Hello from Topeka. I wanted to provide an update from last week in the Legislature.
Unfortunately I wasn’t able to participate in the Leavenworth St. Patrick’s Day parade, because I was carrying two amendments to legislation in the Kansas House that improve the state's cyber security protocols and infrastructure and protect sensitive information, but had good representation in the parade by my wife Holly and the kids in the community.
State of the Judiciary
On Wednesday, the Kansas Supreme Court justices gave the State of the Judiciary on the House floor. Note that this is the first time the justices have been invited back into the Kansas House since 2012--over the past four years; the Legislature has been so caustic that they wouldn't allow the justices in. Chief Justice Lawton Nuss addressed both the House and Senate, speaking on the troubles facing the courts and their employees, raising awareness of the court’s proposal to raise their budget.
Cyber Security Bill
During the Leavenworth St. Patrick's Day Parade, I was on the House floor in “the well” carrying two amendments to make the HB 2331 on Cyber Security better. During the Tech & Security committee, we heard audit information regarding our state's various agencies and departments and it was bad news. With hacking becoming such a huge problem across the nation, it's time to secure our states cyber borders. Another part of this Cyber Security bill centralizes technology management across state agencies to save the state money.
Wildfire Relief Bill:
HB 2387 passed through the House and Senate with a few modifications, basically giving a tax exemption to those affected by the recent wildfires in Western Kansas. The bill sets forth about $4 Million in sales tax relief for the many people who lost cattle, farms and homes. It's nice to see the Legislature get behind a relief effort in the time of emergency, as everyone realizes how devastating this type of disaster can be.
Speaker Ron Ryckman presented a resolution honoring the life of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, who was recently the victim of a shooting in Olathe. The two survivors of the recent Olathe shooting were recognized on the floor. The House recognized the victim and victim's family as well as the wrongful nature of the racist tragedy.
HB 2223 was passed out of the Senate and the House concerning late filing on campaign finance reports. I was only one of three who voted against it. While this doesn’t affect a lot of people, the current fine is $10 a day with a $300 cap. This bill increases the penalty to $100 per day and has no cap. This bill poses a hurdle to newcomers where financial reporting is often a daunting aspect and this bill poses an unlimited liability that is much harsher in penalties than many crimes.
Where Kansas lacks adequate mental health care, SB 32 was passed to assist with getting more newcomers into Kansas facilities. One part of the bill assists psychiatry medical students with regard to loan payments. It was already in place for medical doctors and we expanded it for those practicing mental health care.
Gun License reciprocity between states was in discussion this week. While the NRA likes this type of bill across the country as it makes it easier for gun owners to navigate the bureaucratic hurdles for various gun license requirements state to state, opponents feel it opens up Kansas to rules from states where gun laws may be more lax. For example, where a state has 18 as the minimum age for gun ownership, Kansas has 21. Reciprocity then allows 18 year olds to carry in Kansas if they are licensed in that other state. This is less controversial than what is anticipated to be an opening for various gun related amendments dealing with guns on campus and guns in State Hospitals including mental health hospitals.
I voted yes on HB 2168 to develop new business here in Kansas. This bill would create the Ad Astra Rural Jobs Act. While I was on the fence about some of the details after concerns were brought up, I do like that it attracts private investment capital to these types of businesses and locates them in areas of less than 60,000 residents. This bill was much better than the bill I voted against a couple of weeks ago which basically gave aerospace companies in Wichita about $7 Mil in tax relief; this latter bill smacked of corporate handouts to special interests with no real business development to be had.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Some of the action is streaming and you can follow the legislative session online at www.kslegislature.org