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Archive for Wednesday, May 7, 2008

End games

The end of the Kansas Legislature’s 2008 session is even more ugly than usual.

May 7, 2008

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The closing days of the state's legislative session often aren't a pretty sight, but, this year, Kansans have more reason than usual to be discouraged by the activities of their elected representatives.

As of Tuesday afternoon, there was little indication when the Kansas Legislature might adjourn and exactly what it might accomplish before it does. Negotiators were at an impasse over the year's final spending bill, and efforts were under way to pass yet another measure to clear the way for construction of two coal-fired power plants in southwest Kansas.

Leaders of the Kansas Senate are peeved at leaders in the Kansas House because the House adjourned Saturday evening when the Senate had hoped to continue and conclude the session. Senate leaders have, in fact, said they may not consider any additional measures this year, including the Omnibus Appropriations Act.

Because the governor already has received and approved a bill that contains most of the $13.6 billion state budget, it would be possible for the state to operate without the omnibus bill, but legislators likely would have to deal with a number of unsettled budget issues next year after half of the budget has been spent.

The other issue still hanging over the Legislature is the coal-fired plants. Two bills that would allow the plants to be built and limit the power of state regulators to block construction of such plants have been passed by the Legislature. The governor vetoed both measures and her vetoes were upheld.

Having reached that impasse, it would be reasonable for the state to fall back and regroup on the issue of energy policy. This complicated and contentious issue is unlikely to be resolved in the harried closing days of the session. Both sides are dug in, and there is little hope for compromise. Setting policy for the state's energy future is an important job; unfortunately, it is a job that probably isn't going to be completed this session. Even if another bill is passed, there's no reason to think it won't meet the same fate as the first two.

Many legislative observers - and legislators themselves - have expressed frustration with the way the issue of the coal-fired plants dominated the session and stymied work on other important issues that face the state. The result has been one of the most contentious and least impressive legislative sessions in recent memory.

Kansans have a right to be disappointed.

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