The 2015 Legislative session is getting into full swing with numerous new bills being introduced and hearings being held in committees. It is always a pleasure to meet with people from home who travel to Topeka for advocacy days and annual association meetings. Last week I enjoyed attending the Public Safety Annual Legislative event and visiting with Wyandotte County Sheriff Don Ash as well as the County Appraisers Legislative Reception where I had the opportunity to visit with Wyandotte County Appraiser Gene Bryant.
It remains an incredible honor to represent our community in the Kansas House of Representatives. While the Legislature is in Session, I do my best to stay in touch and keep you informed by email, and I spend countless hours every week helping my constituents solve problems. If I can be of service to you or anyone you know, please call my office at 785-296-7371, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
State Representative, District 32
2015 Legislative Newsletter - Issue 2
- 2015 Education Funding
- The Future of KPERS
- Medicaid Expansion
- Job Numbers
- Happy Kansas Day!
- The Adoption of a State Fish
- Education Ruling to be appealed
- Raising the Minimum Wage
- Changes to Conceal and Carry
- In the pipeline
2015 Education Funding
A bill that has been fast tracked in the Kansas Senate has me deeply concerned about the future of funding for public schools. The bill, SB 71 which was introduced earlier this week, would immediately cut more than $39 million from Kansas schools by amending the supplemental general state aid calculation. The cuts would affect almost every school district in the state and would occur during the current school year, meaning districts wouldn’t receive funds they had budgeted for. In the future, local communities could adjust to the proposed recalculations by raising their mill levies at the cost of local tax payers, but that wouldn’t solve the immediate problem schools would face this year.
The Future of KPERS
Earlier this week the House Committee on Pensions and Benefits heard testimony on a bill that would issue $1.5 billion in pension obligation bonds to finance a portion of the $9.8 billion unfunded liability of the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System (KPERS). The bill also schedules a reduction in employer contributions in 2017 to free up funds to begin making payments on the bonds. The cost of interest on the debt would total more than $1. 2 billion, which is almost as much as the original cost of the bonds. Borrowing and creating new debt to cover old debt is not fiscally responsible and does not resolve the state’s systemic revenue problem. Committee hearings on the bill have ended, and the committee will continue to work the bill next week.
Hearings on a bill that would expand Medicaid continued this week. The measure would provide coverage to an additional 169,000 Kansans who are currently without insurance. Independent estimates conclude that the state has lost over $380 million in federal funds by refusing to expand Medicaid. Kansas healthcare providers have begun pleading with the legislature to expand Medicaid because it is critical to the future of rural hospitals across the state.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that recent job growth in Kansas was slower compared to other states our region. In December of 2014 Kansas’ job growth for the year was record as 0.9%, placing us behind three of our four bordering states:
Governor Brownback’s tax plan was supposed to provide “a shot of adrenaline to the Kansas economy,” by creating jobs for Kansas workers, yet job creation has slowed since his tax cuts took effect in 2013. The real result of Gov. Brownback’s tax plan has not been jobs, it has been a $1 billion budget deficit.
Happy Kansas Day!
On Thursday of this week we observed something that is near and dear to every legislator- Kansas Day! As I celebrated the state, I was reminded that for over 154 Kansans have fought to make their lives and their communities better; from abolition, to woman’s suffrage, to the end of government-sanctioned racial segregation Kansans have never been to forge their own way, and I am honored to serve Kansas as a member of the House of Representatives.
The Adoption of a State Fish
The Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources has introduced a bill that would make the channel catfish the official state fish. The channel catfish is the “bread and butter of Kansas Fishing,” and can be found in almost all waters across the state. The Kansas staple is a favorite of fishers with the largest recorded catch in Kansas history weighing in at 38 pounds and 6 ounces.
Education Ruling to be appealed
Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced that he intends to appeal the recent Court decision that ordered the state legislature to increase funding to education to meet the Constitutional mandate to adequately fund public education. The appeal is just another political move that hurts Kansas schools. The legislature shouldn’t adequately fund public education because a court orders it; we should do it because it is the right thing to do. It is time to stop playing partisan politics with our children’s futures and invest in public education.
Raising the Minimum Wage
Bills have been introduced in both the House and Senate that would raise the state’s minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.25 per hour. Each bill outlines an incremental increase of $1.00 per year, each year, until 2017. A full time minimum wage employee who currently earns $15,080 a year would earn $21,320 by 2017 if the bill passes. Both bills are awaiting action in their chamber’s respective committees.
Changes to Conceal and Carry
A bill in the Senate would allow any Kansans who can legally own a gun to conceal the firearm while carrying in public without a permit. The proposed bill changes the current conceal and carry law, which was passed in 2006, and requires individuals to complete a firearm safety course before obtaining a permit. The bill, if passed in the Kansas Senate, would come before the House to debate in the coming weeks.
In the pipeline
There are a few bills of interest that will be heard in the next few weeks that I am keeping my eye on.
One initiative in the House would make it a crime to post nude photographs of a former spouse or significant other without their expressed consent. Two bills have been proposed to outlaw so called “Revenge Porn,” and Kansas would join sixteen other states that have laws against such online posts.
The House Judiciary Committee has introduced a bill that would abolish Kansas’ death penalty, replacing it with life in prison without the possibility of parole Kansas’ death penalty was struck down by the US Supreme Court in 1972, and was reinstituted in 1994 by the state legislature. The most recent execution occurred in 1965 when Perry Edward Smith and Richard Hickok were put to death for the murders of Herb, Bonnie, Nancy, and Kenyon Clutter. The deaths of the Clutter family were made infamous by Truman Capote’s 1965 book In Cold Blood. The state currently has nine capital punishment inmates awaiting execution.
A bi-partisan bill to establish a sales tax holiday weekend has been proposed in the House. The sales tax holiday would take place every year during the first weekend in August, and would allow Kansans to purchase items like school supplies, textbooks, backpacks, and clothes prior to school starting in the fall. The bill has been referred to the Committee on Taxation and is awaiting a hearing.