In what Rep. Bob Grant, D-Cherokee, called a short, but packed week, members of the Kansas Legislature cranked out a budget, while passing several other significant bills.

In what Rep. Bob Grant, D-Cherokee, called a short, but packed week, members of the Kansas Legislature cranked out a budget, while passing several other significant bills.
All three local legislators said they had problems with the 2010 budget, largely because it finished with cutting an extra $33 per student out of K-12 education’s general fund.
“The Senate didn’t vote to cut K-12,” said Rep. Julie Menghini, D-Pittsburg. “But once they got into conference committee, the Senate members seemed to come to the House position pretty quickly.”
Grant, who voted against the budget bill in the House, said that was a problem.
“There were some good things there,” Grant said. “But I just didn’t like the cuts to education.”
Sen. Bob Marshall, R-Fort Scott, said he, too, was for the Senate version of the budget bill with regard to education funding.
“I actually thought that with the situation we have right now and the stimulus that we should have stayed with the governor’s recommendation (which the Senate bill was based off),” Marshall said. “I think the political situation is such that cutting K-12 was not in the best interest of the Senate and House. I think face a situation, but not in 2010. To me, it was just a situation where the House felt strongly that they needed to make cuts now. The stimulus package has complicated the whole situation.”
The conference committee also lopped 1 percent off special education.
“I’m not sure that’s such a good idea with all the money Obama set aside for that,” Menghini said.
Menghini said they did negotiate a better deal for higher education.
The House also passed through a bill upping the state’s minimum wage, though Menghini said it wasn’t very cut and dry.
The 2010 budget wasn’t the only budget bill passed this week — Marshall said the Senate passed a bill that, if two-thirds of the Kansas House and Senate approve it, would place a measure on the next November election ballot creating a budget stabilization fund.  Marshall said, if passed, the bill would allocate one quarter of one percent of state revenues into the fund.
“It would be similar to a rainy day fund,” Marshall said.
The Senate also passed Kelsey’s Law, named for Kelsey Smith, an Overland Park teen abducted and murdered by Edwin Hall in the summer of 2007. Local law enforcement, then the FBI, attempted to locate Smith by her cell phone, but it took Verizon Wireless several days to hand over her information. She was then located in a wooded area near Grandview, Mo.
Kelsey’s Law requires telecommunications companies to hand over the location of a telecommunications device immediately at the request of law enforcement.
The Senate also passed a bill making adults responsible for hosting events where minors unlawfully partake in alcoholic beverages. The House attempted to pass a bill taking the state to one strength of beer, though it went down on what Grant called “a large voice vote.”
The 2009 session is winding to a close — legislators will be back in session next week before taking a three-week break before the end of the session, and Menghini said there were several issues that legislators didn’t deal with, from making not wearing a seat belt a primary offense to the statewide smoking ban. The former cost the state $11 million, Menghini said.
“Some good things have happened this session, but we’ve been denied access to others,” Menghini said.
One of those is the gaming issue that Menghini has been pushing for. With next year as an election year for House members, Menghini said the legislature wouldn’t be likely to pass controversial bills. Still, she said she was holding out hope.
“The issue is not going away,” Menghini said. “We need those revenues. They can push it back and push it back, but eventually, it will be there.
“I’m not giving up this year. And if it’s not this year, we’ll be back this year. I can assure you of that.”