It was another eventful week in Topeka, and I'm happy to share the rundown. Besides some important pieces of legislation moving through the House this week, we also swore in a new governor, Gov. Jeff Colyer.
New Governor in Kansas
The big news this week was around the Governor transition. Governor Brownback’s lieutenant governor became Governor on Wednesday. Amidst music and cannon fire, Jeff Colyer was sworn in as the 47th Governor of Kansas. New Gov. Jeff Colyer has repeatedly said his governing style will differ from Brownback’s.
That said, actions speak louder than words, and he has a lot to prove. I do hope we can work together as we still have work to do here in Kansas. Colyer was part of an administration that experimented with tax cuts so drastic, our state lost its ability to pay its bills, our state’s credit rating was downgraded repeatedly, highway funds were used to pay operating expenses and more. We have had successive cuts to education and services and are only now beginning to stabilize. So, his work is cut out for him.
This week we had final action on two bills—one which increases the penalties of what would be termed habitual DUI offenders who end up killing someone, the other, ironically enough, broadens the time bars can serve alcohol.
KanCare 2.0 Delay
After the introduction of KanCare 2.0 – a supposed revamp of the original program that included work requirements, the rollout has been delayed indefinitely. Facing backlash from advocacy groups and both Republican and Democratic leaders and legislators, the delay announcement came from Gov. Brownback and then-Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer.
Colyer has led the privatization of Medicaid, known as KanCare, and implementing it as the Lt. Governor. Concerns regarding KanCare 2.0 included increased costs as well as work requirements for those who participate in the program. Important to note is that most of KanCare’s 425,000 participants are children, the elderly, or Kansans with disabilities.
This week, the House heard & voted on House Bill 2042, which gives reciprocity between Kansas' concealed carry license holders and other states. There was a large amount of debate on this issue, with various amendments that are bound to be controversial to some. In the end, the bill passed over to the Senate gives reciprocity between states, much like driver licenses work, but also allows, with proper training and certification, for 18-20 year olds to also conceal carry, which is an expansion. The same bill also requires a license for conceal carry on campus which is tighter than the law that came into effect last summer.
Also on Friday, on a unanimous vote, we passed House Bill 2145 out of the Kansas House. Currently there are nine (9) instances where federal law prohibits individuals from purchasing a firearm and Kansas law does not. Among these instances are individuals under a protection from abuse order and those who have committed domestic violence. This bill will add those nine (9) instances to Kansas law and passed easily on a voice vote.
No Tyson in Tonganoxie Continues…
Local Sen. Tom Holland and Rep. Jim Karlskint of western Leavenworth county introduced a bill that ensures that a community will have the opportunity to file community protests when a poultry operation is introduced into a community, much like happens when a swine or dairy operation is introduced.
Afterwards, Dr. Beyer from Kansas State University came into Ag committee to give his view of new poultry farms, expressing how he thought these were gold mines and that the Tongie movement against Tyson was largely due to myths.
Easy to say, there was much more to the story than that…
Freedom Day Resolution
It's estimated that nearly 20 million fellow humans are currently trapped in some sort of bondage or slavery. I was proud to support House Resolution 6045 against human trafficking & modern slavery. This resolution was introduced to commemorate National Freedom Day, celebrating the Feb. 1, 1865, signing by President Lincoln of the joint resolution adopted by the Senate and the House of Representatives that would become the 13th Amendment to the Constitution.
Committee Work this week
Security & Technology Committee
This week we held a hearing on cybersecurity bill House Bill 2560. It included presentations to create a state “Chief Information Security Officer” who would head up a security-focused agency that provides framework and resources for cybersecurity across all government agencies. We were also briefed on the increasing risk Kansas faces by members of the Department of Homeland Security, a national state CIOs organization, Kansas security professionals and more. I like the strategic and comprehensive approach this bill takes.
We will continue to review cybersecurity issues—we will be briefed by more professionals next week.
Military & Veterans Affairs Committee
A large number of representatives from Kansas' four Native American tribes attended the Military and Veterans Affair Committee to witness the committee pass House Bill 2147, which allows repayment to Veterans' of the four Native American nations’ who had their income taxes wrongly withdrawn from their checks decades ago during their service.
I was glad to have helped pass HB 2147 out of committee. This will finally help our Veterans who had their wages wrongly taxed decades ago find justice.
The chairman of the Governor's Military Council, Retired Gen. Perry Wiggins, spoke to the Military & Veterans committee with regard to their mission of advocating for military force development in Kansas, assisting in the transfer of technology, promoting quality of life for service members and more.
Gen. Wiggins briefed the committee on recent developments and risk of change to the multiple military installations here in Kansas, including Ft. Leavenworth, Ft. Riley, Topeka and McConnell's refuel operations. The Council is interested in seeking a multi-state Midwest Defense Alliance. States like Florida and California have formed these alliances and they are working—I think it’s the right idea for Kansas and our military.
Gen. Wiggins noted that in Topeka, the 190th Refueling Wing in Topeka is in danger of being moved.
We welcomed Superintendent Kafer Peele of the Winfield Veterans' Home into Mil/Vet committee to address questions regarding how the home was being run.
This week I was briefed on broadband internet availability in the rural areas of the state by independent broadband providers, as well as by other telecom providers like AT&T and Charter Communications. Broadband internet access represents the greatest infrastructure gap between urban and rural along with working and upper-class Kansans.
I believe that to create the most economically vibrant and sustainable future for our region, we must invest in broadband infrastructure for communities across the state.
Last Tuesday, our committee held a hearing on House Bill 2477, a bill that raises fees on hobby breeders, kennel operators, animal shelters and other companion animal locations. Proponents believe the fees are needed to support inspectors while opponents feel the fees are exorbitant at nearly 50% increases.
There is a post-audit review that's been authorized to look at all Department of Agriculture fees. Opponents of this bill believe these increased fees go to fund a fundamentally flawed system of inspections.
Coming up this week, committee hearing topics of note:
- In Judiciary on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. this week, there will be a hearing on a bill I helped co-sponsor on behalf of local proponents, House Bill 2529, creating a presumption of child's equal time with parents after a divorce. On Monday, at the same time, there will be a hearing on House Bill 2516, a law that would provide immunity from civil liability for damage to a motor vehicle related to the rescue of a person or animal.
- One of hearing to note to Leavenworth is the hearing for House Bill 2594 in the Financial Institutions & Pensions Committee on Wednesday at 9 a.m. This is legislation would bring corrections officers into the Kansas Police & Firefighters (KP&F) pension fund under KPERS. The investments under KP&F tend to be a more solid financial fund than KPERS.
- On Monday at 1:30 p.m., K-12 Education Budget Committee hears the report from the Kansas K-12 Education Task Force on procurement and health insurance recommendations.
- The House Transportation Committee will hear about county treasurers, roles, responsibilities and requests on Thursday at 1:30 p.m.
- Elections committee is considering some interesting proposals this week. On Monday, there will be a hearing on House Bill 2504 regarding advance voting and on House Bill 2539, which seeks to put some age minimums on certain statewide offices. On Wednesday, they will be having a hearing on two proposals, House Concurrent Resolution 5017 and House Concurrent Resolution 5022. One bill staggers Senate terms and the other reduces the number of state representatives.
- On Thursday, the Education committee has a hearing on a proposed antibullying bill, House Bill 2578.
- The Taxation committee is looking ahead at the impact of conformity to federal tax guidelines, especially in wake of the recent tax changes at the federal level. Our state revenues continue to exceed projections after recent reform of the failed Brownback tax experiment.
International Presence in Leavenworth
Last Saturday, I helped host an informal group at a local coffee shop, emphasizing how much the Leavenworth community welcomes our international visitors. Students from the CGSC program came to have coffee doughnuts and conversation. We are ambassadors to many countries’ officers here in Leavenworth and I thought it was appropriate to counter any thought that certain countries’ officers weren’t welcome in the US.
This past Saturday, on Super Bowl Eve, the LHS DECA program put on a fantastic International Food day. It was an impressive display booth by booth, from Guyana to Macedonia to France and Britain, of culture and country-specific food.
Check out the video HERE:
On Wednesday, I had a great meeting with our local credit union folks from Frontier Community Credit Union. I’m so impressed with what they do for our Leavenworth community.
My Honor to Serve Leavenworth
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 e-mail me at email@example.com. You can also follow the legislative session online at www.kslegislature.org.
From Leavenworth, For Leavenworth