Lawmakers from both parties in Kansas agree that high electric rates are a problem. And that’s why in its last session, the Legislature approved a study of those rates.
But there turned out to be one big problem. The bill that approved the study called for the Legislative Coordinating Council — which would approve a consultant to actually conduct the work — to have at least one Democrat on the panel approve.
In these hyper-partisan times, you might guess what happened next.
Neither of the Democrats on the panel liked what the five Republicans proposed. And while there were compromises suggested, the GOP majority refused to give in. So rather than have a rate study conducted by one firm or another — or even by both (one of the compromise suggestions) — it looks as though Kansas might get no study at all.
Frankly, the posturing on both sides sounded tiresome. Either there’s a problem with electric rates in Kansas or there isn’t. And if there is, which both parties seemed to agree to in the session, the LCC should have found a way to make things work.
After years of total control in Topeka, Republicans still sound slightly baffled at the notion that they might have to make concessions to the minority party. From the sound of Topeka Capital-Journal reporter Tim Carpenter’s story, they were in no mood to cut deals. But Democrats also were entirely aware of the power given them by last session’s law and seemed determined to hold out, regardless of the wishes of a clear majority on the panel.
Yes, the bids from the contractors were different. Yes, there were questions about past business relationships. No doubt outside interests may have influenced preferences for contractors. But this is the very substance of governing. This is what voters sent lawmakers from both parties to Topeka to do.
While Senate President Susan Wagle suggested the council might not be able to meet again this year, and that the Legislature would have to take up another bill, that sounds excessive and protracted.
Here’s an idea: Why not simply try again?
Convene the panel again, hash out alternatives and resolve as a group to come to a decision for the good of everyone in Kansas — regardless of political party. It might be a longshot, but it certainly would be more efficient than waiting a year to try again. All of the state would benefit.
Maybe even some lawmakers.