Topeka The House voted twice before referring the state university budget bill back to committee, delaying final action on a $2.6 million cut for KU and KUMC.
Rep. Gwen Welshimer, D-Wichita, didn't realize spending a few minutes Wednesday on her newsletter would be newsworthy.
House Democrats and moderate Republicans intent on scaling back a $6 million reduction in the Kansas Board of Regents' budget orchestrated a vote designed to send the bill back to the House Appropriations Committee.
Rep. Troy Findley, D-Lawrence, said the goal was to buy time to convince colleagues that cuts to Kansas University and other state universities were unfair.
The vote was 61-61, one vote shy of success for Findley.
If Welshimer had been on the floor instead of in her office, her vote to refer the bill to committee would have ended debate for the day.
Instead, conservative Republicans took advantage of an opportunity to take pot shots at the budget of state universities.
Rep. Clifford Franklin, R-Merriam, set the tone. He urged legislators to stand firm against efforts by university officials to reverse the committee's cut.
"The push for more ... bloating of the regents' budget is ridiculous!" he said.
Rep. Greg Packer, R-Topeka, stepped up with an amendment to slash an extra $10 million across the board from the university appropriations bill. It failed, 32-88.
Undaunted by that failure, Rep. Gary Haulmark, R-Lenexa, submitted an amendment limiting university administration expenses to 13.3 percent of the budget. State reports show Kansas State University spends 13.3 percent for administration while KU spends 14.1 percent.
"Let's cut back on expense of the administration," Haulmark said before the amendment was overwhelmingly rejected. "Put more money in the classroom."
By 7 p.m., weary of beating on state university budgets, the House again considered a motion to send the bill back to committee. Welshimer wasn't needed this time. The motion passed with a seven-vote margin, 65-58.
Reps. Findley and Barbara Ballard, D-Lawrence, and Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, voted both times to refer the bill to committee.