Kansas Legislators are busy this week organizing their offices, learning the legislative do’s and don’ts and brushing up on parliamentary procedures in anticipation of the 2013 session. The largest class of new legislators in recent history will be sworn in January 14th in Topeka. Fifty-five members of the 125-member Kansas House are new, with 16 of the 40-member Kansas Senate serving in that chamber for the first time. In other words, lots of fresh faces will be in Topeka.
The first week’s highlight will be the Governor’s State of the State address Tuesday evening, January 15 at 6:30 p.m. He will use the occasion to suggest policy priorities for the legislature and broadly describe his budget recommendations. Full details of the budget recommendations and their implications for the University of Kansas will be known a few days following his speech.
Clearly, tackling the state’s budget will be job one for state lawmakers, as Kansas faces a $295 million shortfall projected for the fiscal year starting July 1, 2013. The Governor’s budget details will lay out a roadmap for legislators to consider as they spend the next 90 days combing through all state spending and various tax policies that might bear adjustments.
On the front line of that tax debate will be a discussion regarding the current state sales tax. Three years ago, an increase in sales tax was adopted as a “temporary” measure to avoid further deep cuts in education and other state obligations. Set to expire July 1, 2013, there is growing discussion among state leaders about retaining the current state sales tax rate (6.3 percent) and thus avoiding deep cuts. Retaining the sales tax would just about equal the amount of the projected deficit for the next fiscal year.
KU’s 2013 Legislative Agenda is comprised of budget and policy objectives to continue recent gains realized throughout the institution. Retaining and recruiting world-class faculty, funding new investments in the KU Medical Center to train additional doctors and allied health professionals for the state, and supporting our efforts to implement a range of academic and organizational efficiencies at KU are at the core of the agenda. This agenda was shaped in partnership with the Kansas Board of Regents over the course of the past several months.
While KU’s governmental affairs efforts at the statehouse are carried out year round, they enter warp speed when the gavel sounds at the start of each legislative session. With such a large number of new lawmakers this year, a key focus will be helping those not overly familiar with KU better understand our value to the state and the constituents they represent.
We have an ambitious number of events planned to bring lawmakers to campus, as well as events “under the dome.” Please mark your calendars for February 7, when we will be holding our annual KU in the Capital events. We’re bringing Jayhawk spirit to legislators at a 7:30 to 9 am breakfast at the statehouse, complemented by a full day of events in Topeka. More details will be forthcoming from the Office of Public Affairs about the activities.
In addition to these events, KU leaders will be testifying in front of various committees of the legislature and meeting one-on-one with key members throughout the session. These advocacy efforts are coordinated with the Kansas Board of Regents.
With KU alumni living in every county in our state, these more than 160,000 Jayhawks play a key role in helping us shape lawmakers’ impressions of KU and advance our agenda. We’re grateful to the KU Alumni Association for its support, especially in managing the grassroots advocacy organization Jayhawks for Higher Education. This strong network of KU advocates is a great asset and the voices of our alumni carry hefty weight among policymakers. For more information about JHE, check out their website.
Ninety days is a relatively short period of time to tackle the many complex issues on the state’s legislative agenda. To help guide the pace for the session, key deadlines are established by legislative leaders. Here’s a glimpse at the 2013 legislative calendar:
January 14 Start of Legislative Session
March 1 Last day for bills to be debated in House of Origin
March 27 Last day for bills to be debated in other chamber
April 5 First adjournment of Legislature
May 8 Veto session begins (generally lasts a week to 10 days)
A lot of work has to be done in a relatively short amount of time. We’ll again be preparing a weekly summary of legislative highlights. We’re eager for the session to start and are optimistic that sound policies and prudent investments in the university’s budget will again be embodied in the session’s final work product. Thanks in advance for your constructive engagement in the process!
Director of State Relations