Archive for Thursday, January 23, 2003

Calling a halt

January 23, 2003

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Does allowing the Kansas Legislature to extend its session into overtime result in better lawmaking?

It's unfair, some state legislators say, to cut off their pay after 90 days or, as Senate President Dave Kerr is suggesting, simply not allow the session to be extended beyond 90 days.

Drafting a state budget is a tough job, Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, told a local group Monday night, and lawmakers should be paid for doing it.

Isn't 90 days long enough to draw up a budget? Does a longer session mean the budget will be any better? Legislators had a record-long, 107-day session in 2002 and still produced a budget that was inadequate to meet the state's difficult financial situation.

And while they were meeting, state taxpayers were paying them $78.75 a day in salary and $85 a day for expenses. When the state is pinching pennies, overtime pay for legislators doesn't seem like a good expenditure.

The question that remains in the minds of many Kansans is why the job can't be done in 90 days. A number of the final days of the 2002 session seemed to pass with little progress being made on issues that stood between the legislators and adjournment. There was little committee activity and relatively few issues on the table, but several key issues lingered and dragged the session out.

Couldn't the compromise that finally was reached have been achieved any sooner? If the Senate president thinks the Legislature could complete its business in 90 days without an extension, many Kansans would like to see it give it a try.

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