Jeff Pittman's Statehouse Update - February 28, 2017

Hello from Leavenworth. The legislature is on break this week, but I wanted to provide an update from last week in Topeka.

Last week we saw a strong showing of bipartisanship in the Kansas House as Democrats and many Republicans moved forward to solve many of the pressing issues that face the state and Leavenworth.

Kansas benefits when our parties work together. No matter what is going on at the national level, we can see a distinct effort to work together to find solutions in Kansas. It is clear that a new majority bloc of sensible legislators has formed to return the state to a fiscally responsible footing. In the House, the new coalition passed a revenue bill that rolled back the worst of Governor Brownback’s failed experiment and then voted to override the Governor’s veto. Unfortunately, the Brownback affiliated leadership in the Senate failed to do the same. However, I'm very optimistic we can continue our work together in a positive fashion. All in all, I consider the past few weeks a victory for Kansas.

In addition to the the revenue bill, I wanted to update you about some of the other issues that we are tackling in Topeka.


Supporting Teachers

Due process for teachers was stripped in 2014, removing objective evaluations of termination for our educators. Wednesday morning, the Kansas House passed the first step toward restoring due process rights. Due process ensures a fair dismissal process; something good teachers appreciate. As our education has been cut year after year, at a minimum, we need these protections to help retain our teachers. This House Bill 2186 passed with a 72 – 53 vote. Next, the bill will go to the Senate for a vote.

Security & Tech

Last week in the Government Security and Technology committee I sit on, we heard a report from Microsoft about stopping cybercrime.  Their descriptions of what their servers and infrastructure experience left us all with heartburn about our exposure to bad actors in cyberspace  Computers and robotics that have been compromised can wreak havoc beyond anything we can imagine. The committee members have been assigned to investigate and recommend solutions. 

Medicaid Expansion

When 150,000 working Kansans, many working two jobs just to make ends meet and feed their families, face an opportunity to gain health care benefits from federal funds already paid, it is a tragedy that the legislature has stood as the sole hurdle for the past years. In what promises to be a budget neutral expansion of KanCare, a bipartisan group voted to expand Medicaid with an amendment that was added to House Bill 2044 (81 - 44). Kansas has refused over a billion in federal dollars that could have been spent on bettering our hospitals and clinics, growing jobs and taking care of our citizens that often work the hardest. And the bill includes a clause that limits exposure if President Trump or Congress decides to end the Federal support. There were efforts to amend the bill and they were defeated. The numerous calls and emails I received from constituents  and the support from our local hospitals left no doubt about my position on the issue. 

Veterans

I recently worked on a small but important bill in terms of overcoming bureaucracy in the Military and Veterans Committee. We passed a bill which allows veterans (disabled after service) to have a veteran plate with a handicap decal. It seems obvious but that's the nature of government sometimes. A disabled veteran came forward who wanted to get a disabled veteran plate, but had received his disability after service. On committee, I felt it important to keep the sanctity of the service disabled veteran plate, but we came up with the decal solution that will allow him to show his veteran status while also gaining access to the handicap parking spots that are needed for his mobility issues. 

A big bill for our community is House Bill 2118. It covers insurance liability for military doctors who want to help out local charitable clinics like St Vincent's. Historically military doctors had a hard time volunteering at these types of clinics because of restrictive statutes; we are paving the way to make use of the many talents that pass through our community that might help the medically needy served by our charitable clinics.

Opioid Overdose Treatment

47 other states allow EMS respondents to carry an anti-overdose treatment, naloxone. Kansas currently does not. This emergency treatment only lasts for about 20 minutes, but can give overdose victims that extra 20 minutes to get to the hospital. With current crisis in opioid overdoses across the nation and even here in Kansas, especially among high school or recent high school graduates, I was happy to vote yea on this bill that allows our emergency responders another tool in their toolkit to save lives.

SAFE Program

Our own Sheriff Dedeke came up to Topeka to support this bill in hearings--it tacks on an extra $20 to the current $10 seatbelt penalty to go to the SAFE program. The SAFE program is a successful program that teaches kids learning to drive about the importance of seatbelt usage and the hazards of texting while driving. It's a great program that passed the house this past week. 

Local Control on Signs

A bill passed out of the house which restored local control (city & county) to signs on the state right of way. A couple years ago, Kansas took that local control away. I was happy to see us attempt to put that back in the hands of our city and county commissioners. 

There were many other bills passed this past week as we worked long hours prior to the 'turnaround' when non-budget related House Bills go over to the Senate side for consideration. From needing written permission for hunting rights to upping the standard for childcare workers (something I couldn't believe wasn't already in place) to protecting juror's private information to the weight limits on trucks hauling grain on six axles. This was an extremely busy week as bills came out of committee for the overall house to vote on.


More From Our Community

Leavenworth Pastor Gives House Invocations

It was an honor to have Leavenworth local, Pastor David Walker of FCCI, give the invocation as my guest.

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Help Still Needed

Locally David Brewer PTO held a bake sale to support two of their families who lost their homes and belongings to a fire. The bake sale raised almost $800, but they still need more. Please call David Brewer School at 913-684-1490 to see what these families still need. Thank you Leavenworth!

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Animal Welfare Society Fundraiser

I also attended Leavenworth Animal Welfare Society (LAWS) Annual Spay-getti fundraiser at Luigi's. It was good food (and lots of it) for a great cause. 

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CONTACT ME

I want to hear from you. I anticipate putting a survey together over the next week or two and would appreciate your feedback!

It continues to be a special honor to serve as your state representative and look forward to any input on the various issues facing state government.

Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions. My office address is Room 559-S, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612. You can reach me at (785) 296-7522 or call the legislative hotline at 1-800-432-3924 to leave a message for me. Additionally, you can email me at jeff@votepittman.com. Some of the action is streaming and you can follow the legislative session online at www.kslegislature.org