Representative Blaine Finch
Greetings from Topeka. As I write this we are just finishing up week three of the session and things have been moving swiftly. This has definitely been a year of changes in the statehouse.
For starters when we were sworn in last month, there were 46 new faces in the Kansas House. That’s not quite the record but it is over a third of the body. That many new legislators means a lot of learning; new names, faces, and districts. And it means a lot of fresh and different perspectives that will affect legislation this year.
Second, this year I was named chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. The chairman is responsible for figuring out what bills to have hearings about and when those bills get worked. It is a great responsibility and a privilege. The members of the House Judiciary Committee are very thoughtful and our staff does an amazing job of researching complicated matters and coordinating the many conferees who appear before us. I am very fortunate to work with so many great people in this new role.
Finally, we have a new Speaker of the House and that means some different ways of doing business. The new speaker, Ron Ryckman, from Olathe, ran on a platform of consensus building and letting the legislative process work to bring out good ideas with all members having a voice.
So many new changes in the House this session, but many of the same old challenges. The state’s budget is not structurally balanced and we will have to debate a bill soon to balance the current fiscal year’s budget before June 30. There are no good options to do so. The state will need $350 million to make things right by June 30 and that will likely mean some combination of cuts to existing services and trying to find some short-term revenues.
In the long term the whole legislature will be focused on trying to find the right long-term fix that will generate sufficient revenues to fund core services. The state is projected to be down $580 million in FY 2018, which begins July 1. The tax committee in the House has held many in-depth hearings about possible fixes and should start turning their attention to crafting a specific proposal in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile I’ve had several visitors to the Capitol so far this session. I was happy to see some fourth-graders from Ottawa’s Eugene Field Elementary. We got to take a picture together. The superintendent and board members from the Lyndon school district came up for KASB day and I was privileged to see the Franklin County Clerk and the Chief of the Ottawa Police Department at events held by their respective associations.
Please keep your emails and phone calls coming on any issue that is important to you. You can reach me at [email protected] or 785-296-7655. I thank each of you for the honor of being your representative in Topeka and the privilege of serving you.