Lawmakers settle dispute over rules, bill bundling

Kansas House Rules Chairman John Barker, center, an Abilene Republican, watches one of the chamber's electronic tally boards during a vote on legislative rules, Tuesday, Feb. 17, 2015, at the Statehouse in Topeka, Kan. To his right is Rep. Ron Ryckman Jr., an Olathe Republican. (AP Photo/John Hanna)

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) — Kansas lawmakers will limit a common but much-criticized practice used to rush legislation to passage in the final days of their annual sessions under new rules approved Tuesday.

The two chambers disagreed about restricting the bundling of multiple bills into a single package of legislation on a broad subject such as taxes, agriculture or insurance. The Senate has not debated any bills since Feb. 5 because Majority Leader Terry Bruce, who controls its calendar, held off while the rules disagreement persisted.

The House approved, 83-38, a final, compromise version of rules governing interactions between the two chambers. The Senate approved them Monday on a 27-7 vote.

Bundling occurs because lawmakers become pressed for time at the end of their annual, 90-day sessions and the same senators and House members negotiate over multiple bills on the same subject. They’ve occasionally bundled as many as a dozen bills on a single subject together in a package and presented it to each chamber for an up-or-down vote. Critics say the practice leads to sloppy law making.

The new rules will allow up to five bills to be bundled into a single measure, with no limit for tax legislation. The House wanted to allow no more than two bills to be bundled; the Senate initially sought no limit, though its leaders said they were willing to consider some restrictions.

“It seems like a pretty solid compromise between the two chambers,” said Senate Vice President Jeff King, an Independence Republican and chairman of his chamber’s rules committee.

But Rep. Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat, said the rules will still allow too much bundling, particularly because tax legislation is exempt from the limit.

Rep. John Rubin, a Shawnee Republican who had pushed for the tougher restrictions, acknowledged that he wanted to go further but added, “We have come a long way. This is at least a partial victory.”

After the House’s vote, Bruce, a Nickerson Republican, said the Senate would resume debating bills Wednesday.



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