Believe it or not, Legislature works together much of the time

By Rep. Elizabeth Bishop | March 1, 2021

The Kansas Legislature is busy churning out bills in 2021. One reason for the frenetic activity is that many bills made it through either the House or Senate in 2020 but then were left incomplete when the pandemic panic set in and the 2020 legislature shut down early.

However, so far, most of the action takes place in committees as these leftover bills are reintroduced and new hearings are conducted. We have met in the House Chamber for final votes only a few times, running through 10 or 12 bills at a time, in fairly short order.

When first elected I soon discovered a problem hearing clearly and following the action in the Chamber. This beautiful room has a very high ceiling causing an echo effect. That plus the two-microphone audio system had me nudging my neighbor, doing the “What’d he say?” bit. Then Roger, one of the sergeant-at-arms, suggested I try a small sound amplifier the House provides. It hooks over one ear and taps directly into the sound system. Works like a charm. It lets me follow the debate and action so clearly that I can often hear the little asides between the Speaker and staff that my colleagues miss.

As of mid-February, we had heard about 30 bills so far in the House. Only the first of these, the resolution calling for a change to the Kansas constitution regarding abortion, was controversial. The vast majority of these were passed 125 to 0, or close to it.

This work, passing bills on which there is general agreement, is actually typical of legislative action. David Norlin, a retired teacher, recently remarked on this fact in an editorial in the “Kansas Reflector,” an online news outlet.

This general agreement is the “work-horse” activity of the Legislature. Without fanfare we pass bills bringing laws up-to-date; resolve laws found to conflict with one another; neaten up laws with newly-discovered mistakes; and sometimes pass unanimously a feel-good resolution like saluting “The Greatest Generation,” the survivors of  World War II.

Editor’s note: The Active Age invited State Rep. Elizabeth Bishop of Wichita, who is the Kansas Legislature’s most senior member, to write a column about her experiences in Topeka. This is her second column.