Early a week ago Sunday, at the last minute, Kansas legislators passed a school funding bill of more than $500 million. The Supreme Court must still rule on its constitutionality, but the frantic maneuvering allows Kansans to understand a lot about state politics as we head toward the end of the session and the 2018 elections.
#1. In contrast to 2017, when Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning joined with House Speaker Ron Ryckman to provide steady, even bold, leadership to override Governor Sam Brownbacks veto of income tax increases, the Senate remained adrift and leaderless up through the last moments of the 2018 regular session. President Susan Wagle remained incapable of leading her chamber, and Sen. Denning this year accompanied her in various strange and unproductive maneuvers that could well have derailed the legislative process, despite the clear need to address the Supreme Courts mandate on school funding.
After delaying the proceedings to demand passage of an unwise, unpassable constitutional amendment to strip the Courts authority to require school funding, Denning joined Wagle to offer a low-ball, $250 million school finance figure that the Court would have rejected out of hand. Last years statesman, cited as a best state legislator by Governing magazine, took an unproductive, far-right turn in addressing the sessions top issue.