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Newsletter from Rep. Stan Frownfelter, D-37th Dist.
Committees: Utilities and Telecom, Commerce, Labor and Economic Development, ranking minority, Insurance - Financial Institutions, ranking minority.
Week 6, Feb. 18-22, 2013
In this issue:
o From the Statehouse
o House Sergeant at Arms Wayne dies
o Governor’s budget director apologizes for miscalculation
o HB 2314 relating to gifts to public officials
o Timing of municipal elections
o Constituents in the Capitol
o Keep in touch
From the Statehouse: Week 6
Our fifth week of work was cut short due to the blizzard. Faced with uncertainty, the House Speaker and Senate President announced on Wednesday, Feb. 20, their chambers will postpone legislative business while a blizzard works its way across Kansas. The governor also ordered the executive branch closed on Thursday, Feb. 21.
Complete daily calendars are available at www.kslegislature.org along with other useful information.
I am privileged and honored to be your voice in the Kansas Capitol. If I can ever be of assistance to you, please feel free to contact me at home or in Topeka.
House Sergeant at Arms Wayne dies
House Sergeant of Arms Wayne Owens died Friday afternoon. He suffered a brain aneurysm last Monday. Funeral services were held Wednesday morning, Feb. 20.
Wayne was a dedicated public servant. He will be missed by every member of the House of Representatives. My thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Wayne during their time of loss.
Governor’s budget director apologizes for miscalculation
The Wichita Eagle reported last week that Gov. Brownback has been promoting his legislative agenda using a $2 billion dollar miscalculation. The Eagle observed that the governor “blamed his predecessor for a $2 billion spending hike that never happened and taken credit for spending cuts he didn’t actually make."
In speeches throughout the state, Gov. Brownback claimed state spending had increased every year from 1965 until the beginning of his administration. As proof of this statistic, Brownback contended that spending peaked $16 billion under former Gov. Parkinson in 2010. As the Eagle pointed out, state spending was actually $14.04 billion in 2010.
If Brownback hadn’t included this nearly $2 billion error in his presentation, the chart would have shown that state spending has peaked under Gov. Brownback’s administration. Brownback’s budget director, Steve Anderson, issued an apology for the $2 billion budget error.
However, the Eagle editorial board also noted that no one from Brownback’s office has apologized for other mistaken statistics repeatedly used by the administration. These include misrepresentations about the portion of state education money spent on classroom services, the percentage of Kansas fourth graders who are proficient in reading, and the amount of savings from the governor’s transportation and Medicaid plans.
The Eagle concluded with something very similar to what House Democrats have been saying about the governor’s budget plans, “What’s going on here is clear: Brownback is embracing and repeating numbers that help promote his agenda, including what he sees as the need to push back against a court order for more state funding of public schools.”
HB 2314 Relating to gifts to public officials
On Monday, the House Elections Committee had a heard testimony on HB 2314 relating to ethics, lobbyists reporting requirements and gifts to public officials. Section 1 of the bill will change the limit of any hospitality in the form of recreation a state officer, state employee, candidate for state office, or state officer elect may accept or agree to except in a calendar year. The bill changes that limit from $100 to $500. A change to the bill also stipulates that the $500 limit for hospitality in the form of recreation shall not apply to the spouse of a legislator or candidate for such offices.
Carol Williams, executive director of the Kansas Ethics Commission testified as neutral on the bill. Williams noted that the bill also changes the limit requiring disclosure from $2 to $15 and if that limit was in place last year 26 percent of recreation in the form of hospitality wouldn’t have been reported. Rep. Alcala echoed Mrs. Williams’ concern that raising the nondisclosure limit would decrease transparency in special interest donations.
Timing of municipal elections
This week the House Elections Committee heard from opponents of HB 2227, which proposes to move municipal elections from the spring to the fall to share a date with state and federal elections.
Proponents have observed that participation is generally higher in the fall elections, and theorized that the proposed move would result in higher participation for municipal elections. Opponents countered that races at the end of the ballot receive less participation than races at the top of the ballot, and argued that placing municipal races at the end of a long fall ballot could actually decrease participation.
Since this proposal would align municipal elections with the partisan primary election calendar opponents also argued this move would result in unintended consequences. In Kansas, most municipal elections don’t require individual candidates to align with a party. This allows local races to address local concerns without undue or overbearing partisan influence. Moving municipal elections to the Fall jeopardizes would jeopardize their non-partisan nature.
I always enjoy seeing people from back home visiting the Capitol during the session to share their views on issues and to learn about the legislature and the history of our Capitol building. If you are going to be in the Capitol this session, I hope you will drop by my office.
Keep in touch
It is a special honor to serve as your state representative. I value and need your input on the various issues facing state government. Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions. My office address is Room 561W, 300 SW 10th,Topeka,KS 66612. You can reach me at 785- 296-7648 or 785-296-7668 or call the legislative hotline at 1-800-432-3924 to leave a message for me. Additionally, you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com You can also follow the legislative session online at www.kslegislature.org.