The 2008 legislative session officially ended Thurday, but not before drawing new criticism from the Governor.
House Speaker Melvin Neufeld banged the final gavel moments after Topeka Representative Annie Kuether tried to convince her colleagues to consider economic development proposals that had been bundled with a bill allowing two coal-fired power plants. The measure backed by the Shawnee County delegation would have extended a tax break meant to lure a wind turbine manufacturer to Topeka. It also included help for a transportation project in Gardner.
The House voted 49-47 against allowing a vote on the measure.
Gov. Kathleen Sebelius says she was prepared to sign the bills and, in a statement, blasted Neufeld for not pushing for a vote.
“Instead of encouraging a vote on these two important measures, which had been bundled with the coal plant bill before the adjournment of the regular session, the Speaker told members there was no need to be present," Sebelius said. "It is unfortunate that Kansas business owners, their employees and the state’s economy will be the victims of this legislative decision made on the final day of the 2008 legislative session."
House members did not try to override Sebelius veto of the bill allowing two coal-fired plants in Southwest Kansas.
Statement from Gov. Sebelius on end of session:
“Today, the Speaker of the House chose to block the opportunity to advance significant economic development legislation before he adjourned the House. With 96 members present, the Speaker and his Republican members voted not to consider passing bills which had already passed both Chambers and that I was committed to sign into law.
“S Sub for HB 2037 would have removed the barriers for manufacturing companies to expand in Kansas and SB 693 advanced the Gardner Intermodal Facility, a significant new transportation project. Both bills needed approval of only 63 members of the House to be sent to me for my signature.
“Instead of encouraging a vote on these two important measures, which had been bundled with the coal plant bill before the adjournment of the regular session, the Speaker told members there was no need to be present. When well more than the necessary 63 legislators came to Topeka, the Speaker led the efforts to prevent the votes from occurring, in spite of the good work of the Shawnee County delegation and various members of the Johnson County delegation to advance these important measures.
“It is also unfortunate that the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and Industry, who was part of the coalition to promote the coal legislation, was not insistent that these measures be considered on their own merit before the legislature adjourned. Despite knowing that two previous vetoes had been sustained, the Chamber agreed to a strategy to include key economic development legislation in a package with the coal bill, which they knew was likely to be vetoed. Even though there was an opportunity to pass the stand- alone legislation today, neither the Chamber, Republican leaders or legislators worked for a successful outcome.
“It is unfortunate that Kansas business owners, their employees and the state’s economy will be the victims of this legislative decision made on the final day of the 2008 legislative session."
Statement from Neufeld on end of session:
“Despite what some have said, Kansas lawmakers worked hard this session and passed dozens of good laws. For anyone to say this session was all about coal and nothing else refuses to look at the entire work of the Kansas Legislature. In a very tight budget year, we were able to fund necessary programs and agencies and limited increases in new spending more effectively than previous legislatures.
“We passed property tax relief for Kansas senior citizens and fourth year funding of the school finance plan. We allocated additional funding to shorten social services waiting lists and continued our course to reform our state’s health care system. State employees now have a new pay system thanks to work that began with a House Special Committee I appointed. We had strong bi-partisan support for NBAF and the Cessna expansion. This all builds on our accomplishments during last year’s session.
“An overwhelming majority of Representatives and Senators serving all 105 Kansas counties voted in support of comprehensive energy legislation this session, but the Governor refused to listen and vetoed our efforts to return regulatory certainty to Kansas and guarantee reliable and affordable electricity for all Kansans,” Neufeld said. “And while we were unable to come to an agreement on immigration reform, we had serious debate about how our state should address this very important issue. I expect both of these issues to be back in front of the Legislature next year.
“We kept our promise to Kansas students and their parents to fund schools. We cut the tax burden on Kansas families and businesses while limiting increased spending. We strengthened our laws against those who would do our most vulnerable harm. We began the long process of reforming our state’s health care system. We encouraged our state’s entrepreneurial spirit and brought more creditability to our state's electoral process."
2008 Legislation by the numbers:
1466 bills carried over from 2007 session (765) or introduced during 2008 session (701)
184 bills will become law
7 bills vetoed by the Governor
(from: House Speaker's Office)