Lawmakers near half way mark, bill deadlines loom

Published On: Feb 23 2014 09:50:47 PM CST   Updated On: Feb 23 2014 10:44:59 PM CST

Deadlines loom in Topeka as lawmakers approach the half way point of the session.

"Those bills that have received nationwide attention have been some of the smallest bills this year," said Derby Representative Jim Howell. "The bigger bills, the ones that are most important have received virtually no attention at all."

Already this year, bills on spanking and gay marriage rights have been thrust into the national spotlight. But some lawmakers say those issues won't be the headlines of this session.

"There have been a lot of loud noisy distractions this year," said Wichita Representative Jim Ward. "But the serious business of the legislature is deciding how much money to spend on schools, so that we can reduce class sizes, and what we do for health care."

"I sit on the general government budget, and we have probably had around 40 budget hearings so far this year," Howell said.

While those issues haven't gotten the same attention so far, they will this week. Friday is the deadline for any bill that has a chance to get on Governor Sam Brownback's desk for him to sign into law.

"So there is a lot of work being done on KAPERS, a lot of work that is being done on medicare and a lot of work is being done on KanCare," said Wichita Representative Steve Brunk.

"The general misunderstanding by people is that we are focused on all these little policy bills," Howell said. "In reality the budget and tax will always be front and center of the legislative process."

Many lawmakers were surprised by the lack of attention some bills were getting.

Two mentioned a house bill that would allow small businesses to pool together to get a better group rate on health insurance. It's a move that could lower the cost for 350,000 Kansans. Both representatives hope that bill will pass later this week.