2020 Session - Legislative Update #3
This morning, many of us learned the hardest Monday is the Monday that follows your team's first Super Bowl win in 50 years.
Congratulations to our Kansas City Chiefs! For those of you heading to the Super Bowl Parade on Wednesday, please be safe and enjoy the celebration.
Last week was another busy week in the Legislature. The Senate passed ballot language to amend the Kansas Constitution - a matter the House could take up at any time - and we had a layoff scare at Lansing Correctional Facility that consumed most of my focus for the week.
Constitutional Amendment Passes Senate
A proposed Constitutional Amendment (HCR 5019 and SCR 1613) would, if passed, give the Legislature the express ability to make all legislative decisions regarding abortion and, as written, specifically states the legislature could prohibit abortion even in the case of rape, incest, or if it threatens the life of the mother.
The Attorney General made a determination that the impact could be that the Legislature, with a simple majority and sympathetic governor, could eliminate all abortions even in the case of rape or incest, could mandate abortions, and could even potentially eliminate birth control, especially if Roe v. Wade were overturned.
The proposed amendment was debated on the Senate floor on Wednesday night. The debate lasted over four hours and included many attempted amendments, including an amendment that would put exceptions in the constitutional amendment language for cases of rape, incest, or if the woman’s life was in danger. That amendment failed 28-12 on the Senate floor, including our Senate District 5 senator who voted for no exceptions.
There was an amendment offered to move the ballot question to November, when nearly 70% of Kansans are expected to cast a ballot, as opposed to the August ballot, when only around 22% of Kansans are expected to cast a ballot. This effort also failed.
Another failed amendment attempted to clarify the language of explanatory statements that will appear on the ballot to make it easier for voters to understand exactly what they were voting for, because the current explanations mask the language contained in the actual Constitutional Amendment as written.
The only amendment that succeeded was one that declared the August primary election a special election due to the fact that it is indeed unconstitutional to have a Constitutional question on the August primary, thus requiring it to be declared a special election by law.
The House may take up their resolution containing the Constitutional Amendment this week (Tuesday or Wednesday), although the Legislature may declare Wednesday a Legislative holiday for the Kansas City Chiefs parade day.
I still have serious concerns about how sweeping the amendment is. There has been no compromise or real discussion as to how the majority of Kansans may want the Constitution to reflect some boundary conditions before handing all authority on the subject to the Legislature—a body notorious for politicizing nearly everything.
Veterans and Military Affairs
In Veterans and Military Affairs Committee this week, we had an overview from the environmental arm of the Department of Defense (DoD) regarding policies versus tactical efforts at installations.
The Department of Defense has roughly a $3.1 billion economic impact on Kansas statewide (2018), which is about 1.9% of Kansas' total GDP.
The top three defense locations by volume in Kansas are:
15,640 Active Duty/ 2,749 Civilian in Geary County (Fort Riley)
2,912 Active Duty/ 965 Civilian in Sedgwick Co. (McConnell AFB)
3,428 Active Duty/ 2,378 Civilian in Fort Leavenworth
The Defense Contracts in Kansas are:
Northrop Grumman $69M
Leading Tech Composites $52M
Archer West Aviation $46M
General Electric $23M
Balfour Walton $22M
Booz Allen Hamilton $21M
Some Military Presence in Kansas Facts
Ft Leavenworth generates $2.3B annually in economic impact to the region.
Established in 1827, it is the oldest military installation west of the Mississippi.
Smoky Hill Air National Guard Range is the largest bombing range in the Air National guard at 34k acres.
McConnell AFB supports worldwide aerial refueling and it has a global reach for troops, equipment and supplies.
Ft Riley is home to the 1st Infantry Division, which is the oldest continuously serving division in the US Army.
Movement on Sports Betting Legislation
Sports betting continues to move forward with a hearing on the potential legalization of sports betting in Kansas on Wednesday. The proposal currently would have retail sports betting businesses paying the state a 7.5% tax on gross gaming revenue, while online sports books would contribute 10%. There is a little controversy over having the Kansas Lottery as the owner or licensee of any type of sports betting software. Sports teams and franchises would not get an integrity fee, which was a point of contention last session.
Agency Review of KBI in Budget Committee
On Wednesday, in Transportation and Public Safety Budget, we heard from the KBI. You can listen to the Committee testimony here. We reviewed the agency's goals, focus, and use of money allocated for special uses last year. They have a renewed focus on working on behalf of kids, partnering with DCF to ensure crimes on kids are prosecuted. As important, they are focused on solutions around cyber crime, stopping mass shootings, using analysis to overlay other organizations’ data, and making data more readily available to local law enforcement agencies and officers.
Regional Transportation Update
Early last week, I met with the Deputy Secretary on Transportation and had a separate briefing with Transportation Secretary Lorenz.
We confirmed that we would be able to implement an updated June 2020 traffic count on K-7 in our area. We also confirmed that the Centennial Bridge project has been elevated to high priority on the KDOT project list. KDOT is working to make the road improvement request process more responsive and flexible. We also discussed working with MDOT and county partners on the Missouri side to understand their plans with bridge crossings, including any potential 152 expansion.
Secretary Lorenz outlined an interesting interagency program with the Kansas Department of Corrections to provide potential work opportunities to inmates coming out of the system where it makes sense and is safe. Former inmates can find jobs at KDOT, provided that they have tax clearance and a drivers license. Discussions are happening to train former and current inmates to obtain their Commercial Drivers Licenses.
As I’ve outlined before, the project approval pipeline is expected to be updated from 10 year plan to a 2 to 4 year plan to become more flexible, more proactive, and more cost-effective. I also noted to Secretary Lorenz that KDOT and Army University could potentially work together to fulfill KDOT's needs for Heavy Equipment certifications.
Layoff Scare at Lansing Correctional Facility
There was a layoff scare for 80 workers at Lansing Correctional Facility this week, but I was able to utilize my good working relationships within the Administration to determine that those 80 workers were not slated for future layoffs. Unfortunately, there were 15 workers who were laid off.
I have communicated that if safety concerns require more personnel than originally targeted, we should plan for that, but the Administration is confident that they can work through this successfully.
That said, workers at LCF who hear differently, who are concerned about their opportunity to work there, or have other concerns should continue to feel free to reach out to me. I’m always working for you.
Today (Monday), House Financial Institutions will have another hearing on the KPERs re-amortization proposal HB2503. While having a net neutral effect on the stability of the program, it would reduce payments currently. There is opposition to this from many KPERs retirement groups and state employees. I’ll be discussing this with some of our local retirees this week.
Romeo and Juliet Statute Revision Proposed
Kansas statute contains disparate, harsher punishments for same sex couples than it does for opposite sex couples who have consensual sex when they are near the same age, but one is younger than 16. There will be a hearing this week on House Bill 2473, which would eliminate this discriminatory, disparate treatment under Kansas statute.
The statute has already been ruled unconstitutional by the Kansas Supreme Court in State v. Limon (2005), which based its decision largely on the United States Supreme Court's decision in Lawrence v. Texas (2003). Just because a law is found to be unconstitutional doesn't mean that the unconstitutional portions of the law are removed from statute books, so this bill has been offered by the Kansas Judicial Council as one of many bills in a continuing process to clean up state statutes that have been found to be unconstitutional.
Citizens have a right to know the law if they choose to read a statute book, and we should continue to clean up statutes so that we are transparent about the law with citizens, even if the dialogue is uncomfortable or, as is often the case, incredibly boring and non-controversial. This is one of the most important jobs of legislators in Kansas.
Latina Leaders Day
On Thursday, Rep. Susan Ruiz brought forth a House Resolution naming January 30th Latina Leaders Day. The resolution passed on unanimous voice vote. In attendance were many Latina leaders throughout the state, including Dolores Huerta, a civil rights activist who spent her life advocating for equality.
On Wednesday, Jan. 29, we celebrated our 159th celebration of Kansas' admission as the 34th State to the Union in 1861. It’s traditional now to sing Home on the Range as well as have other events around the state house.
I was honored to meet a local 8th grader, Liam Alexander Bell, who won second place the Kansas photography contest.
The Kansas House also honored the Kansas Teachers of the Year. We have one candidate who is in the top four, contending for National Teacher of the Year, Tabatha Rosproy. Ms. Rosproy is an early learning teacher from Winfield.
Watch and Listen Online
Committee hearings and legislative proceedings are now live streamed from the Kansas Legislature’s website. Archived recordings are available as well. Visit www.kslegislature.org and click on “Audio/Video” in the upper right-hand corner, next to the search box on the home page, to reveal a drop-down menu.
Chiefs of Police Day
I was able to spend some time with local law enforcement to discuss some upcoming legislation around investigative reports, mental health emergency centers and other topics.
Also this week we had justice reform groups advocating for alternate methods to be used in sentencing and prisons. Great to speak with all these groups and others this week.
Deadline Approaching for Bill Introductions
Today (February 3) is the last day to request bill drafting from the Revisor's Office. If you have an idea, we still have a few days to introduce bills through the committee process, but after this week, it will become much harder to introduce new legislation for this term of the legislature.
There are several important deadlines throughout the Kansas legislative session. Because we are only supposed to be in session for 90 days, we have to be efficient in how we proceed. The full 2020 Legislative Calendar is available here.
My Honor to Represent You
It is a special honor to serve our community in the Kansas Legislature. I both value and need your input on the various issues facing state government.
My office address is Room 561-W 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.
Rep. Jeff Pittman
Kansas House of Representatives
House District 41 (Leavenworth)
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