February 20, 2011
The Legislature has now been is session for 6 weeks, and this upcoming week will be the busiest to date. This Friday, the 25th, is "turnaround". Turnaround is the halfway point of the session. In order to be considered for the remainder of the session, bills introduced in the House must be passed before Friday. The bills not passed will be considered dead for the remainder of the session. However, a select group of bills are exempt from the deadline and work on those pieces of legislation can continue after turnaround, even if not passed out of the House. Post turnaround, the focus will be on legislation which passed the Senate as well as continued work on the fiscal year 2012 budget.
I've seen many articles and news stories about the rallies and protests in Wisconsin due to the proposed budget cuts. The budgetary problems in Wisconsin are not unique. We in Kansas are also facing very serious financial problems. Here are just a few of those facts detailing why it is such a serious problem:
- $56 million budget shortfall for the current fiscal year (this would be solved with the Governor's freeze bill).
- Almost $500 million projected budgetary shortfall for Fiscal Year 2012 (begins in July).
- $4.2 billion in KS state debt, which amounts to about $1,140 per person. Compare that to our neighboring states: MO- $780 per person, CO- $400 per person, and NE- $15 per person.
- KPERS (the KS public employees' retirement system) is $7.7 billion underfunded, and that is a conservative estimate based upon returns we aren't making in the system.
- Over 50% of the state general fund goes to K-12 education. The percentage jumps to 67% when post-secondary education is added.
Concur – When House and Senate versions of a bill differ, a conference committee composed of the committee chair, vice-chair and ranking minority member from each chamber or other members appointed by the Speaker and Senate President meets to reconcile the differences. Once the conference committee has reached an agreement, the conference committee report is brought before the respective bodies for a vote.
The conference committee could recommend that the House of origin concur with the changes. If the body votes to concur, the changes made in conference committee are adopted and the bill is sent to the governor for a signature. If the body votes to non-concur, the conference committee must meet again to continue negotiations. If a motion to concur is made and does not prevail, that too will send the issue back to conference committee.
Senate Rules only allow one motion to concur. In the past, the House Rules allowed multiple motions to concur to or adopt the committee report. However, the House Rules adopted this year limit motions to concur to one per conference committee report.
Reflections from Topeka
Progress of the Governor’s Freeze Bill
When the Senate passed the Governor’s freeze bill early this week, it included $10 million in additional spending resulting in a potential FY 2011 ending balance of a mere $2 million. The largest portion of the spending added by the Senate was $25 million for special education to meet an unknown amount of federally required maintenance-of-effort.
Although there have been several wildly divergent estimates on the required amount, it will not be available from the United States Department of Education until late April or mid May. School districts did not plan for the $25 million when drafting their 2011 budgets so not appropriating the funds now will not affect their current budgets. With a $56 million hole looming at the end of FY 2011, the Governor and House have made it clear that the goal is a rescission bill that establishes a responsible ending balance.
In conference, the House established its willingness to negotiate on small budget items after addressing $25 million in special education funding which comprises the largest difference between the House and Senate positions. Additionally, the state is holding a $25 million deposit from the Peninsula Gaming Partners for the construction of the Kansas South Central Casino. There are questions regarding zoning compliance that could halt the construction of the casino and require the state to repay the deposit.
On Wednesday, the House passed a workers’ compensation reform on a 90 to 29 vote. The legislation is the result of committee deliberation and extensive negotiation between labor and business representatives. It is the most comprehensive workers’ compensation package considered in seventeen years and the first to pass with support from both labor and business interests.
Recent case law that has strayed from legislative intent served as the impetus for this reform. This compromise package addresses those decisions and reinforces the intent of the workers’ compensation system. The reform will improve the business climate in Kansas and increase our competitiveness with surrounding states while ensuring injured workers receive the care and benefits they need.
The compromise protects and reinforces the intent of the Kansas workers’ compensation system by making the four following changes:
The House has made economic growth a top priority. By clarifying the workers’ compensation guidelines, this legislation improves the business climate in our state and benefits both labor and business. This reform will have a positive impact on economic growth in Kansas.
- Employers must pay for workplace injuries.
- Employees are compensated without regard to fault.
- Employers do not have to pay unwarranted claims.
- Benefit caps for injured workers are significantly increased. The cap for permanent injuries is raised by $30,000 while the death benefit will increase from $250,000 to $300,000.
In-state Tuition for Illegal Immigrants
In 2004 the Kansas Legislature passed legislation establishing statutory criteria for determining the eligibility of illegal immigrants to qualify for in-state tuition and fees at Kansas post secondary institutions. Qualifications under current law:
House bill 2006 would repeal the above provisions allowing illegal immigrants to be considered in-state residents for the purposes of paying fees and tuition at Kansas post-secondary institutions. The bill declares anyone unlawfully present in the United States is not a resident of Kansas and is prohibited from receiving in- state fees and tuition at any Kansas post-secondary institution. Debate on this legislation is scheduled for Monday, February 21.
- 3 or more years attending an accredited Kansas high school
- Graduated from a Kansas high school
- Obtained a Kansas GED certificate
- Accepted to a KS post secondary institution
- Have filed an affidavit stating they have begun the process of legalizing their immigration status, are working to become a US Citizen, or their parents have filed for such application.
Interstate Commerce, Long-Gun Firearms
House bill 2013 repeals five existing laws regarding the sale and purchase of firearms commonly known as long guns. Current law allows Kansans to only buy and sell long gun firearms from states contiguous to Kansas as originally required by 1934 federal law. In 1984, federal law was amended to remove restrictions on interstate activity and HB 2013 would update Kansas law with existing federal law. This passed out of the committee of Fed & State Affairs with unanimous support.
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.
Townhall with multiple State Representative
Date: Saturday, March 12th
Legislative Forum hosted by State Senator Tim Owens with invited State Representatives
Date: Saturday, March 26th
Location: Matt Ross Community Center
Address: 8101 Marty Street, Overland Park
2011 Legislative Breakfast Series
hosted by the local Chambers of Commerce
Date: Saturday, April 16th
Where: Ritz Charles Overland Park
Address: 9000 W 137th
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: firstname.lastname@example.org
Facebook: Amanda Grosserode
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