Archive for Friday, January 13, 2006

Special session fresh in leaders’ minds

Memory of ‘big fight’ so far has encouraged bipartisan teamwork

January 13, 2006

— The memory of last summer's brutal special session over school funding has kept state leaders on their best behavior so far as they try again to fix school finance.

After a nearly one-hour meeting Wednesday with Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and legislative leaders, members of both political parties expressed hope of a bipartisan plan to fund schools and a clean debate on the issues.

"We're not all squaring off for a big fight like we were in the special session," said House Democratic Leader Dennis McKinney, of Greensburg.

"Everyone has a fresh memory of the special session. It's not pleasant, and people in Kansas want us to get our heads together and get this problem fixed and not fight," he said.

Last year, lawmakers met in a special session to address a Kansas Supreme Court order to increase school funding.

House Speaker Doug Mays, R-Topeka, fought for a constitutional amendment to restrain the court, but in the end he was out-voted by moderate Republicans and Democrats.

Mays was visibly angered by Sebelius, a Democrat, at the end of the special session.

But after Wednesday's meeting, he said he and Sebelius are on good terms.

"She's interested in being part of the process," Mays said.

Of the special session, Mays said: "That took a lot of fight out of people. It was the worst two weeks of my life. Someone said are you going to write a book about it, I said yes, it's going to be called 'two weeks of hell.'"

Lawmakers said another reason for the calmer tempers is that this time the need to increase school funding has been documented by a study by the Legislature's staff.

The Legislative Division of Post Audit's school cost analysis says that school funding needs to be increased by several hundred million dollars.


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