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Pat PetteySen. Pat Pettey
May 10, 2013
In this issue:
• Senate returns for Veto Session
• TANF rules tightened
• State parking lot for sale
• Additional NBAF bonding
• Governor signs bills
• Brownback vetoes home inspection bill
• April revenues slightly up
• Mayor-CEO Mark Holland introduced
• Kansas Vietnam War Era Medallion Program essay winner
• Important state numbers
Senate returns for veto session
Legislators returned to Topeka this week for the wrap up session. Typically the wrap-up session lasts four or five days, although it will likely take longer this year, despite Republican leaders’ goal of ending the session in 80 days. In the upcoming days (or weeks), we still have to come to a compromise on taxes and the budget.
Earlier this session the Senate approved a tax plan that would continue Gov. Brownback’s income tax cuts and would retain the sales tax rate at 6.3 percent. Alternatively, the House passed a tax plan with less aggressive income tax cuts and allows the sales tax rate to drop to 5.7 percent in July as planned.
I voted against the Senate tax plan. The increased sales tax is not meant to grow the Kansas economy or to balance the budget, as so many Senate Republicans claim. Instead, it is to pay for Gov. Brownback’s reckless income tax cuts, which have created a massive hole in the state budget.
Both chambers have approved budgets to accommodate this massive hole, but, unfortunately, both rely on cuts to higher education, early childhood programs, a property tax relief program, and community corrections programs, among others. Neither budget provides additional funding for K-12 education.
We have a very short window of time to turn this session around, and to enact good public policy that will make a difference in the lives of all Kansans. I will keep you updates as these important decisions are completed and the session moves to a close.
All House and Senate sessions are open to the public. Live broadcasts of Senate and House proceedings can be found at www.kslegislature.org. I am honored to serve as your senator. My office is located in room 125E. Please feel free to visit or to contact me at 785-296-7375 if you should have any questions.
TANF rules tightened
Low-income mothers in Kansas will only be able to receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families benefits for two months after the birth of a child before having to participate in a work program. Previously, the mothers had six months. Additionally, mothers will be required to work 28 hours per week to qualify for child-care assistance whereas previously they worked 20 hours. This announcement came from Angela de Rocha, a spokeswoman for the Department of Children and Families. It was not a decision made by any piece of legislation that has passed this session.
State parking lot for sale
Officials of Gov. Brownback’s administration determined a parking lost at S.W. 10th and Topeka Blvd. near the Capitol in Topeka was surplus property and opened it up to bids until April 26 without first receiving approval from the State Finance Council. Bids were opened on April 26 to reveal one in the amount of $2.5 million from a Topeka development company.
On Thursday, the Legislature’s joint building committee voted unanimously to recommend rejection of all bids. Sen. Laura Kelly, D-Topeka, is on the committee and pointed out that the Department of Administration does not have statutory authority to unilaterally declare a property surplus within the Capitol Area Complex. Sen. Marci Francisco, D-Lawrence, who also serves on the committee, raised the concern that the secretary of the Department of Administration can only offer such property for sale after consultation with the Legislature’s joint building committee and after approval from the State Finance Council.
For now, the sale of the parking lot has been halted.
Additional NBAF bonding
Gov. Brownback asked legislators last week to quickly approve $202 million in additional bonding for the National Bio- and Agro-Defense Facility to be built in Manhattan. President Obama’s proposed budget this year includes $714 million for the project.
In 2008, under Gov. Sebelius, the Kansas Legislature approved $105 million bonding. At the time of Gov. Brownback’s request last week, he neglected to provide information as to why he was requesting an additional $202 million in bonding. Senate and House Democrats requested more information. They also suggested the issue be brought to one or both chambers and not left to the decision of the State Finance Council.
Senate Democrats met with Landon Fulmer, Gov. Brownback’s chief of staff, Thursday to get more information regarding the governor’s request. According to Fulmer, it was negotiated with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security for the state of Kansas to provide 20 percent of construction costs. Increased security and safety measures have resulted in a dramatic increase in construction costs. In other words, the federal proposal hinges on the Legislature’s endorsement of the bonding request. Fulmer also said that the Department of Homeland Security will not come back to Kansas to ask for more money.
During the Senate Ways and Means Committee meeting Thursday, members endorsed Senate Bill 245, which includes the proposal to provide an additional $202 million in bonding. The committee amended the bill to ensure that no additional NBAF bonds were authorized unless the state had a signed contract between the U.S. government and the construction contractor outlining the cost overruns of the project is the sole responsibility of the federal government. It is anticipated this bill will reach the Senate floor for a vote early next week.
I plan to support the bill. I believe the NBAF project is beneficial to the state of Kansas.
Governor signs bills
During the legislative break, Gov. Brownback was busy signing bills into law. So far, he has signed all but one bill into law. These bills include:
• HB2009 is equivalent to Senator Faust-Goudeau’s, D-Wichita, bill that she introduced at the start of session. It allows drivers with suspended licenses to apply for restricted licenses to drive to work so they can make wages in order to make payments on their fines. It also allows drivers to obtain insurance and drive legally. I voted for this bill.
• SB111 establishes the first Wednesday of February beginning in 2014 as Native American Day at the Capitol. Sen. Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, sponsored this bill. I voted for it.
• HB2017 allows search warrants to be issued based on probable cause that a crime is about to be committed. The bill also requires law enforcement to obtain a warrant first before using GPS tracking devices in investigations. I voted for this bill.
• HB2044 establishes two new crimes, distribution of a controlled substance causing great bodily harm (a level-5 felony) and distribution of a controlled substance causing death (a severity level-1 felony). I voted in favor of this bill.
• HB2093 amends statutes on computer crime and identity theft, making it unlawful to disclose a person’s password to a social networking website or “personal electronic content” without their authorization, or to access or attempt to access any social networking website without authorization. I supported this bill.
• HB2109 establishes the Children’s Internet Protection Act, which requires school districts and public libraries to have online filters that would block access to “visual depictions” that are harmful to minors, or obscene. I voted for this bill.
• HB2033 prohibits municipalities from regulating the transportation, possession, carrying, sales, transfers, purchases, gifting, licensing, registration or uses of a knife or knife-making components. Also, it removes specific types of pocket knives and switchblade knives from provisions related to the criminal use of weapons and criminal carrying of a weapon and adds throwing stars to lists of prohibited weapons in statutes. The bill does not include school districts, jails, or juvenile correctional facilities in the definition of municipality. I voted for this bill.
• HB2069 prohibits local governments from paying a living wage to workers of government contracts. I voted against it.
• HB2105 decreases the number of weeks an unemployed Kansan can receive unemployment benefits from 26 weeks to 16 weeks. I voted against it.
• HB2221 grants equal access for all professional employees’ associations to employees’ physical or electronic mailboxes as well as access to attend new teacher or employee school orientations and other meetings. I voted against it.
• SB149 – the drug testing bill - bill requires recipients or applicants of TANF or unemployment benefits to complete a mandatory drug test in the event that they are deemed “reasonably suspicious.” When the bill went through the Senate earlier this month, Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley amended the bill to include members of the Senate and House of Representatives to also be subject to drug testing under reasonable suspicion. The Senate passed the bill on a 31-8 vote. I opposed it.
• SB142 protects doctors from “wrongful life” or “wrongful birth” lawsuits. This means that a doctor can withhold information from a mother pertaining to the condition of the unborn child that may result in the mother choosing to abort the pregnancy. When the child is born and the mother discovers the child’s condition, she cannot sue the doctor for withholding that information. I voted against it.
Brownback vetoes home inspection bill
While legislators were on break, Gov. Brownback vetoed the first and only bill so far this session. The bill is Senate Bill 37 and would extend the life of a board that regulates home inspectors. The board regulates professional home inspectors who conduct on-site reviews of homes for their sturdiness and safety before they are purchased by homeowners.
Gov. Brownback vetoed the bill claiming that people who provide home inspections are “honest people” and, therefore, don’t need a board to oversee them.
I believe the board provides an extra level of protection to Kansas consumers by ensuring inspectors are properly trained and are conducting accurate inspections. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 37-3. I voted for the bill.
April revenues slightly up
The Kansas Department of Revenue reported that income tax receipts had grown by almost 6 percent from the prior fiscal year to date and, overall, the state collected $25 million more in individual income tax receipts in April 2013 compared to April 2012. The state also collected $41.7 million more in revenue receipts for April 2013 versus April 2012.
Republican opponents of the sales tax increase are now using these numbers to bolster their argument that the sales tax rate should be allowed to fall back to where it was in 2010.
Despite these numbers being slightly above estimates, we’re still $4.4 million below estimates for the current fiscal year to date.
Sen. Pettey introduced Mayor-CEO Mark Holland in the Senate Chamber on May 10.
Kansas Vietnam War era medallion program
In 2009, the Kansas Legislature passed, and the governor signed into law, K. S. A. 73-1238, which created the Vietnam War Era Medallion program. The purpose of the program is to give long overdue recognition to this special group of American heroes, and to express our gratitude for all these individuals have done for Kansas and our country.
In the two years since the program was funded, the Kansas Commission on Veterans’ Affairs has had the privilege of honoring 3,271 veterans with a Medal, Medallion, and Certificate. Veterans eligible for the program can choose to have it awarded at a ceremony or have it mailed directly to them.
You can get an application at https://kcva.ks.gov/veteran-services/programs-services or by calling 785-296-3976.
Congratulations to Elena Marquez, senior at Turner High School.
She was the top essay winner in the Kansas Hispanic-Latin American Affairs Commission at the Hispanic Day at the State Capitol on April 1.
Visit the link below to like us on Facebook for continual updates and photos about what Senator Pettey is accomplishing in Topeka:
Important state phone numbers
Here is a list of numbers I often receive requests for during session. I hope you will find this information helpful.
Child Abuse Hotline
Crime Tip Hotline
Crime Victim Referral
Driver’s License Bureau
Department on Aging
School Safety Hotline
Tax Refund Status Info