Archive for Friday, February 12, 2010

Week 5 Legislative Update

February 12, 2010

Here is week 5 of my legislative update. Bills coming to the Senate floor have increased significantly and we will spend much of our time next week debating bills on the floor of the full Senate.

SCHEDULE ANNOUNCED FOR TURNAROUND WEEK

As we approach turnaround – the deadline for most bills to clear their house of origin to stay alive in the current session – senators will be working longer hours on the Senate floor in addition to our regular committee meetings. Next Thursday and Friday, the Senate is scheduled to convene at 10 a.m. instead of our normal 2 p.m. meeting time. If there is still a need for further debate on any non-exempt bills, the Senate may also convene on Saturday.

This is an exciting time of year, and I encourage each of you to take an active role in our state government. All House and Senate sessions are open to the public. Complete daily calendars are available for you to follow at http://www.kslegislature.org/www.kslegislature.org along with live broadcasts of Senate and House proceedings.

I am honored to serve as your senator and am humbled by the support I receive from my community. I want to thank the people of the 5th District for allowing me this opportunity. My office is located in room 124-E. Please feel free to visit, or to contact me at (785) 296-7357 if you should have any questions.

BILL TO CHANGE HOW JUVENILES ARE DETAINED AFTER AN ARREST

On Thursday, the Senate debated a bill which would change the way children under age 18 are allowed to be detained after being arrested for purchasing or consuming alcohol.

Currently, police officers are allowed to place a juvenile in jail for violating alcohol consumption laws. The federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act (JJDPA), however, bans youths under age 18 from being placed in jail for committing offenses that are legal for adults – such as underage drinking.

Senate Bill 452 would change current state law and dictate that children can be placed in a juvenile detention center for no longer than 24 hours, excluding weekends and legal holidays.

I voted in favor of this bill. In my opinion, the state goes too far when placing a child in jail for no other reason than consuming or purchasing alcohol. While there need to be consequences for breaking the law, detaining children in a juvenile correctional facility is adequate as long as no other laws have been broken.

In addition, by changing our state law to coincide with federal mandates, the State of Kansas will be eligible to receive more than $120,000 in federal Title II funding.

BILL MAKES IT EASIER TO RETURN UNCLAIMED PROPERTY

The state of Kansas will be able to return more unclaimed money to Kansas residents starting next year if Senate Bill 479 is signed into law. The bill, which was approved by the Senate on Thursday, will allow that Kansas Department of Revenue to provide information to the State Treasurer’s Office in order to locate owners of unclaimed tax returns. The information would include current and prior addresses of taxpayers, listed spouses and dependents.

There were no opponents to the bill.

The State Treasurer’s Office is currently holding more than $187 million in unclaimed money and property including court deposits, insurance benefits, dormant checking accounts, safe deposit box contents, and unclaimed wages, among many others. To search for unclaimed property or to file a free claim, visit http://www.kansascash.com/www.kansascash.com.

PRIMARY SEAT BELL BILL PASSES OUT OF SENATE TRANSPORTATION

In a comprehensive effort to prevent the deaths of countless Kansans, the Senate Transportation Committee has again approved a bill that will toughen laws against drivers not wearing a seat belt. Last year, the Senate approved a similar bill only to have it die in the House Transportation Committee.

This year’s bill – SB 483 – will allow police officers to pull over and ticket motorists or passengers for not wearing a seat belt.

Although the law will take effect June 30, 2010, only warnings will be issued until then. Afterward, unbelted drivers will be subject to a $60 fine, including court costs. Current law mandates that officers must stop a driver for another infraction, such as speeding or running a red light, before addressing a "secondary" violation related to seat belt usage.

If the bill is signed into law, the State of Kansas has an opportunity to receive an estimated $11 million in additional federal transportation funds made available to states that institute a primary seat belt law.

Traffic accidents are the No. 1 cause of death for young drivers and some studies have found that nearly 85 percent of drivers don’t regularly wear a seat belt. Kansas ranks 43rd among states in seat belt compliance. In 2008, the Kansas Department of Transportation reported more than 14,000 cases of safety belt violations.

HISTORIC TAX CREDIT BILL GOES TO THE FULL SENATE

The Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee approved SB 378 and now it goes to the full Senate for probable consideration next week. This bill would reduce the historical preservation tax credit by 10 percent for projects completed on July 1, 2010, through June 30, 2011. Current law caps the amount of historical preservation tax credits that can be issued in FY 2010 and FY 2011 at $3,750,000. This bill would remove that cap for 2011.

SENATE RECOMMENDS PARALYMPIAN FOR PRESIDENT’S COUNCIL

On Wednesday, the Senate unanimously approved a resolution recommending Downs, Kansas native Kevin Saunders for the position of Chairman of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports.

Saunders previously served as a committee member under President George H.W. Bush and President Bill Clinton.

As a committee member, Kevin has worked directly with the Surgeon General to establish physical activity as necessary for a healthy life and encouraged schools to incorporate healthy eating habits, cardio exercise, strength training, and plyometric training into their curriculums.

I was extremely proud to vote in favor of this Senate Resolution. Despite being badly injured and handicapped in 1981, Kevin has dedicated his life to promoting physical activity and fitness among Kansans of all ages, backgrounds, and abilities. Through his advocacy, Kevin has positively touched the lives of countless disabled Americans and serves as a role model to us all. I have full confidence in his ability to lead this group, and proudly support him for the chairman position.

The President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports (PCPFS) is a 20-member advisory committee made up of volunteer citizens who directly advice the President, as well as the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Through its programs and partnerships with the public, private and non-profit sectors, the council promotes health, physical fitness, activity, and enjoyment for people through participation in physical activity and sports.

Current and former council members include professional athletes, Olympians, world champions, and sports industry leaders.

SENATE COMMITTEE HEARS POST-SECONDARY EDUCATION UPDATE

More Kansans attain a post-secondary education than average, according to testimony presented to the Senate Education Committee on Tuesday by President of the Midwestern Higher Education Compact (MHEC).

Annual research conducted by MHEC revealed that Kansas is one of only three Midwest states to rank better than the national average in the percentage of residents age 25 or older who hold a bachelor’s or higher degree. Reports also indicate that enrollment is higher in Kansas than in most states. According to statistics, six percent of Kansans age 25-49 have attended a post-secondary institution, compared to 5.7 percent nationally.

According to 2008 numbers, the percentage of Kansas citizens aged 25-34 with associate’s degrees or higher (41.5 percent) outranks the national average (39.2), but falls behind other MHEC states such as Minnesota (48.3) and Nebraska (44.1).

Following testimony, committee members expressed the need for future MHEC studies to include technical degrees related to specific job fields. President Isaak agreed that more Kansans are pursuing job-specific technical degrees and further research should include this demographic.

MHEC is an interstate compact created by 12 Midwestern states for the purpose of advancing higher education through cooperation and resource sharing; Kansas was the first founding member to join the compact in 1991.

SECRETARY OF STATE RESIGNS

Kansas Secretary of State Ron Thornburgh announced this week that he planned to resign in order to take a position in the private sector.

Gov. Mark Parkinson will appoint a replacement to serve out the remainder of Secretary Thornburgh’s term, which is set to expire on Jan. 10, 2011. In a statement, Gov. Parkinson said, “as I begin the process of finding our new Secretary of State, I am committed to naming a Kansan who can represent the office with honor and distinction while protecting and assisting Kansas voters and businesses.”

The secretary of state is one of four statewide officers elected by voters every four years. The secretary’s primary responsible is to ensure the safe and fair administration of statewide elections. The office also oversees business entities and the uniform commercial code.

FINANCIAL LITERACY SERIES OFFERED

The State of Kansas is sponsoring a three-part financial literacy luncheon series designed for Kansas State Employees. The first luncheon “Getting Organized: Tools for your Cash Flow System” will be presented by Michelle Kaberline, financial literacy director of the State Treasurer’s Office. Additional sessions are scheduled on March 15 and April 23.

GETTING ORGANIZED

Tools for your Cash Flow System

Feb. 23, 2010

11:30 a.m. or 12:30 p.m.

Landon State Office Building, Room 106

SAFE AT HOME PROGRAM OFFERS VICTIMS ADDED CONFIDENTIALITY

Kansas is one of several states that offers an address confidentiality program. Safe at Home (SaH), enacted in 2006, provides a substitute address for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking or stalking as well as a free mail forwarding system for all first-class mail.

The program allows qualified participants to use the substitute address (post office box) on all public records instead of the residential address required by many other Kansas laws. Victims can register to vote, obtain a driver's license, etc., without fear that such public records will put them at risk of being located by their abuser.

Victims must work with an enrolling agent to apply to Safe at Home. Enrolling agents can be state or local agencies, law enforcement offices, non-profit organizations and any others designated by the secretary of state that provide counseling and shelter services to victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking or stalking. To find a certified enrolling agent located near you, please visit the Safe at Home Web site: http://www.kssos.org/safeathome/sah_enrolling.htmlwww.kssos.org/safeathome/sah_enrolling.html.

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