Another week is in the books. Here's the latest from the Statehouse:
Around the Capitol
April 30 is the deadline for state lawyers to get their arguments into the Supreme Court with regard to ongoing education funding lawsuits. The House leadership has hired an outside ‘expert witness’ who is due to give their opinion to the House mid-March. While the Education funding committee has looked at some specific reforms, leadership appears to be waiting for testimony to proceed.
Experts came into the Tax committee to brief members about the anticipated impact of Federal tax reform on Kansas revenues and tax procedures. There have been top level early estimates of these tax reform measures actually increasing Kansas revenues. We typically have a high degree of conformance to the Federal tax code, so we must decide where we will remain in conformance with the tax modifications made recently and where we will not.
Colyer Announces Lt. Governor
Tuesday evening – two weeks after his inauguration – Governor Colyer announced his pick for Lieutenant Governor, western Kansan Tracey Mann from Salina. Lt. Governor Mann ran a failed campaign for US Congress in Kansas’ First District in 2010, losing the primary to then-State Sen. Tim Huelskamp.
Medicaid Expansion Hearing
A hearing was held on Wednesday in the Senate Health and Public Welfare Committee on Senate Bill (SB) 38. The bill, titled the KanCare Bridge to a Healthy Kansas Program, would expand Medicaid services. SB 38 would expand Medicaid services to include adult applicants under 65 years of age, who are not pregnant and whose income does not exceed 133 percent of the federal poverty level ($16,040 for an individual, or $32,718 for a family of 4).
Medicaid expansion passed through both the Kansas House and Senate last year but was vetoed by then-Gov. Sam Brownback.
Bills on the Floor this Week
Most bills debated on the floor were administrative in nature, such as the bill passed through that requires more advanced notice be given to the bank commissioner when a bank is going under. Some bills of interest:
HB 2506: This bill will allow cities, as well as certain organizations as authorized by current law, to take temporary possession of abandoned property for purposes of rehabilitating the property. This is controversial because it allows slightly quicker seizure of blighted property in a city, where the process can extend out for years currently.
HB 2476: This bill will create and amend law related to the sale of alcoholic candy and to the sale of microbrewery “growlers”. The “alcoholic candy” was the focus of the debate and defines it as candy with content greater than 0.5 percent alcohol by volume. Currently, candies injected or infused with higher alcohol content can be sold in candy and grocery stores and is viewed as a way to get around alcohol laws.
Stage in Session Process
For a bill to become law it must go through a series of steps. The first step in this process is the bill’s introduction in a committee. The House floor, with its 125 Representatives, is where bills go to be ultimately debated. But the majority of the legwork for bills, such as the formulation of specific legal language and the actual writing of the bill, is done in a committee. These committees, made up of 13-21 legislators, are organized by topic. For example, in the Agriculture committee, we work exclusively on bills related to agricultural matters in the state. The Education budget committee focuses on that topic. In these committees, bills are worked and amended by legislators of both parties until there is a vote on whether or not to pass the bill out of the committee to the full House. Bills that are approved by a majority in the committee are passed on to the House to be debated on the floor. Bills that are not approved in committee can mean the end of that bill, though often there is the possibility of bringing that same topic into another bill on the House floor through amendments.
We’ve now reached the point in the legislative session where the time to introduce new bills into committees has ended. Committee meetings will now halt and we will debate on the House floor this week to decide which bills get pushed over to the Senate to go through the same process in that chamber.
Committee-Passed Bills Waiting House Floor Debate
There are many bills and bill suggestions that have been entered at this point. Some have had hearings, others have gone on to be “worked in committee”. While we have already passed some bills on the House floor, there are a number of bills that have been passed through their respective committees and now wait to be introduced and debated on the House floor. Here are some of the bills that could be debated in the coming week that could be noteworthy.
HB 2400: An act concerning the collection of sales tax. This bill would alter tax policy to ensure that the state collects sales tax from retailers based outside of Kansas that sell large amounts of their product inside of Kansas, including retailers that transfer goods electronically. This is basically trying to relieve local retailers of the tax-free competition on the internet.
HB 2448: An act concerning retirement and pensions for employees of the department of corrections in Kansas. This bill would place corrections workers in Kansas in KP&F, the Kansas police and firemen’s retirement system, instead of KPERS, the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. KP&F is more stable than KPERS, meaning that were this bill to pass, corrections employees in and around Leavenworth would see an increase in retirement benefits.
HB 2464: An act concerning military service members and termination of certain contracts. This bill would allow for the cancellation or suspension of cellular, cable, or other telecommunications contracts by military service members who become deployed or stationed somewhere new. So, if a soldier based at Fort Leavenworth gets deployed elsewhere after signing up for a new cable television contract, they can suspend or cancel that contract with no penalty. Additionally, thanks to my amendment, this bill would also apply to the spouses of military service members.
HB 2196: An act concerning the veterans benefit lottery game. This bill would mandate that $2,000,000 be annually allocated from the lottery to fund veterans. Additionally, the amount transferred would increase 5% every year after 2019. Currently, veterans receive a certain percentage of the lottery’s general fund annually. By changing the mandated allocation to a hard number rather than a percentage, the amount of money used to fund veterans each year would be more stable and could be used more effectively.
HB 2459: An act concerning asset seizure and forfeiture. This bill would increase transparency surrounding the process of asset seizure and forfeiture by law enforcement agencies in Kansas and create a process for citizens to file claims on seized property and assets, ensuring that seizures are done properly by law enforcement and within the scope of the law.
HB 2516: An act concerning civil actions related to unattended persons and animals. This bill would legally allow bystanders to break into a vehicle to rescue an unattended pet or child in case of emergency such as excessive heat.
HB 2147: An act concerning the income taxation of certain Native Americans veterans. From 1977 to 2001, some Native Americans in the military had their state income tax improperly withheld from their wages due to the fact that they lived on tribal land. This bill would create a fund to repay the veterans the money that the state improperly withheld.
HB 2460: An act concerning firearm safety education. This bill would establish statewide guidelines for firearm safety education in public schools for K-12 students. It’s controversial, however, in its current form, especially because it mandates a particular curriculum from a particular non-profit advocacy group. This is something the state does not typically do.
HB 2498: An act concerning Native Americans and tribal regalia. This bill would prohibit government entities from preventing Native Americans from wearing tribal regalia or objects of cultural significance.
HB 2551: An act concerning the privatization of correctional facilities. This bill, which I introduced alongside Reps. Deere, Ellis, Eplee, and Karleskint, would prevent the privatization or outsourcing of the operations of correctional facilities in Kansas, ensuring that the new prison facility being built in Lansing would be staffed and operated by the state of Kansas.
HB 2560, or a corresponding act, HB 2359 (Two versions and one will probably come up): An act concerning cybersecurity in Kansas. This bill would establish the Kansas information security office and the cybersecurity state fund in order to protect the integrity of electronic information in the state of Kansas. I added an amendment to this bill to ensure that the Kansas information security office remains a part of the executive branch of government so that local governments are not responsible for the funding the office. As technology becomes a bigger and bigger component of our government and our lives it is imperative we take the proper precautions to make sure sensitive electronic information is protected.
HB 2090: An act concerning punishment and sentencing for possession of a controlled substance. This bill would allow those that have been convicted of felony possession of a controlled substance three times to participate in a drug treatment and substance abuse program in exchange for a potentially lighter sentence.
HB 2578: An act concerning anti-bullying policies in schools. This bill would require school districts to establish standardized protocols for dealing with and preventing bullying. Additionally, an amendment added onto this bill would create procedures to give teachers due process through the process of contract termination
HB 2594: An act concerning the police and firemen’s retirement system. This bill would also place state corrections employees in KP&F, the Kansas police and firemen’s retirement system, instead of KPERS. This is an important step for our corrections workers.
There are others that popped up, including a license plate bill (HB 2238) that would establish a specialty plate for Special Olympics and for a “Choose Life” plate. Another bill will probably be attempted to be amended onto this bill to create a “Don’t tread on me” specialty plate. Other amendments are always possible that will address further subjects.
Bills that May be Extended
If a bill passed out of committee and doesn’t get debated in this next week, it is generally considered dead for the rest of the session, at least in the House. The Senate has more bills that may do similar. However, the Speaker can move bills he/she considers important into a state that extends their lives. Here are some of the bills that have had their ‘lives’ extended for future debate:
· HB 2681: Requiring the recording of votes taken in standing committees, and committee of the whole when under the order of business of general orders and final action. This is for better transparency of government.
· HB 2699: Prohibiting amendments striking all material and inserting new material. This is known as the gut-and-go and I helped co-sponsor this bill that would give better transparency to the public on legislation in action.
· HB 2704: Requiring written informed consent before administering an antipsychotic medication to an adult care home resident.
· HB 2724: Making possession of a controlled substance a class A misdemeanor and making associated changes throughout the criminal code.
I want to give a shout-out to my 559-S office assistant at the Capitol, Mrs. Sue Perry. Here she is listening to the singing Valentine given to her by her niece:
Women's Community Y hosted it’s 11th Annual Chocolate Event at the C.W. Parker Carousel Museum Saturday. Lots of people and LOTS of chocolate - both sweet and savory. Money raised helps programs for the youth in Leavenworth.
Letter to the Editor
This week, I wrote a letter to the Leavenworth Times. In case you haven't seen it, here it is, as I submitted it:
“The 2018 Legislative session is back in session and, while we don't face the same massive budget problems as last year, we are facing many issues with regard to education, the judiciary, state roads and more. As we face these different issues, it’s important that constituents are comfortable approaching and talking with their representative. Topeka has many voices, but the halls are often filled with lobbyists and party insiders. As your state representative, I need to hear from real people about the issues that matter to them.
“I want to say thank you for the many discussions, public and private, that have helped guide me in my first term. I ask that you continue to reach out to both myself and other elected officials to ensure that your voice is heard. I continue to weigh the pros and cons of bills through the lens of the Leavenworth community. I’m proud to represent Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and Unaffiliated voters across Leavenworth.
“While we come from different backgrounds and we will not always agree, I believe reaching out and understanding different perspectives is a key to success. When we try, we can find that we share many of the same priorities and together we can work towards a better Kansas. Please feel free to call or email me, concerns or ideas on how we can ensure Kansas continues to be a great place to live and grow a family.”
Father David Visit
Honored to have Father David McEvoy from Leavenworth Immaculate Conception and St. Joseph Church be my guest to give yesterday’s Legislative invocation in Topeka! Much needed inspiration for a long day