Welcome Back, Lawmakers

The 2008 legislative session begins today. Before you yawn and move on to something else, remember this - these are the people who make the decisions that will impact your life. Don't like what you're paying in sales tax? Some of it is the legislature's decision. Upset that you have to wear a seat belt or don't want to wear a motorcycle helmet or hope to keep smoking when you go out to dinner? Pay attention to what lawmakers are talking about. Following legislative activity isn't that difficult. In most cases, it's a simple trip to www.kslegislature.org. Here, you will find the weekly calendars of what bills different committees are considering and when they are holding public hearings on them. You can look up the bills to read them in their entirety and find the committee phone number so you can sign up to speak on the issue if you'd like. Maybe you don't want to speak yourself, but do want your representative to know how you feel. The site also contains a listing of all House and Senate members along with their contact information. You can even find out who your Representatives are if you don't already know. It's a web site that's locked into my favorites - especially this time of year. It's also important to know, if you're not familiar with the legislative process, that you'll see most things happen at least twice. A bill may be introduced on either the House or Senate side. That chamber will hold committee hearings, then forward it to the full chamber for debate. If it passes, it will go to the other chamber where it will likely have another set of committee hearings then go on to that full chamber for debate. Even if it passes the second chamber, if any changes were made, it will go back to the first chamber, where it possibly could see yet another set of hearings if the changes made were especially drastic. Oh, and each chamber votes twice, too! After debate on what's called "General Orders," they'll vote to advance it to "Final Action." Usually, if a measure has the votes to go to Final Action, it will pass, but on contentious topics, it's not a given. The Final Action vote is the vote of record, and the one that determines if a bill moves forward. As the session unfolds, let me know what you think. What issues are most important to you? Anything you think is important that we're not giving enough attention?
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