Many legislators leave for weekend, others keep working at statehouse

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After three busy days this week of trying to get bills voted on, the capitol was quieter Thursday. 

It was supposed to be the last day bills could be debated before the halfway break for lawmakers. But on Wednesday the House and Senate ended early. 

“I do not understand why we’re not working today,” said Wichita Representative John Carmichael. “We’re getting paid, but we’re not working.”

Today is a proforma day at the statehouse. That means legislators get their usual $88 a day, plus their $144 dollars in expenses, but don’t have to come to work.

“We have bills that are what we call below the line, that means bills that have already been passed by committee that ought to be being debated today,” said Rep. Carmichael.

Carmichael was one of the lawmakers that still came to the statehouse Thursday. He spent the day reading over Senate bills that are heading for committees he’s in and answered constituents’ emails 

Other capitol employees had no choice but to come in.

“We sort the mail out for the 125 legislators and 40 senators,” said legislative postmaster Tom Allen.

“Then we get the mail all sorted, we send an email and the secretaries pick it up.”

There is a noticeable difference without all the lawmakers.

“A little slower as far as the activity in the building, but as far as our office is concerned, it stays pretty steady,” said legislative services director Thomas Day.

His department handles things like payroll, travel, and maintaining committee rooms. He says their work doesn’t change that much when the full legislature isn’t meeting.

“Whether it’s planned or unplanned for a proforma day or a non-session day, we have the rooms available at all times during that 90 day period,” said Day.

Legislators will return Wednesday, after a six day weekend for many of them to begin the second half of the session.

Major topics will include education funding, a new tax plan, and possibly expanding medicaid.

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