March 14, 2011
I have been getting many questions about my family especially the boys. So I thought I would start this week's newsletter with an update about them as well. They are doing well. Chad works a staggered 2nd shift, and we are lucky to have child care provided by a friend with 3 children of her own. She is even able to stay late on the nights I am unable to make it home from Topeka. My mom visited during "turnaround" week to provide that extra level of help needed while I stayed in Topeka all week long.
To the left is a picture of the boys earlier this week on Logan's birthday. I spent the day in Topeka, so cake making duty fell to my husband. He has a great deal of creativity as you can tell by the cake and its decorations! I am very thankful for him and his skills every day!
On Friday, we completed the ninth week of the legislative session. This week brings another set of deadlines. This week is the last full week most committees have to consider legislation. To be considered by the full House before the regular session comes to an end in early April, it is critical any remaining legislation is passed out of committee by Friday.
On Friday, the Education Committee held a hearing for SB 33 to establish criteria for middle and high school athletes and concussions. Dr. Kendall Payne, a resident of District 16, testified. Thank you, Dr. Payne, for traveling to Topeka to share your knowledge on this subject. To the right is a picture of me with Dr. Payne prior to the hearing.
If you are visiting the Capitol, I would love to visit with you. Contact my office assistant, Cathy. She will let you know where I will be throughout the day.
Local Option Budget (LOB) – In current statute, the local option budget is the amount of money a school district is allowed to raise locally. Districts can raise an LOB amount equal to 30% of the district’s general fund budget. If a district has an election and the voters approve, a district can go one percent higher, to 31%. Approximately ten districts in Kansas have held elections and have the ability to raise 31% for LOB. However, the law specifies that the amount cannot be higher than 31%.
Local Activities Budget (LAB) – The LAB is currently a proposal. It was first introduced last year and was in HB 2201 this year. It would allow a district to raise money above the 31% ceiling currently in place for the LOB. HB 2201 would allow the districts that have raised their LOB to 31% to increase the LAB by 5%. In this proposal, unlike the LOB, the state would not “equalize” the local option budget for the LAB. The funds raised would go to pay for non-mandated school programs.
Reflections from Topeka
This week the Department of Labor issued new figures on the unemployment rate in Kansas showing a January unemployment rate of 6.8 percent. For January, all major industries in Kansas reported job losses. A majority of these losses were seasonal because of the winter weather and the end of the holiday season. Compared to January 2010, the unemployment rate for January 2011 was down 0.4 percent.
There was good news included in the report. Five major industries in Kansas reported over-the- year job gains in 2010. These industries include: professional and business services, education and health services, mining and logging, leisure and hospitality, and government. The remaining industries reporting statewide losses over the year were: information services, construction and financial activities.
Equal Benefits for Agent Orange Treatment (HCR 5016)
Thousands of Vietnam veterans suffer from the effects of being exposed to Agent Orange. Although commonly associated with Vietnam, the chemical was also extensively used in surrounding areas like Thailand. Today, many of our Vietnam vets who served outside of Vietnam are struggling to obtain the same medical benefits and compensation to treat the side-effects of Agent Orange as those who served in Vietnam.
In response, the House this week took action with unanimous passage of HCR 5016, urging the United States Congress to extend equal benefits and compensation for the treatment of Agent Orange exposure to Vietnam era veterans who served outside of Vietnam.
Gubernatorial Inaugural Funds (SB 67)
When Governor Brownback was elected last year, many of us were surprised to find out that under current law he would not be able to donate the proceeds of his inauguration ball to charity, as he had planned to do. This is obviously a worthy and creative way to use these funds, so I was pleased this week to vote for a solution to this problem.
SB 67 allows unused gubernatorial inaugural funds to be donated to a 501(c)(3) charitable organization. The bill would allow two other options in current law to be deposited in the State Treasury and credited to reimburse amounts spent by the Adjutant General for expenses incurred in connection with the gubernatorial inauguration or to the Executive Mansion Gifts Fund for expenditures related to the governor’s residence, historic properties, or both.
Kline Ethics Hearings
On Thursday, several members of the House Republican Caucus held a press conference discussing the recent ethics hearings for former Attorney General Phill Kline. Primary focus was drawn to the failure of the state to fully investigate the 200 plus instances where underage children became pregnant and had an abortion. From 2001 to 2003, records show there were 249 abortions performed on children aged 14 and under. Only two of these cases were reported to the Department of Social and Rehabilitation Services for investigation.
As a result, the House has passed House Bill 2035 which requires more transparency in the reporting of underage sex abuse cases by abortion providers. The House has also voted separately to eliminate Planned Parenthood’s access to Title X funds. Both bills now reside in the Senate. Initial indications are that the bills will be heard in Senate committees early next week.
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.
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