), while the Senate retains the whole 1 cent with 6/10 going into the state general fund.

The budgets now will go into conference committee where the members of that committee will try to iron out these substantial differences. I do not envy them this task.

I welcome your input and thank you very much for the honor of being able to serve you as your state representative.

Blaine Finch is Kansas House member, representing Franklin County. Email him at blaine.finch@house.ks.gov or call (785) 296-7655.

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