News from Topeka- Week 5
February 13, 2011

I've learned many thing in the weeks I've been in Topeka about the process of creating legislation. One friend expressed an interest in some of the terms and how the process occurs. It is an interesting process, and there are more ways for a bill to die than there are for it to continue forth in the process. Here is a brief breakdown of the process and some key terminology used.

  1. A bill is introduced either by one or more individuals or by the committee.
  2. A hearing is called to discuss the proposed bill.
  3. The committee "works" the bill which includes debate, possible amendments, and a final vote from committee.
  4. If passed from committee, the bill then goes on the "calendar" for discussion on the House floor. Not all bills passed from committee make it to this step. It is completely by the discretion on the Speaker of the House.
  5. The House then debates the bill. A vote at the end of debate moves the bill to "final action".
  6. In final action, a recorded vote is taken.
  7. If the bill passes the House, it is sent to the Senate.
  8. Steps 1-6 occur in the Senate with the possibility of the bill dying at any of these steps.
  9. If the bill passes the Senate in the same form as the House, then it moves to the Governor for signature.
  10. If the bill passes the Senate in different form, the bill moves to conference committee with committee chair, vice-chair, and ranking minority member from each originating committee.
  11. Bill returns from conference committee to be accepted and sent to Governor or to fail to pass and die. Vocabulary you might see on my Facebook or Twitter page when I am facebooking/tweeting the debate of a bill (check into my page each day to see what has happened that day in Topeka!)

    Division Vote – If the chair is in doubt regarding a voice vote during General Orders, he will instruct the clerk to open the voting boards so individual votes can be counted. This is a division vote and is not recorded. In order to ensure that the vote is not recorded, the audience in the gallery is not allowed to take pictures of the voting boards or chamber during division votes.

    Roll Call Vote – A roll call vote simply indicates that a vote is recorded and printed in the House Journal. All Final Action votes are automatically roll call votes. In addition, during a division vote, fifteen members can raise their hands and request a roll call vote which requires the vote be recorded and printed in the House Journal.

    Reflections on Week 5

    This week the Statehouse was bustling with activity as deadlines for bill introductions quickly approach. In a few short weeks “turnaround” will be upon us, and any legislation not passed by the chamber where it originated will be considered “dead” unless blessed by the Speaker or belonging to one of our exempt committees. As a result, committees are meeting daily, sometimes multiple times a day, to hold hearings and vote on legislation. We are also spending a significant amount of time on the House floor debating and voting on legislation that has made its way out of committee.

    As of today, approximately 300 pieces of legislation have been introduced in the House alone. In an effort to debate and vote on as many bills as possible, increased workloads and long hours will be needed to meet the approaching "turnaround" deadline.

    Health Care Freedom Amendment
    On Thursday, February 10, the House entered into a lively debate on House Concurrent Resolution 5007. HCR 5007 proposes to amend the Kansas Constitution by inserting a new Article 16 regarding health care. Specifically, it protests the Affordable Care Act, passed by Congress in March 2010, which implemented a federal mandate requiring all individuals to have a minimum level of health insurance.

    The new article would prohibit any law or rule from compelling a person, employer or health care provider to participate in any heath care system or to purchase health insurance and allows a person or employer to directly pay for any health care service and not be subject to a penalty or fine. The amendment allows health care providers to accept direct payment for health care services from a person or employer and prohibits any laws or rules from disallowing the purchase or sale of private health insurance or participation in private health care systems.

    The House gave initial approval after Thursday’s vote with 93 members voting to approve the resolution. On Friday, the final vote is the House was 91-27 with several members being absent. If approved by two-thirds of the members of both the House of Representatives and Senate, the proposed constitutional amendment would be up for approval by Kansas voters during the November 2012 general election.

    I voted for HCR 5007. I believe the federal health reform package represents an overreach of power by the federal government and if not challenged government intrusion into the life of its citizens will only continue. You deserve the right to decide how Kansas will proceed regarding this issue, and if we are successful in getting the measure to the ballot I hope you will be sure to vote.

    House Rules
    A significant issue in the House this week was the adoption of the House rules. Passed by a vote of 76 to 46 on Monday, February 7, the rules are typically non-controversial and adopted early in the session without much fanfare. However, this year was different. Most of the rules in House Resolution 6004 are technical and merely solidify the long standing practices in the House of Representatives, but the addition of two new rules resulted in serious debate and consideration. The first altered one of the fundamental rules governing our budget building procedure while the second modified rules on caucus meetings.

    Commonly known as Pay-Go, the new budgeting rule requires any amendment to an appropriations bill to be cost neutral. If a legislator proposes an amendment that requires additional spending, their amendment must also include a way to pay for that specific expenditure. This eliminates the ability for members to propose new spending measures without a viable funding mechanism. Pay-Go is unprecedented in the Kansas Legislature and had previously not been adopted by either chamber in the Kansas Legislature.

    Pay-Go is the first step in re-thinking the way we budget as a state. Strained resources will continue forcing us to place an emphasis on prioritization of funds and realistic budgeting practices. I am convinced Pay-Go will have a positive impact in ensuring that each year we assemble a responsible budget.

    The other rule change approved with HR 6004 gives the House Republican and Democratic caucus the option of closing their caucus meetings. This rule change is not intended to keep the public or members of the media shut-out of caucus discussion on strategy, policy proposals or any legislative business. It simply provides the opportunity for each respective caucus to close their caucus meetings for private discussions of sensitive issues like personnel matters. Occasions where caucuses are close are expected to be few and far between and have not occurred once in the 5 weeks I have been in Topeka.

    Budget Freeze
    This week, after four hours of debate, the Kansas House passed Governor Brownback’s freeze bill which transforms the estimated $50 million deficit for the current fiscal year into a positive $37.5 million ending balance. This budget serves as the base for the next fiscal year budget, meaning every dollar saved this year amounts to two dollars saved in the 2012 budget.

    Three amendments were approved during the floor debate. The first, by Representative Goico transferred $181,000 of idle fund from an operating grant with the Board of Regents to provide additional funding to support veterans. A second amendment by Representative Goodman, shifted $195,000, also from operating grant funds with the Board of Regents, to veteran claim assistance programs. Representative Kinzer offered the third amendment which removes all funding from Planned Parenthood to ensure that state dollars are not used for abortion services.

    The debate regarding HB 2014 was the first under the aforementioned Pay-Go provisions in the House rules. As a result, we passed a responsible budget that protects essential services while providing a positive ending balance for the current fiscal year. Pay-Go has already proven its value in providing accountability to the budgeting process.

    Upcoming Events
    I will continue to participate in the Legislative Forums hosted by Tim Owens (yet to be scheduled) as well as any other forums that I am invited to attend. As these events are planned, I will post them on my website as well as inform you in the weekly legislative update.

    4th Annual Eggs and Issues Breakfast
    hosted by Sunflower Republican Club
    Date: Saturday, February 19th
    Time: 9:30-11:30am
    Where: Shawnee First Watch
    Address: 11112 W 63rd

    Johnson County Republican Legislators will be in attendance to give an update on legislation and issues under consideration.

    2011 Legislative Breakfast Series
    hosted by the local Chambers of Commerce
    Date: Saturday, April 16th
    Time: 7:30am
    Where: Ritz Charles Overland Park
    Address: 9000 W 137th

    Contacts Me
    I hope you are tracking the legislature’s work in Topeka and, if possible, take the time to visit this session. If you will be visiting, let my office know so I can schedule time to meet with you. In the meantime, I’m always anxious to hear your thoughts on how the issues discussed in Topeka affect you. Reliable feedback is very important in making sure I’m accurately representing my friends and neighbors here in the district. Please feel free to call or email and I’d be happy to discuss any topic in which you are interested. Thank you for the honor of serving you.

    Office phone: 785-296-7659
    Legislative email: amanda.grosserode@house.ks.gov
    Facebook: Amanda Grosserode
    Twitter: amanda4kansas

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Paid for by Amanda Grosserode for State Representative; Christie Glasgow, Treasurer
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