Week four of the 2013 legislative session has now ended, and I am happy to report that things are moving along rather quickly. This week, we voted on several bills (which I will address below) and we continue our work in the committee process. Deadlines for submitting most legislation are this week. This means soon we’ll have a more complete idea of all the potential legislation that is out there, and what particular items might be making their way through the legislative process this year.
As I review each bill that comes before me, I do so with a mindset that is ever vigilant to protect the liberty of Kansans and ensure that government is not delving into areas in which it does not belong. Also, when it does make sense for it to be involved, we must work to ensure it does so in a way that makes sense, is efficient, and accomplishes the task it is supposed to. Nothing more. I also do my best to consider both the short and long term consequences of legislation we are working on. It is important to not rush into anything without thoroughly thinking it through and taking into account varying opinions before rendering a decision and then a vote.
Thus, I am ever watchful of the temptation to deviate from that careful path of liberty and fall into habits of the past – that is, passing legislation that is unnecessary and grows government. We also must be careful to not be too draconian in our approach to very important issues in which there might be viable alternatives that get us moving in the same direction. Patience and prudence are good attributes when legislating.
I bring up these points because this week, I got into a discussion with a good friend of mine about the dangers of groupthink. Groupthink occurs when a body of people, as part of a decision making process, make agreement the foremost goal, and individuality and dissent are essentially discouraged. This can occur in politics where a policy objective can be used to justify the means to get there, even if the means aren’t well thought out.
Lately, I have seen elements of groupthink emerge in the legislature, and it concerns me. No matter the issue, I think it is very important that all ideas are brought to bear and that we don’t operate in a way that discourages different ideas. While I trust the leaders of my party to put out their ideas in good faith, I also must trust my own judgment when reviewing the legislation they propose.
Remember, our liberty is always at stake, and as your representative, I will never forget that. I hope this gives you a better idea of my mindset when I’m serving in Topeka.
As I noted at the outset, this week we voted on a few pieces of legislation:
HB 2009 – HB 2009 would allow a driver facing driver’s license suspension for failing to comply fully with a traffic citation to submit a written request to the Division of Motor Vehicles for restricted driving privileges. The driver would be required to submit a non-refundable $25 fee for the restricted license to be retained by the Division’s operating fund. The House passed the bill by a vote of 63 to 60.
This is a good example of the type of legislation I described above, which I believe we must be careful to avoid. In my estimation, this legislation was unnecessary, as the suspended driver can simply pay the fine and get their license reinstated – without having to go through the process of a “restricted” license. Furthermore, it’s hard for me to envision that a police officer could determine whether the restricted driver was driving to a place he was allowed to or not thus making it difficult to enforce the restricted nature of the "restricted" license. We can’t read minds, and as such, we should avoid things like this. I voted No.
HB 2022 – HB 2022 would provide statutory authority for an employer to withhold or deduct money, subject to written notice and explanation, from an outgoing employee’s final wages for certain reasons including unreturned property, repayment of a loan, and replacement costs of the employer’s merchandise, uniforms or equipment purchased by the employee. I voted YES. The House passed HB 2022 by a vote of 91 to 29.
HB 2060 – HB 2060 would prohibit prisoners from receiving food sales tax refunds or homestead property tax refunds. An amendment was added to make it clear that the bill would only affect prisoners who claim the prison as their household. Currently, only three prisoners have filed for a sales tax refund but the Department of Revenue requested that the practice be prohibited before other prisoners follow suit. On February 7, the House passed HB 2060 by a vote of 123 to 0. I voted YES.
I missed a few votes on Friday when I had an excused absence. My sister fell ill and was admitted to the hospital on Thursday afternoon. Though she remains in the hospital, she is improving and gave us the directive that we shouldn't miss any more work. Being in Topeka for each legislative day is a priority for me, but family should always come first.
That wraps up this week’s legislative update. In the next three weeks, as we approach Turnaround (when most legislation must be out of one house to be voted on by the other), you can expect a longer list of legislation to be voted on, and I look forward to revealing my votes on those particular bills, as well.
You can look up legislation at any time on the Legisature's website and as always contact me with any questions or concerns you have.