A Day for Resolutions

This is the time in the legislative year when there is plenty of down time as conference committees meet to work out differences in bills and then rush those reports back and forth for floor votes. That means there is time for honoring folks and today was no exception.

In the House this morning we listened with interest to resolutions honoring championship high school sports teams. We love high school sports. Our own children participated in high school wrestling, baseball, track, soccer, cross country, bowling and golf – activities that taught them teamwork, cooperation, sportsmanship and many more of the “soft skills” so talked about by legislators and educators today. Of course it is not lost on us that the chairs of the House and Senate Education Committees have introduced a school finance bill that would prohibit the expenditure of any state education aid on athletics. Honoring the teams while considering banning the funding seems a tad…what’s the word we’re looking for?

There was also a resolution honoring the University of Kansas for 150 years of excellence the reading of which was concluded with legislators calling out “Rock Chalk Jayhawk!” Pretty soon they’ll begin conversations about the recommendation by Governor Brownback that millions of dollars in cuts to our universities continue for another year to shore up the budget collapse brought on by his reckless tax policy.

Oh well, we can only hope that the resolutions honoring our student athletes and excellent universities that they adopted today will give them pause as they consider legislation to ban athletic funding, mortgage our preschool funding, and cut our universities.

A Day for Conference Committee Reports

This afternoon, the Senate adopted an education conference committee report dealing with post-secondary education. The report, CCR 2622, holds four items:

  • The degree prospectus program under which institutions would provide prospective students with data on graduation rates and performance,
  • The CLEP provision that standardizes the use of CLEP examines for earning college credit,
  • The performance based funding incentives for career and technical education, and
  • Adjustments to some fees charged by the Board of Regents.

This conference committee report must now go to the House for consideration. That may happen later this evening. Click here to read the conference committee report.

How do conference committees work?

Conference committees are established to work out differences in the versions of bills passed by both chambers. Since each chamber has the opportunity to amend and vote on every bill, if the same bill comes out of the second chamber in a form different from what was passed by the first chamber, a conference committee negotiates a compromise bill.

Conference committees are made up of three Senators and three Representatives. Usually they are the Chair, Vice-Chair, and Ranking Minority Member of the committees that worked the bill.

If the conference committee report (CCR) is in a House bill (See CCR 2622 mentioned earlier), then it must be adopted by the Senate before returning to the House. Likewise, if it is in a Senate Bill, it goes first to the House for approval.

To be voted on by the chamber, all six members of the conference committee must sign the bill unless they “agree to disagree.” Often the minority party members will not sign a report due to some poison pill being inserted into the report. If a report comes with only four signatures, the full chambers must adopt a motion to “agree to disagree” after which the report needs only four signatures for a vote.

If the motion to agree to disagree is not adopted, the report goes back to the conference committee where it can be re-negotiated to get the six signatures.

Yes, the whole back and forth and voting to agree to disagree reminds us of a Bob Hope quote in the film The Lemon Drop Kid (based on a story by Manhattan, Kansas native Damon Runyon): “I swore on a plate of black eyed peas and candied yams…it’s messy, but it’s binding.” The whole conference committee process to an outsider may appear messy…but it’s binding.