- Associated Press - Friday, February 21, 2014

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Republican leaders should slash 20 days from Kansas lawmakers’ annual session because the GOP-dominated Legislature isn’t doing anything to create jobs or improve schools, the House’s top Democrat said Friday.

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat who’s challenging Republican Gov. Sam Brownback’s re-election this year, said the shorter session would at least save taxpayers money. Republican leaders dismissed Davis’ comments as political and said they’re working on a raft of bills that aren’t getting much attention but will boost the economy.

Davis fired his verbal broadside at GOP leaders and Brownback after more than a week of relatively negative national attention for Kansas. It culminated in “The Daily Show” comedian Jon Stewart’s scathing mockery Thursday night as he described states as the “meth labs of democracy.”

Kansas garnered some attention over a “religious freedom” proposal from GOP conservatives aimed at protecting people, groups and businesses refusing for religious reasons to supply goods, services and accommodations to gay couples. But much of the mockery centered on a Democratic lawmaker’s failed bill to rewrite a law on corporal punishment so that it would explicitly allow parents and others to spank their children hard enough to leave “redness or bruising.”

Davis derided this year’s annual session as a “circus,” and said Republican leaders have shown little interest in legislation to create jobs, rein in local property taxes and boost education funding. He said if GOP leaders followed his proposal to cut the session to 70 days from the traditional 90 days, taxpayers would save $1.3 million.

“I think this session has just completely lost any sense of focus on the issues that people in Kansas really want us to be dealing with,” Davis told reporters. “It’s brought embarrassment upon the Legislature and the state.”

Davis blamed Brownback for much of what’s happened during this year’s session. Davis said governors set the tone for lawmakers and, with fellow GOP conservatives in control of each chamber, Brownback has more influence than past governors.

Brownback’s office did not immediately respond to Davis’ comments, but the governor has said massive personal income tax cuts he’s championed in recent years are leading a low-tax, small-business “American renaissance.” Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, said Davis “absolutely” is grandstanding.

House Speaker Ray Merrick, a Stilwell Republican, had a news conference with the chairman of the chamber’s commerce committee, Rep. Marvin Kleeb, an Overland Park Republican, to highlight low-profile, pro-business legislation. They included measures to allow business associations to offer health plans for their members, rewrite unemployment tax and workers’ compensation laws and overhaul the state agency that settles tax disputes.

“The public sent us here to do a job, and that job’s not done yet,” Merrick said.

Later, he added, “We’re trying to steer the thing back to focus on the economic and the business atmosphere of this state.”



Kansas Legislature: https://www.kslegislature.org


Follow John Hanna on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apjdhanna .

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