Senator Bruce Givens and Representative Mary Martha Good gave informational speeches and took some questions at the Legislative Wrap-up event Friday morning at the Civic Center in El Dorado.
Givens started the discussion by reminding people of how difficult the process was during legislation to get stuff passed. While the Senate and House talked to each other frequently and constantly proposed ideas, the Leadership groups might toss out ideas before they ever make the floor for discussion. Givens said he even had some of his own ideas for amendments to certain bills or documents not get considered.
A big hurdle is getting through the Conference Committee Reports. Three members from the House and three from the Senate would meet after the majority leader sends bills to be finalized and adjusted. Givens said he sat in many of those, especially ones that dealt with education. The meetings could go fast as a lot would get sifted through in a short time.
“You’re sitting there in the audience like, ‘What just happened here?’” Givens said Friday.
As for Good, she said it was simultaneously a fun, exhilarating, sad, fast and an exhausting experience. A few things became clear to Good as the legislation progressed, including the difficulties of seeing the state government continue the way it has been.
“Kansas is broke,” Good said on Friday. “We are so broke, sometimes I’m not sure how we’re going to make it to July.”
But she remained positive in the adjustments the state made with new tax and spending proposals. She said she is hopeful that, by the end of the year, Kansas will return to earning a positive cash flow.
Both Givens and Good agreed that, with the directions the legislation is taking, Kansas will not be referred to as a “laughing stock” throughout the country by carrying the incompetent perceptions that have been reported on by various national media outlets. Givens went on to talk about the changes that have been made to tax brackets. In the 1980s, there were 15 brackets, which decreased the jump up or down made when a person switched brackets. But nowadays, there are fewer, which makes brackets for middle-classed people more difficult, with sharper increases when going up a bracket.
On other tax notes, Givens said he hopes to see sales taxes, particularly with food sales, decrease in the next couple of years. He also talked about the some-$2 billion that has been taken out of highway funds the past five years and put into other funds.
Good touched on an emotional subject as she told the story of an elderly black woman who had $20,000 taken away from her (because she was carrying excessive amounts of cash), and the woman is struggling with various issues. She said she’d like to see the governor return that money to the woman.
Another emotional subject was the death of Patsy Terrell, a democratic representative from Hutchinson who was found dead in her hotel room. Good had spoken with her in the days prior to her death, with one such encounter recorded by the Associated Press.
“This is what we came here for. We came to reform everything,” Good said to Patsy in the video recorded by the Associated Press.
Good talked about the desire to see a lot more of Kansas’ resources get dedicated to child services. She mentioned the Global Orphan Project and said that kids are getting taken away from their homes too quickly before accurate assessments are getting made.
They both discussed water issues, as well. Givens reminded the people that El Dorado is blessed to have so much drinkable water; a lot of small towns like Pretty Prairie, don’t have nearly as much. But Good emphasized that too much — she stated 85 percent — of that water is used for irrigation.