Legislature has a lot left to do

Three-month session ends with 'nothing noteworthy' accomplished

? State lawmakers Friday ended the major part of the legislative session a lot like they started it on Jan. 14 – arguing about coal-fired power plants, illegal immigration and health care.

That means there’s a lot left to do when they return from their traditional three-week break for the wrap-up session that starts April 30.

Asked what had been accomplished by the Legislature over the past three months, state Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, quipped, “nothing noteworthy.”

Much of the session has been spent fighting over a proposal to build two 700-megawatt coal-fired power plants in western Kansas. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius has opposed the project, but a majority of legislators, including House and Senate leaders, support the plants.

And the House and Senate are at loggerheads over proposals aimed at making it harder for illegal immigrants to live and work in Kansas.

Health care reform also has been a tug-of-war over efforts aimed at providing coverage to some of the nearly 300,000 uninsured Kansans.

“I can’t recall a session that I have been involved with where there are more significant issues that have been put off for the wrap-up session,” said state Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence.

House Minority Leader Dennis McKinney of Greensburg agreed, ticking off a list of social service programs whose funding remains undecided.

“It seems like we have been in a trend in the last few years where we leave more and more items for the last budget bill,” McKinney said.

Higher education funding also remains up in the air. Sebelius recommended a $20 million increase in the operating grants of higher ed institutions. The Legislature has funded half that amount and will discuss the other $10 million during the wrap-up session.

But Sloan said although major issues remain unresolved, the Legislature has made progress on working toward agreements.

“So, we are not at the same place we were when we came in to session, but we certainly have not concluded our work,” he said.