TOPEKA, (KSNT)— Kansas lawmakers kicked off the first day of legislative session on Monday, wrapping up shortly after gaveling in.
Lawmakers are easing back into what’s expected to be a year packed with big plans on both sides of the aisle. But, it could spell out controversy, as they prepare to redraw maps and figure out what to do with the state’s budget.
Senate President Ty Masterson, R-Andover, said those two issues will be at the forefront of this year’s session.
“The two main items we have this year are redistricting and the budget. Those are the two main factors,” Masterson said.
Lawmakers will be redrawing maps to decide how votes are counted in the state. Some democrats have expressed concern that republicans may draw new lines that could oust Representative Sharice Davids, Kansas’ only Democrat in Congress.
However, Masterson told Kansas Capitol Bureau that the goal is to have “fair maps” this year.
“I don’t think on either side, you would need to be structured in a way to take somebody out,” he said.
Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes, D-Lenexa, said she’s hoping for the same outcome from this year’s redistricting process. Overall, Sykes said she hopes lawmakers will think of what’s best for Kansans.
“I think this is a time that we can show that we are adults and we want our voters to pick their representatives, instead of representatives picking their voter,” she said.
Other issues that could come up include a push from democrats to legalize marijuana and expand Medicaid; issues they say are “long overdue.”
In addition, eliminating the state’s hefty food sales tax will also be a priority for legislators that could gain bipartisan support, as top republicans have also spoken in favor of the move.
In the end, it will come down to what lawmakers are willing to spend on. Some democrats are hoping to put away money for a “rainy day” and spend responsibly.
“We’ve had a great economic development during COVID, so let’s continue to build on that,” Senator Sykes said.
Senate President Masterson said he’s also preparing to be mindful of the budget.
“There’s going to be temptation to spend a bunch of money, cut a bunch of taxes, but the truth is there is a lot of faults in our budget, so we’re going to have to be careful,” he said.
Tuesday, lawmakers will continue to lay out their legislative priorities for this year’s session.
The governor will be giving her annual State of the State address, which is set for 6:30p.m.
Republican leadership will also be giving their response. House Speaker Ron Ryckman, R-Olathe, will be delivering the speech this year.