March 1, 2011
Week 7 concluded the halfway point of the 2011 session known as "turnaround". Committees continued to meet Monday and Tuesday morning. The focus for the remainder of Tuesday and all day Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday was the turnaround deadline in which bills from the House needed to be sent to the Senate. By the time we adjourned on Friday, the House had debated and voted on approximately 65 pieces of legislation this week alone.
The Legislature was not in session this Monday or Tuesday in order to give the clerical staff time to process the significant amount of paperwork resulting from turnaround. When we return Wednesday, the focus of the House will primarily be on legislation which passed the Senate and has made its way to the House. Work will also continue on addressing the approximate $500 million budget hole for the 2012 fiscal year beginning July 1.
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.
Final Action – A day after a bill passes the Committee of the Whole (COW) which allows amendments by the full House, the House Rules require the bill to lay over for a day before the Final Action vote that will pass the legislation to the Senate. Final Action votes are normally taken at the beginning of the daily session. During Final Action, members must be in their seats and staff, guests and visitors are not allowed on the floor at that time.
Emergency Final Action (EFA) – Most often seen on Fridays, Emergency Final Action allows legislators to leave for home rather than having to vote on a Saturday. If a majority of the House votes to suspend the rules that require bills to lay over a day between being worked in the COW and a Final Action vote, bills can go to Final Action on the same day they pass the COW.
Call of the House – If a legislator is not present for a Final Action vote, members can request a call of the House to hold the vote until the absent legislator arrives to cast his or her vote. If ten members raise their hands during Final Action, a call of the House is in order. During a call of the House, the doors are shut and members cannot leave unless excused by the Speaker. A close vote on a contentious issue can cause a call of the House that lasts hours.
Exempt Committees – There are three exempt House committees: The Appropriations, Taxation and Federal and State Affairs Committees. Bills introduced into, or ever touching, these committees are exempt from session deadlines; they have been “blessed.”
Reflections from Topeka
Boeing Awarded Air Force Tanker Contract
This week the Pentagon announced Boeing won the $35 billion contract to replace a fleet of aging Air Force mid-air refueling tankers – a decision that will bring thousands of jobs to Kansas. The initial contract calls for the delivery of 18 tankers by 2017 with a follow up contract resulting in a total of 179 tankers. Boeing estimates the project will result in the creation of 50,000 jobs in the Unites States for Boeing and its suppliers. Of those jobs, 7,500 are anticipated for Wichita based Spirit AeroSystems, a Boeing supplier.
This is tremendous news for Kansas as the economic impact is projected to be $388 million a year. A special thank you needs to go out to the Kansas federal delegation and Governor Brownback who were integral to bringing the tanker jobs to our state.
By mirroring the federal law, HB 2135 defines misclassification of employees as independent contractors in order to evade tax withholding, contribution requirements. This legislation was important to the business community and passed 85 to 34.
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. Current law allows such students to qualify for in-state tuition if they attended an accredited Kansas high school for three or more years; graduated from a Kansas high school or obtained a Kansas GED certificate; have been accepted to a Kansas post secondary institution and have filed an affidavit stating they have began the process of legalizing their immigration status, are working to become a U.S. Citizen or their parents have filed for such applications.
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 that anyone unlawfully present in the United States is not a resident of Kansas and is therefore prohibited from receiving in-state fees and tuition at any Kansas post-secondary institution.
On Tuesday, February 22, the House passed HB 2006 by a vote of 72 to 50.
Late Term and Partial Birth Abortions
House Bill 2035 places further restrictions on late term abortion procedures, expands parental consent requirements for minors seeking abortions and strengthens the state’s partial birth abortion law to where it better aligns with tighter federal law. This particular measure is a combination of legislation passed during prior sessions that was vetoed by democratic governors Sebelius and Parkinson.
Key provisions of HB 2035:
On Thursday, February 24, the House passed HB 2035 by a vote of 96 to 25.
- Requires a specific medical diagnosis for a late-term abortion to occur
- Requires women seeking abortions to be provided with information that states the procedure will terminate the life of a human being
- Allows for civil lawsuits against doctors who violate late-term abortion law
- Mandates additional reporting of abuse evidence on minors wanting an abortion
- Clarifies when courts can bypass parental consent requirements
Fetal Pain Abortion Regulations
House Bill 2218 enacts new restrictions on certain late term abortions by adding provisions addressing the ability of an unborn child to feel pain. The bill defines a “pain-capable child” as an unborn child who is of the gestational age of at least 22 weeks and sets restrictions and requirements on physicians performing abortions in instances that involves an unborn child who is capable of feeling pain. Circumstances are established in the bill for exceptions where the life of a pregnant woman is at risk or where the pregnant woman will experience substantial and irreversible physical harm if the pregnancy continues.
On Thursday, February 24, the House passed HB 2218 by a vote of 91 to 30.
The Secure and Fair Election (SAFE) Act, contained in House Bill 2067, requires all Kansas voters to show photo identification before voting, requires proof of citizenship when registering to vote, and extends the power to prosecute alleged cases of voter fraud to the Secretary of State’s office. At the polls, voters must show government issued photo ID before casting their ballot. The measure requires voters who request an advance or mail-in ballot must include their driver’s license number or a photocopy of their ID with their ballot application.
The bill strengthens the penalties for voting without being qualified, voting multiple times during the same election, for tampering with elections, falsely impersonating another voter and for illegally handling advance ballots.
Opponents argue the measure is a modern day poll tax that disenfranchises the disabled, poor and elderly. In response, current provisions in the bill allow low-income Kansans to get a free ID or birth certificate if they reside in a household with an annual income of 150 percent of the federal poverty level (approximately $33,000 for a family of four). For residents over the age of 65, an expired driver’s license or photo ID can be used in lieu of a current form of photo ID.
On Friday, February 25, the House passed HB 2067 by a vote of 83 to 36.
Union Contributions to PACs
House Bill 2130, known commonly as “paycheck protection” helps ensure labor, public employee and professional employee union members’ wages are not automatically withheld for political contributions. Current law permits these organizations to use paycheck deductions for political activities. The bill changes that law to give union members the freedom to choose how they would like their contribution to be spent. Union members still have the option of donating funds through personal payments to union PAC activities. If the union uses an employee’s paycheck deduction improperly, the bill allows the employee to sue the union for damages.
If workers want their financial support to go to a political candidate, they are still given the opportunity to direct their money to that respective candidate. If workers would like their funds to go towards negotiations or other union activity, then those dollars must be specifically directed to those endeavors.
This was certainly our most explosive issue this week, with union workers arriving at the Capitol to protest the final action vote Thursday. While spirited dissent and thorough debate has always been a cornerstone of our democratic process—some of the tactics employed this week by the unions during their visit crossed the line of civility and rational dissent.
On Thursday, February 24, the House passed HB 2130 by a vote of 75 to 46.
Speed Limit Increase
House Bill 2034 increases the maximum speed limit on any separated multi-lane Kansas Highway from 70 miles per hour to 75 miles per hour. This is a change that’s been considered for some time, and after full deliberation in our transportation committee this year, it was recommended favorably. The new law applies only to 4-lane divided highways, and simply allows the Department of Transportation to raise the limit in instances they have deemed it safe to do so. In most cases this will mean rural areas will be the first to see the possible limit increases.
Kansas was actually one of the few states with stretches of rural, unobstructed highways that still observed the 70 mph limit. An amendment was also added that will sustain the current “allowances” granted if drivers are stopped for speeding violations. Violations of less than 10 mph above the limit will still not affect insurance rates, and be classified as moving violations. I think this is a prudent step, and I’m hopeful the Senate will approve the measure as well.
On Friday, February 25, the House passed HB 2034 by a vote of 95 to 23.
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.
3 District Meet and Greet with State Representatives
Amanda Grosserode, Jim Denning, and Greg Smith
Date: Saturday, March 12th
Location: Valley View Methodist Church- Fellowship Hall
Address: 8412 West 95th Street
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
Here for more information about cost, to RSVP, and other dates in the breakfast series.
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