In this issue:
• Deadline approaching for bill introductions
• Committee hears testimony on paycheck deductions bill
• Brownback’s tax plan delayed in committee
• Hearing scheduled for school funding amendment
• District happenings
• Visitors from Merriam
• University of Kansas Cancer Center
• Consequences of legislation
• Casino dollars helping Wyandotte County
• KanCare Education Tour scheduled
• Unclaimed property
• Legislative pages
• Kansas Health Matters
• Harold Huggins
Deadline approaching for bill introductions
Even though we’re only a few weeks into session, two important deadlines are quickly approaching. Wednesday, Feb. 13, will be the last day for individual bill introductions. Friday, Feb. 15, will be the last day for most committees to request the introduction of bills. Exempt from this second deadline are the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, the Ways and Means Committee, and other select committees.
Committees will continue to meet throughout this week to meet these deadlines. As bills move through the committee process, we’ll start spending more time on the Senate floor.
If you have questions about any bill that has been introduced, please feel free to contact my office at 785-296-7375. Or stop by my legislative office, located in room 125 E of the Topeka Statehouse. Daily calendars, committee and district information are all available online at www.kslegislature.org. To hear legislative proceedings, just click on “Listen in Live."
Committee hears testimony on paycheck deductions bill
The Senate Commerce Committee heard testimony from opponents and proponents of HB2023, known as the paycheck deductions bill, this past week.
The bill would prohibit public employee organizations, such as the Kansas National Education Association, from taking voluntary paycheck donations from members and using those funds for political activities. This bill stipulates in great detail what it deems as political activities.
Proponents argued that this bill is just an accounting bill that would also protect public employees, especially teachers, from the coercion of unions. The proponents neglected to acknowledge the language in the bill that broadly defines “political activities” and the mandates for how public unions could use the funds voluntarily donated by members, regardless of the method of donation.
This bill does everything but protect public employees. I stand with the opposition.
The committee decided Thursday to further investigate the language of the bill to prevent it from having further delay in passing through the Senate.
Brownback's tax plan delayed in committee
After hearing testimony on Gov. Brownback’s tax plan during their meetings last week, the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee scheduled to work the bill that outlines the tax plan, Senate Bill 78, this week. However, Committee Chair Les Donovan, R-Wichita, announced Tuesday that it would delay committee debate until further notice.
Gov. Brownback’s tax plan proposes to eliminate the home mortgage interest deduction and the property tax deduction for the 2013 tax year as well as retain the current sales tax rate at 6.3%.
This plan would burden average Kansas families and is just another way for Gov. Brownback to pay for the deficit created by his income tax cuts. I do not support it.
Hearing scheduled for school funding amendment
Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will hear testimony for the proposed constitutional amendment concerning school funding. The proposed amendment would clearly define what constitutes “suitable funding” for schools.
This amendment is in response to the three-judge panel ruling in January that stated the Legislature isn’t meeting its K-12 school funding duty under the Kansas Constitution. The state currently pays a $3,838 per pupil. The judges ruled the funding needs to be increased to $4,492 by FY2014, which begins July 1, 2013. This means approximately $440 million would need to be allocated to the budget.
Instead of trying to find a way to include the funding in the budget, Republicans are opting to revise our state’s constitution so it better fits with their agenda. I took an oath at the beginning of the session swearing to uphold the Kansas Constitution as it stands today. I do not plan to renege on this oath nor do I plan to support changes to the Constitution.
Proponents of the amendment are scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 13, and opponents are scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 14. The committee meets in room 346-S in the Capitol at 10:30a.m.
• KCKCC is offering free tax preparations for individuals who earn less than $51,000 a year. The free preparation is offered in Room 3632 on the upper level of the Flint Building and will be available each Monday through March 4 from 5-8 p.m.; and Wednesday from 5-8 p.m. and each Saturday from 9 a.m.-noon through April 13 with the exception of March 20 and 23. The preparation is a joint venture between students in KCKCC’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and KC C.A.S.H., a 501 (c) (3) coalition of local businesses and community organization who support working families in building financial stability.
Visitors from Merriam
I had lunch with some members of the Merriam City Council and their staff on Feb. 6 to discuss legislative issues. They were in Topeka for the Kansas League of Municipalities Day at the capitol.
Some attendees were: Phillip Lammers – City Administrator, Chris Hands – Ward 3 Councilmember, Christopher Engel, Assistant City Administrator, Al Frisby – Ward 2 City Councilmember, Nancy Hupp – Ward 3 Councilmember/JO CO Library Board of Directors.
University of Kansas Cancer Center
I had the honor of thanking Dr. Roy Jensen, director of the KU Cancer Center, on its National Cancer Institute Designation. Dr. Roy Jensen was on the Senate floor for Senate Resolution 1709 which recognizes this designation. The Cancer Center adds to the important partnership that KU Hospital and KU Medical Center have in the Kansas City, Kan., and Kansas City metropolitan area. This is a partnership we value and look forward to seeing it grow in the future.
Consequences of legislation
I again attempted to make sure that as we pass legislation in Topeka we keep in mind the fiscal impact it has on our communities. SB 61 that was passed by the Senate on Thursday deals with providing services to help sexually exploited children (human trafficking). It provides a fund for the Kansas Attorney General’s Office but no way for any of those moneys to go to the county jails that will end up housing some of these victims.
Casino dollars helping Wyandotte County
I was thrilled that the Unified Government has approved a $1.1 million package of donations that the Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway is making to Wyandotte County. $500,000 is going to charitable contributions, $100,000 to parks and recreation and the rest will be divided among these nonhost school districts: The Turner School District will receive $180,044; the Kansas City, Kan., School District will receive $173,359; and the Piper School District will receive $146,598 under the formula. About 70 percent of the casino property is in Bonner Springs School District, the host school district, and 30 percent in Kansas City, Kan.
KanCare Educational Tour scheduled
State officials have scheduled meetings around the state to answer Medicaid beneficiaries’ questions about the transition to KanCare. They said they were mailing meeting notices to each KanCare household in the state.
KanCare is the name given Gov. Sam Brownback’s initiative to move virtually all of the state’s 380,000 Medicaid enrollees into managed care plans run by three major insurance companies: United health Care, Amerigroup and Sunflower State Health Plan, a subsidiary of Centene.
Tuesday, Feb. 19 – Kansas City: Hilton Garden Inn, Wyandotte 2, 520 Minnesota Ave.
The troubleshooting teleconference is held each business day from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Those who wish to participate may access dial-in information on the KanCare website (http://www.kancare.ks.gov/events.htm)
Each year Kansas businesses send the State Treasurer the names of people with bank accounts, wages, stocks and dividends that have been abandoned. The Unclaimed Property Division seeks to return various forms of unclaimed property to the rightful owner or heirs. The State Treasurer has the authority to take possession of specified types of abandoned personal property and become custodian in perpetuity which preserves the right of the original owner or other persons to claim the property. Go to: http://www.kansasstatetreasurer.com to find out if State Treasurer is holding any unclaimed property for you.
If you have done business in another state, you may want to link to the http://www.missingmoney.com site to check.
Make sure you check with every state in which you have lived http://www.unclaimed.org/
(Unclaimed property is generally turned over to the state of your last known address as reflected on the records of the business holding your money, stock, etc.).
On Feb 6 pages from Our Lady of Unity School were: Jonathan Paez, Evelyn Ruiz,Olga Besestre, and Ida Nkikabahizi. Jonathan’s father, Mr. Paez, drove the students to Topeka. If you know a middle school or high school student who would be interested in paging, please contact my office at 785-296-7375.
Kansas Health Matters
Kansas Health Matters is a one stop source of non-biased data and information about community health in Kansas. It is intended to help hospitals, health departments, policy makers, community planners and members learn about issues, identify improvements and collaborate for positive change. You might want to check this website to see how our health is measured in the state of Kansas.
On Tuesday, Feb 12, I will be attending the funeral of my uncle, Harold Huggins. He ended his 38-year career with the Kansas CIty, Kan., Fire Department as a Deputy Chief. He loved the political process and served Local 64 as a lobbyist for many years. He even ran for the Kansas House. He and I had many wonderful political conversations.