In this issue:
· Turnaround marks mid-session
· Drug testing bill passes Senate
· Voting bills pass
· ‘Reading to Success Act’ halted in committee
· Hire Kansas First Act heard in committee
· Tax plan still delayed
· District happenings
· Wyandotte County primary election winners
· Kansas Voices
· Unclaimed property
· Important state numbers
Turnaround marks mid-session
Friday marked the legislature’s annual “turnaround,” the deadline for most bills to clear their house of origin. The snow storm early in the week made for a quiet start, but senators debated more than 30 bills Wednesday and Thursday and the Legislature met Pro Forma Friday.
The Senate will be off this coming Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, we’ll begin debating bills sent over from the House of Representatives. Conference committees will also begin meeting on bills that have been approved by both chambers.
All House and Senate sessions are open to the public. And live broadcasts of Senate and House proceedings can be found at www.kslegislature.org. To hear legislative proceedings, just click on the “Listen in Live” link.
I am honored to serve as your Senator. My office is located in room 125E. Please feel free to visit or contact me at 785-296-7375, if you should have any questions.
Drug testing bill passes Senate
In a 31-8 vote, members of the Senate passed SB149, commonly known as the drug testing bill. Democrats opposed the bill.
Under the bill, any information obtained by the Secretary for Children and Families can be used to establish reasonable suspicion and prompt a mandatory drug test for recipients or applicants of TANF or unemployment benefits. This includes demeanor, missed appointments, arrest records or other police reports, previously failed pre-employment drug screenings, or termination from previous employment due to drug use.
If a recipient or applicant fails a test, the bill requires the individual to undergo treatment for substance abuse, complete a job skills program and lose benefits. In order for the dependent children to continue to receive their benefits they have to have another family member designated. This can be very disruptive to the dependent children's daily lives. The fiscal note for the bill contains many discrepancies in how much these treatment programs would cost the state and indicates that the Department of Children and Families is already conducting drug screenings and placing individuals in treatment with a favorable success rate.
Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, argued that the bill creates a double standard by singling out poor people and that the same should apply to all Kansans who receive state funds.
An amendment offered by Democratic Anthony Hensley was added that would require legislators be drug tested under the guidelines established by the bill for applicants or recipients of TANF.
I supported Sen. Hensley’s amendment, but I did not support this bill. I believe it is unfair and unnecessary.
Voting bill passes Senate
Members of the Senate passed two bills Thursday that would affect elections.
Senate Bill 177 proposes to make it illegal to intentionally disclose or expose the name of any voter who has cast a ballot, whether provisional or regular, except as ordered by a court in an election contest. This legislation is in retaliation to a situation that occurred this past election in Shawnee County. A candidate requested the names of voters on provisional ballots not counted due to errors in completion of the ballot so that the candidate could contact those voters to give them an opportunity to correct their ballots and have them be counted, regardless of the vote they cast.
Senate Bill 63 creates or amends law as related to election crimes. It would allow the Kansas Secretary of State to prosecute voters who commit voter crime. It also increases the severity level of a voter crime from a misdemeanor to a felony. Sen. Holland, D-Baldwin City, proposed an amendment to the bill that would prohibit the Secretary of State from using a political action committee to endorse candidates. The amendment passed. This bill as proposed seems to be a solution in search of a problem. The secretary of state could only find nine potential cases of voter fraud throughout the state of Kansas in the last two elections. As a commissioner having sat through the canvass votes for many years, I have seen that we have multiple laws that direct our election commissioner on what votes to count. I feel these statutes have served us well.
'Reading to Success Act' halted by Senate Education Committee
In a vote of 5-6, members of the Senate Education Committee voted Tuesday against Gov. Brownback’s proposal to hold back third grade students who don’t meet reading standards.
This bill uses retention as a tool for success, and research has shown that to be successful we need to be investing in early childhood education and early intervention. This bill also gave the parents no control over the retention of their own child. I voted against it.
The bill will not reach the Senate floor and the debate on this topic is over, at least for the remainder of this session.
Hire Kansas First Act heard in Senate Commerce Committee
Members of the Senate Commerce Committee heard testimony Tuesday from proponents and opponents of the Hire Kansas First Act next week.
The Hire Kansas First Act would grant tax breaks to contractors and subcontractors involved in state contracts valued in excess of $100,000 with 70 percent of its employees residing in Kansas. The purpose is to help put Kansas workers back to work and not bring out-of-state workers in to complete the contract.
Committee members were reluctant and skeptical of the proposal. At this time, there are no plans to work the bill in committee, making it unlikely to reach the Senate floor for debate this session.
Tax plan still delayed
Gov. Brownback’s proposed tax plan has yet to reach the Senate floor. Republicans are blaming the recent snow storms for the delays. Democrats speculate there is a division among the Republicans over the impact of the bill.
Gov. Brownback’s tax plan originally proposed 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% while continuing to make further income tax cuts. However, it was amended in the Senate Assessment and Taxation committee to remove the elimination of the property tax deduction.
It is predicted that an amendment will be offered by Republicans to phase out deductions as the income tax rates decrease.
No matter how it is worked, Gov. Brownback’s plan to eliminate income taxes will result in a significant budget deficit for the state of Kansas.
Think tank: 95 percent of K-12 costs tied to instruction. The Kansas Center for Economic Growth, a nonpartisan organization financed in part by the Annie E. Casey Foundation, determined all but 5 percent of K-12 spending was linked to instruction and services necessary for the education of children.
In the center’s analysis, 61.9 percent represented direct instruction, including textbooks, audio-visual equipment, teacher salaries and supplies. Slightly more than 33 percent of expenditures reflected essential services of nursing, speech pathology, counseling, libraries and bus transportation.
This contradicts what the governor said in his State of the State about only 56 percent of K-12 costs being spent in the classroom.
· The Kansas City Kansas Community College kicks off its “Couch to 5k Program” Monday, March 4, on campus. The program will hold sessions three times a week through April in order to prepare for the annual Blue Devil 5k Fun Run-Walk on May 4.
It’s not too late to register and attend the third annual “March Against Colon Cancer” at 8:00 a.m. this Saturday, March 2, at Oak Park Mall. Registration at the door is $30; children under 12 are free.
Kathy Harding - KS Association for Medically Underserved
Wyandotte County Unofficial Primary Election winners
On April 2 the following will be facing off for elections:
Mark R. Holland vs Ann Murguia for UG Mayor/CEO
Jane W. Philbrook vs Commissioner Butch Ellison for UG Commission District 8
Harold (Hal) Walker vs Thomas (TJ) Reardon for UG Commission At Lrg District 2
Gayle Townsend vs Winifred Manning for UG Commission District 1
There also will be Community College and school board seats on the general election ballot.
Merriam, Ward 2
Julianne Clark and Jim Wymer will advance with 45 percent and 28 percent of the vote, The new lkea store and other new development in Merriam will be in discussion for the winners in the general election campaign.
Posim, LLC, a Utah-based-company will expand its presence to Overland Park, Kan. The new operation of Posim will support Business-to-Business software used by retailers, e-commerce, and mobile-commerce clients. The company will bring 23 jobs and $1.27 million to the state of Kansas.
Telamon Corporation will open an office in Kansas City, Kan. Telamon, which specializes in solutions for telecommunications, business transactions, energy, assembly and logistics for medical material, will create 28 jobs in the state over the next five years and make a capital investment exceeding $500,000. Telamon, an Indiana-based company, is a minority-owned business.
Kansas Voices 24th Annual Contest for Writers Living in Kansas. $1000 in prizes. Prizes: Adult Division-$275 best poem, $275 best prose Youth Division: $100 best poem, $100 best prose Honorable Mentions: $250 total. Deadline: postmarked by March 15, 2013. Eligibility: Entrants must live in Kansas. There is no requirement for subject matter. Writers competing in the Youth Division must be currently enrolled in high school or under the age of 18. For information call 620-221-2161, ext. 10, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, web page: www.winfieldarts.com
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.
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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
Children’s & Fam. Svcs (SRS)
Tax Refund Status Info