CRUNCH TIME APPROACHES:
As we approach the drop dead day April 2 and the first adjournment, when we break from April 5 to 28, the pace is picking up and we will spend all day on the floor to debate and vote bills up or down. Things can get hectic and we’ll probably pull a few all nighters. When time gets short we bundle legislation, combining several bills into one, a bad habit which often results in a dilemma for representatives. When seven different bills are placed into a single one and you love 4 but hate 1 and have a neutral position on the others, what do you do? You try to amend out what you don’t want and if that fails you vote for the bill hoping to fix it in the next session., and, indeed we begin every session with clean ups. I have been part of a handful of members who tried to change the rules of the House several years ago; we always failed because this is tradition. Another rule change we promoted is that there will be no voting after midnight because after sitting 16 hours things tend to get a bit fuzzy. This too was never adopted. As the saying goes “we’ll get ‘r done,” one way or the other.
This year things will get particularly dicey because we have not yet addressed the most difficult decisions we need to make which deal with the budget. There are great differences between the Republican and Democrat parties and the Governor’s solutions to our fiscal crisis. The one attempt we made to debate and resolve the issue of taxation, HB 2549 was delayed by a coalition of Democrats and the usually suspect Rinos (Republican In Name Only) who garnered enough votes to postpone the debate until May 3. The vote was 64-57 to delay.
Before that vote we did succeed to restore the tax exemptions for churches and utility bills. I believe that this tactical move is designed to conceal these members intention to raise taxes until the last moment in hopes to convince their constituents there was no other choice. I wanted to debate the issue now rather than postponing the agony, let representatives go on record where they stand.
DO WE TAX AND SPEND OR LIVE WITHIN OUR MEANS?
That is the question on our approach to the budget crisis and how to resolve it. The differences between the Governor’s and the Democrats and the Republicans plans are profound and will need to be bridged to produce a workable budget.
The Governor proposes a huge tax increase to balance the budget. It would not address the need of the 4,000+ disabled kids on the shameful wait list but would continue a hard freeze. It would not reduce the KBI backlog in processing DNA which means some criminals are free from prosecution and conviction. It continues to grow state government and lacks control of spending by the mega budget agencies.
The House budget announced March 18 balances the budget without a tax increase. It serves public safety by reducing the DNA backlog, reduces the physically and developmentally disabled waiting list, protects public education by keeping spending at current levels and allowing more flexibility and total spending.
This is a broad outline and subject to negotiations and change, for more details, comments and questions contact my office.
I am convinced that we need to curb our profligacy today so that we can prosper tomorrow. Let the debate begin.
MOODY’S DOWNGRADES KANSAS BONDS
This downgrade is bad news for our state, it makes borrowing more expensive, and increases the long term cost not only for the revenue bonds planned by KDFA but it also applies to the $1.58 billion in outstanding debt. Interestingly Moody’s cited the lawsuit by SFFF (School’s suing Kansas./) as one reason for the downgrade.
THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS
The following bills passed this week unanimously:
- SB 464 Payment of taxes, cleanup
- SB 326 Crime victims compensation fund increasing assistance
- HB 2578 Tax refunds to certain tax payers
- SB 369 Open record act changes
- SB 386 Criminal procedures
- SB 437 Filing requirements for resident agents
- SB 439 Kansas register amended
- SB 441 Merger of limited partnerships
- H. Sub for SB 458 Crimes and punishment
- SB 508 Discount cards filing requirements
- HB 2520 Willful failure to collect taxes
- HB2621 Income tax credits
- HB 2689 County wide retailer’s sales tax
- SB 396 Laboratory fee fund
- SB 440 Registration of insignias
- SB 497 Criminal use of weapons
These bills passed with my support. Vote tally in parenthesis.
- H. Sub for SB 200 Insurance privilege fees (99-13)
- HB 2463 Simplification of tax structure committee (120-4)
- HB 2521 Reports, electronic filing of taxes (106-18)
- SB 430 Tax credits (119-5)
These bills passed over my opposition:
- SB 463 Bonded debt limits (106-18)
- HB 2519 Streamlined sales tax (75-49)
- HB 2729 Energy management districts, cities and counties (72-52)
- SB 544 Definition of metropolitan area (99-24)
As always you can access any bill in it’s entirety by going to http://www.kslegislature.org.
COMING UP SHORTLY
With time a critical factor it becomes a bit more difficult to predict when bills are going “above the line,” that is up for debate and vote. Certain to be passed is the omnibus appropriations bill at the end of the session. Meanwhile the following bills are presently below the line and could be advanced any day. The determination is made by the majority leader and if you see one which is dear to you, call me and I’ll get it worked.
- HB 2671 Investigative authority of fire marshals
- HB 2107 Retirement and pensions police and firemen
- HB 2682 Health insurance taxation
- HB 2549 Sales tax on certain services, fundraising
- H. Sub for SB 449 Certification for medical gas installers
- SB 353 Human trafficking
- H. Sub for SB 293 Regulating school buses
- H. Sub for SB 214 Annexation by cities
- HB 2620 Kansas firearm freedom act
- SCR 1614 Amends article 11 of the constitution creates budget stabilization fund
- SB 394 Pesticide education
- SB 382 Housing loan deposits
- H. Sub for SB 146 State employee’s furloughs or reduction in salary
- HCR 5032 Amends the constitution on health care. I’m a co-sponsor.
- SB 363 Bankruptcy exempt property
There are about 40 more potential bills in the hopper; if you want a list call my office and ask for the latest House Calendar, we’ll send you one.
PAY CUT IN EFFECT
The 5% pay cut the legislature imposed on itself is in effect. In addition we have cut our mail allowance in half and provide one secretary for 3 representatives instead of one for two.
MY BI-ANNUAL VOTERS SURVEY
…was mailed to 4,700 households in the district March 12. I use a mail service which makes the selection and if you voted in the last primary and general elections you should have received yours by now. Please fill it in and mail it back ASAP. Representatives in 8 other districts use the same questionnaire and by aggregating the results we will have a solid data base of voter sentiments. My staff and I will tabulate the raw data the week of April 1, and report the results. I will read all the commentary during the break and respond where indicated. I will be guided by your views and opinions in my next and final session.
The Federal and State Affairs Committee which I vice chair is the only standing committee which still meets. Last week we heard and worked a bill dealing with SRS foster care. We also passed out favorably a bill which brings the fire marshals under the control of the insurance commissioner. We discussed two bills dealing with alcohol related issues and spent an afternoon hearing testimony on the family protection act which I mentioned in the last newsletter. Unexpectedly, I received two messages which strongly advised me to leave the strippers alone and to observe the free enterprise rules and regulations, after all no one is forced to visit these places. Using this argument one could also demand legalization of prostitution.
We heard some pretty damning testimony about the deleterious secondary effects these clubs bring into a community, these were well documented as increased criminal conduct, drug use, alcohol related accidents, and prostitution. (Just last month a man was stabbed outside one of the JOCO clubs.)
I am astonished by our ready acceptance of indecent behavior. It seems acceptable that young women prance around in front of strange and leering men. That degrades women demeans men. Two of the “dancers” testifying were college graduates but chose to make their living as exotic dancers. I felt sad when she matter-of-factly described the lap dances she routinely performs.
I don’t know what the committee will decide to do with this bill; if it comes to the floor I’ll certainly support it.
Last weeks visitors included Chris Leaton, Spring Hill City Council; Steve Shute, Gardner; Jordan Austin, NRA; and Sky Westerlund NASW. Don’t forget to call to arrange for a meeting.
THE LAST WORD
Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed there are many rewards. If you disgrace yourself you can always write a book.