By Jonathan Shorman
Topeka Capital Journal

Democrats on Thursday announced their goals for the session — promising to emphasize education, transparency and public safety — though they didn’t always have specific policy proposals.

The lawmakers, in the wake of Gov. Sam Brownback’s State of the State address, said they would prioritize attracting jobs, making government more open, boosting public safety and retaining teachers.

Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, promised legislation to lower the state sales tax on food. Rep. Mark Hutton, R-Wichita, has introduced a bill in the House to reduce the rate.

The Democratic caucus constitutes a small minority in the House and Senate. In both chambers, Republicans wield near-total power over what bills come to the floor and which ones receive votes.

But Democrats can sometimes alter or slow the passage of bills they find onerous through amendments and parliamentary moves.

The focus on education comes as the Legislature wrestles with whether to move forward this year on crafting a new school funding formula and amid a potential court order to boost funding to schools.

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