Friday, October 24, 2014

HAWVER: Senate pulls political payback stunt

By MARTIN HAWVER, At the Rail | 9/9/2013

For most of you who paid the mileage and per diem for members of the Kansas Legislature who returned to Topeka last week for that surprisingly brief special session, there was a little something that regular people didn’t notice.

It takes us folks who don’t get out enough to notice that, besides legislators fixing the “Hard 50” murder sentence law that the U.S. Supreme Court found flaws in, there was a little Senate comeuppance dealt to the House.

For most of you who paid the mileage and per diem for members of the Kansas Legislature who returned to Topeka last week for that surprisingly brief special session, there was a little something that regular people didn’t notice.

It takes us folks who don’t get out enough to notice that, besides legislators fixing the “Hard 50” murder sentence law that the U.S. Supreme Court found flaws in, there was a little Senate comeuppance dealt to the House.

That quick jab in the ribs? It was holding the House hostage during the second day of the session.

Hostage? Yes, because the House couldn’t adjourn — sending its 125 members home in mid-afternoon — until after the Senate had debated and passed the “Hard 50” bill, which it did without so much as a comma added or deleted, let alone any significant amendments.

Had the Senate amended the bill that the House passed unanimously, the House would have had to consider that Senate amendment and either agree to it or send the measure to a House-Senate conference committee, burning up time and possibly stretching the two-day session to the three days that Gov. Sam Brownback had suggested it might take.

The Senate not only didn’t hurry with its second-day consideration of the “Hard 50” bill, it put it on the last rollcall of the day to keep the House in suspense.

Why the little delay that added maybe an hour or two to the stay of House members who wound up having precisely nothing official to do after passing the House version of the bill?

Now, this might sound strange to the general public, but there are still Senate members who remember back to the regular session earlier this year, when the House burned up a week considering the final appropriations bill of the session. During that time, the Senate had very little to do and could have been home mowing the yard, or watching the help mow the yard.

Silly? Maybe just a bit. But it was Senate members who noted that they delayed the House’s homeward trip and linked it to the regular session’s delays. And it’s a reminder that no slight or inconvenience that occurs in the Legislature is forgotten.

A couple of hours of enforced idle time for House members doesn’t, of course, equal days of delay in adjourning the regular session for Senate members who watched the House chew through the appropriations bill. But it was a dab of payback that probably meant some ... err ... senior House members didn’t get to 4 p.m. dinner specials at local restaurants or on the road as quickly as they were hoping.

Upside? Despite the under-the-covers kicking going on between chambers, remember that legislators are paid by the day ... not the hour.

Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report. Visit his website at www.hawvernews.com

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