This was a short week for legislators in Topeka. We were on the floor all day Monday and Tuesday, debating and voting on 29 bills. Tuesday was “Turnaround Day.” Turnaround marks the halfway point in the legislative session. All bills are required to have passed their house of origin by this date. We are on break until next Wednesday. When we return, we will spend the remainder of the session considering the bills passed by the Senate and they will do the same on the bills we passed in the House.
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
Overview of Votes this Week
As I mentioned above, the House worked 29 bills on the floor this week. The majority were uncontroversial, but a few generated debate and are worth noting:
- Revenge porn: Created a crime for when a person posts nude images or videos of an ex-lover online without his or her permission. I voted in favor of this bill.
- Speed limit increased: Raising the speed limit on highways by 5 mph. There was attempt to raise the speed limit to 80 mph on interstate highways but the attempt failed.
- Head injuries: Permitting chiropractors to sign off on whether a student athlete can return to the playing field after a head injury. I heard from constituents concerned about this measure and voted against this bill on the motion to reconsider.
- KPERS death & disability: $40 million was withheld for KPERS death and disability. I voted against this bill.
- Convention of States: A resolution calling on Congress to convene a Constitutional Convention to draft amendments to the U.S. Constitution to protect us from the “tyranny” of the federal government failed. I voted against this resolution.
- Hunt, fish, and trap: A resolution to add the rights of Kansans to hunt, fish, and trap to the State Constitution passed the House. I voted in favor of this bill that passed by a vote of 117 to 7.
- Ethnic studies: A bill that would have added ethnic studies to our school’s curriculum didn’t pass the House. I voted in favor of this bill.
Session Highlights to Date
As we have reached the half-way point in the session, I think it is worth noting what the legislature has done and, maybe more importantly, what we haven’t.
- Both the House and Senate passed a budget. It is currently on the governor’s desk awaiting his signature. The $16 billion budget only leaves a $6 million ending balance, far less than the 7.5% required by law.
- Attempts to vote on Medicaid expansion have been blocked by procedural moves in both the House and the Senate.
- Both the House and the Senate passed a bill ensuring Kansas Courts will remain open after funding was threatened. A bill to change the way Supreme Court justices are selected was defeated in the House.
The Legislature is officially on break until next Wednesday, but once we come back, there are still a lot of issues for us to address (like the school funding case), so I anticipate the second half of the session being a busy one.
Democrats Call on Republican Leadership to Address School Finance
On Tuesday, Democrats from both the House and Senate criticized Gov. Sam Brownback and his Republican allies in the legislature for failing to prioritize school funding. The Kansas Supreme Court ruling declaring the current school funding as unconstitutional has been out for two weeks and there has been zero movement by the Republican legislature to address it. Republicans and Democrats need to meet to develop a solution so our schools are not closed in August. This issue needs to be addressed and it needs to be addressed now because:
- Class sizes are increasing
- Teachers are fleeing the state
- Test scores are dropping
Kansas Bridges ‘Structurally Deficient’
A report by the American Road and Transportation Builders Association released this week indicates that Kansas has more than 2,300 bridges that are considered “structurally deficient.” Kansas is ranked the sixth highest state in the country for the number of structurally deficient bridges.
Being labeled as “structurally deficient” means a bridge is rated as being in a poor or worse condition and needs to be repaired.
This report is troubling. Gov. Brownback has swept more than $1 billion from the Kansas Department of Transportation to the State General Fund to balance the state budget. Now that we know the safety of Kansans is being threatened, I hope legislators will act.
State Library of Kansas Resources
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Free Tax Preparation Sites
Assistance with individualized tax preparation is available to residents for free at the following locations:
City Hall, 7th & Ann Avenue, KCK
Mondays 9am to 2:30 pm
Catholic Charities/El Centro, 2200 Central Ave, KCK (Spanish language assistance available)
Thursdays 4pm to 8:30 pm and Saturdays 8am to 3pm
KCK Community College, Flint Building, 7250 State Avenue, KCK (Spanish language assistance available)
Wednesdays 5pm to 8pm
Saturdays 1pm to 4pm (also 9am to noon starting March 26th)
KCK Community College, Jewell Student Center Upper Level, 7250 State Avenue, KCK
Tuesdays 10 am to 2pm
Thursdays 10 am to 2pm
KCK Public Library, Turner Community Library, 831 S. 55th St, KCK
Thursdays 10 am to 2pm
Providence YMCA, 8601 Parallel Parkway, KCK (Appointment required via www.kstaxaide.com )
Wednesdays 12pm to 2pm
Fridays 12pm to 2pm
Important documents to bring to the Tax-Aide Site include:
- Social Security # or ITIN# for each family member
- Valid picture ID
- All W-2 forms for all jobs & all 1099 forms for other income
- Child care provider name, address and tax ID
- Any other tax-related documents
- Bank account information for direct deposit
- A copy of last year’s tax return (if available)
- All adults on the return need to be present to sign