Lawmakers, Capitol Staff Reflect on Bethell's Death, End Of Session

By: Giang Nguyen Email
By: Giang Nguyen Email

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - As lawmakers are coming to grips with the loss of a dear colleague, they also took stock of the legislative session that just ended.

"Bob (Bethell) gave the prayer to open the house session on Saturday, a very heartfelt prayer." Representative Bob Bethell died in a car accident driving home to Alden, after the legislative session adjourned Sunday evening.

Pastor Dave Depue is tasked with the spiritual well-being of those who walk the Statehouse halls. He said prayers like those offered by Representative Bob Bethell were needed in what was a contentious legislative session -- lasting nine days longer than scheduled.

The House and Senate Chambers were uncharacteristically quiet today, as if to take a moment to remember one of their servants and to reflect on the session that has just ended.

"There was a lot of stress this session, a lot of tough issues, tough issues, strife. It was contentious," Depue said.

Lawmakers compromised on a budget, and left the court system to resolve the redistricting fight.

Governor Sam Brownback said in a statement, "[t]he Legislature responded with one of the hardest-working sessions on record. The 2012 session was marked by significant accomplishments."

But Democrats and Republicans still disagreed on tax cuts -- an aggressive bill was passed, but several attempts at scaled-back alternatives failed.

"We're going to find out in less than a year, because the tax proposal that the Governor has indicated that he's going to sign [...] I think will devastate Kansas as we know it," ranking Democrat of the House Appropriations Committee Bill Feuerborn said.

"Turning a big ship, $6 billion in state general funds, $14 billion dollar all funds budget, doesn't turn on a dime," Represenative Marc Rhoads, chair of the Appropriations Committee, said. "But I think it will in a fairly short period of time, a year [..], we will turn this ship around," he said.

Depue said despite the bickering, Kansas lawmakers are doing the people's agenda.

"The citizen legislature concept is the best," he said. "We feel it's effective here because ordinary people making the laws."

"It was a successful session, it was just tough. Long and tough," he said.

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