Hello from Topeka. I wanted to provide an update from last week in the Legislature.
Legislative Update Saturday
On Mar 11, we had a local Legislative update with myself, Rep. Deere from Lansing and Sen. Fitzgerald in attendance. It was a full house in the audience. We went through some updates on activities where I highlighted working on bipartisan solutions to our current budget crisis as a primary focus thus far. We fielded questions on the recent tax plan that was vetoed by the governor but nearly over-ridden. We also fielded some questions on the economic incentive bills, the education funding decision, potential spending cuts and the future of KPERS.
Governor Brownback's tax plan
Earlier in the year, Gov Brownback presented his version of a new tax plan to get us out of our current economic hole. On Tuesday, the Kansas Senate debated Governor Brownback’s tax plan, but voted each section of the governor's plan down, like the doubling of alcohol and tobacco taxes across the state. These types of taxes hurt Leavenworth businesses more than most because of our proximity to Missouri. The House and Senate will be revisiting similar propositions as the plan vetoed by the governor a couple of weeks ago.
Governor Brownback's Departure
Some reports have come out of Topeka that Brownback may be appointed to the position of Ambassador to the United Nations for Food and Agriculture, a position stationed in Italy. Question’s came up Saturday’s Legislative Forum as to what impact that may have. I expressed my disappointment that the Governor would abandon ship when our course is in desperate need of correction, but that I didn't expect the Lt Governor to be much different than our current Governor in terms of this leadership.
Congratulations to Celeste Marchbanks
I had the honor of meeting Celeste Marchbanks who was recently named the Kansas Military Youth of the Year and represents Ft. Leavenworth. Celeste will compete at Nationals on June 6th in Washington DC. She has already won a $5,000 scholarship. Congratulations!
International Women’s Day
Wednesday, March 8th, we celebrated International Women’s Day – a day to honor women across the world, recognizing their great contributions to our history, to our present, and to our futures. I took time to review some of the fascinating work being done in robotics by up and coming high school women engineers.
Senate Creates Education Budget Committee
Following the Kansas Supreme Court ruling in the Gannon case, which deemed the school finance system that was adopted a few years ago to be both inadequate and unconstitutional, Senate President Susan Wagle created a special committee to address the school funding issues. The court ruled that we must have a plan to adequately fund the schools by June 30th, 2017. The Kansas House had already established such a committee at the beginning of the 2017 session, but hasn't come up with a solid plan as of yet.
School Visits & Education Foundation
The week before last, I had the opportunity to spend some time in the local Leavenworth schools touring, reading to students and participating in a mock government budget review meeting. It was great to visit with administrators, teachers and students during my visit. So many positive changes have been made since I graduated. I was also glad to attend the Leavenworth Education Foundation breakfast and listen to one of our own, Paige Geiger (class of 1991), talk about her experience in the Leavenworth Public Schools. Paige talked about what a positive impact the Leavenworth school system had in enabling her career. She now does research at the KU Med Center on diabetes. I plan on touring that institution soon as well, having been briefed by former Rep Kenny Wilk on the amazing work they have done there in particular in the area of clinical therapy for cancer.
Donate to Life
I met with Donate to Life this week regarding organ donation in Kansas. Nearly 500 Kansans are waiting lifesaving transplants, 16 right here in Leavenworth county. I was proud to learn that 47% of our local residents are donors.
St Patrick's Day Parade & Rotary Irish Stew
With the big Irish influence we have here in Leavenworth, I'm proud to be participating this week in the St Patrick’s Day parade (Noon, on March 17th) as well as serving folks at the Rotary Irish Stew fundraiser on Monday Mar 13th at the Riverfront Community Center. Look forward to seeing you out!
I want to hear from you. 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 email@example.com. Some of the action is streaming and you can follow the legislative session online at www.kslegislature.org
Rep. Jeff Pittman