Kansas legislators are planning to take an unusually long spring break this year, part of efforts by Republican leaders to shorten the time lawmakers spend in session, House Speaker Ray Merrick said Monday.
Legislators plan to work through April 5, the 74th day in session, then reconvene on May 8 to wrap up business for the year. If they had followed a traditional schedule, they would reconvene on April 24.
Merrick, a Republican from Stilwell in Johnson County, faced questions about whether the extended break is designed to allow legislators to attend an early May meeting of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), a national group for lawmakers that promotes conservative model legislation on a wide range of issues. Merrick and Senate President Susan Wagle, a Wichita Republican, are members of the group's national board.
"It's a coincidence," Merrick told The Associated Press.
Instead, Merrick said, the goal is to limit legislators' work after the spring break to reviewing vetoes by Republican Gov. Sam Brownback. Extending the spring break ensures that any deadlines for Brownback to act on bills approved by the GOP-dominated Legislature will have passed.
"We might be out of here in a day," Merrick said.
ALEC's spring meeting is May 2-3 in Oklahoma City, and the National Conference of State Legislatures also is having a spring meeting May 2-4 in Denver. Merrick sent fellow House members a letter Monday, urging them to join ALEC and noting its May meeting.
Republican leaders repeatedly have said they'd like to shave 10 or more days of the annual session's normal schedule of 90 days, but lawmakers often have met longer. The record was 107 days in 2002. Last year, legislators were in session 99 days, including 26 days after their spring break.
Lawmakers began scheduling the spring break in 1969. The first few wrap-ups lasted one or two days, in line with their description as "veto" sessions. However, by the late 1980s, legislators were waiting until after their spring break to resolve most issues.
"We have pushed far too many issues off into the veto session in previous years," said House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat. "It's a practice we should end."