Archive for Friday, February 4, 2011

Legislative Update: Week 4

February 4, 2011

A heavy blizzard forced the Statehouse to shut its doors Tuesday and Wednesday. Committee testimony and bill introductions were delayed until Thursday.

Although the weather caused some setbacks, we’re now back on track. I was able to attend committee meetings as usual Thursday and Friday.

LAST WEEK FOR BILL REQUESTS

This week marked the last day individual legislators could request a bill introduction. Monday will be the last day for committee requests. This rule is used every year, so that committees and legislators have ample time to review bills before voting.

The budget committee, Federal and State Affairs Committee, and other select committees are exempt from the deadline.

In the next two weeks, senators will be working extra long days to prepare for turnaround. Turnaround marks the deadline for most bills to clear their house of origin. If a bill is not passed by this date, it can’t be sent onto the other chamber.

SB 11; AN UPDATE ON THE USD 207 & USD 453 BUSING BILL

SB 11 passed out of the Senate Education Committee this week and is currently sitting on the Senate’s General Orders to be pulled up for discussion and a vote. Sen. Pyle from Brown County has expressed some concern with the bill and legislative staff is trying to answer his questions so that we can, hopefully, vote on the bill next Tuesday, Feb. 8.

LEAVENWORTH BIDS FAREWELL TO MARGUERITE STRANGE

From the Leavenworth Times: Members of the Leavenworth community said good-bye Wednesday to a former mayor and longtime city clerk. Marguerite Strange, who died Jan. 27 at the age of 89, was also involved in various community organizations. Her funeral was held Wednesday at the First Presbyterian Church in Leavenworth.

“She was in the thick of every endeavor affecting the well being of our town,” Rev. Ronald VanSchenkhof said. He noted Strange was so active in the community she once was selected as the Leavenworth-Lansing Area Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year.

Strange worked for the city for 29 years as secretary to the mayor and then city clerk. Her tenure with the city also included a few months acting as the first city manager. She later served on the Leavenworth City Commission for six years. She was mayor from April 1992 to April 1993. VanSchenkhof said one always knew where Strange stood on an issue, but she listened to people who didn’t agree with her. The minister said Strange’s real strength was a willingness to change her mind after listening to the arguments of others.

DISTRICT HAPPENINGS

  • Congratulations to Leavenworth native Caleb Christian Knueven, whose documentary “Preserving the Past: Topeka’s Jayhawk Theatre” premiered on WIBW-TV last week. The 20-minute film follows the story of Topeka’s Jayhawk Theatre.
  • College Goal Sunday – an event to help high school students get money for college – will be held from 2-4 p.m. on Feb. 13. Please visit www.CollegeGoal.org to find the closest location near your high school.
  • A new musical, “Sitplot V,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” at Alcott Arts will hold a call for actors from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 4-5, by appointment. For more information, call 310-396-5366 or visit www.alcottartscenter.org. The auditions will not be held at the Alcott. Call 913-233-2787 for details.
  • The Saturday Craft Guild will meet at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 5, at the West Wyandotte Library, 1737 N. 82nd. Those attending may bring their favorite craft project, and share their crafts with others.
  • “Teen Saturday: Jazz to Hip Hop” will be presented at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5, at the West Wyandotte Library, 1737 N. 82nd. Teens and tweens attending will be able to listen to how music has changed over time. There will be snacks.
  • An opening reception for Roger Gilbert will take place from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 5, in the Fine Arts Gallery of the West Wyandotte Library, 1737 N. 82nd, Kansas City, Kan.. Gilbert’s photographs, “Landscapes of the American West,” is on display now through Feb. 26 at the library.
  • The Piper Grad Night Chili Bingo benefit event will be held Saturday, Feb. 5, at the FOP Hall, 7844 Leavenworth Road. Dinner begins at 5:30 p.m., followed by bingo at 7 p.m. The suggested donation is $12. Tickets must be purchased in advance. For information, call 913-334-5189.
  • An Evening of Jazz is planned at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 8, at the West Wyandotte Library, 1737 N. 82nd. The Kansas City Kansas Community College Jazz Choir and Jazz Ensembles will perform. The program is free and appropriate for all ages.
  • A Mary Kay Pampering Session will be offered from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 8, at Keeler Women's Center, 2220 Central, Kansas City, Kan.. Learn makeup tips and how to take care of your skin. Try new products and a new look. Look your best for an upcoming interview. The program will be presented by Laura Schmidt, Mary Kay representative. Call 913-906-8990 or register at www.mountosb.org/kwc/.
  • “Back to School -- The Way to a Better Life,” from 10 to 11 a.m. Feb. 10 at the Keeler Women’s Center, 2220 Central, Kansas City, Kan., raises awareness of the many education and training options available in the metropolitan area which may lead to a better job or simply enlarge your view of the world. Federal student aid and various scholarships can help make education a reality. The program is presented by Caryl Neinas of Educational Opportunity Centers, a grant-funded program based out of the University of Kansas with the mission of encouraging and assisting Wyandotte County area residents to continue their education. Call 913-906-8990 or register online.
  • The Kansas Black Chamber of Commerce will meet at 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 10, for a networking meeting at Mama’s House, 4747 Parallel Parkway. The speaker will be Tresia Hassan, business tax expert.
  • If the lack of “know-how” has kept you from eating fish and seafood then you won’t want to miss the Seafood Sensations program from noon to 1:15 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 15, at the K-State Research and Extension office, 1216 N. 79th. Topics include what seafood is, health benefits, food safety issues and tips that will include selecting, buying, handling, storing and cooking. The fee is $5. Call early to make your reservation at 299-9300 or e-mail Lori Wuellner at lwuellner@ksu.edu.
  • The Kansas City, Kan., Chamber of Commerce will have its annual meeting at 11:30 a.m. Feb. 17 at the Reardon Convention Center, 5th and Minnesota. Marie C. Johns, deputy administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, will be the guest speaker. For reservations or information call 913-371-3070.

KANSAS HEALTH INSURANCE ASSOCIATION TO ALLOW CHILDREN

On Thursday, the Senate unanimously approved a bill that allows the Kansas Health Insurance Association (the State High Risk Pool) to accept children. The goal is to accept children who have pre-existing conditions who are unable to obtain an individual insurance policy.

The bill was introduced at the request of the Kansas Insurance Department. In 2010, the Department was notified that a majority of insurance companies plan to stop covering children under age 19. By amending the Pool, we can ensure that these high-risk youths are able to get needed coverage.

TEMPORARY BEVERAGE LICENSES APPROVED

Also on Thursday, the Senate approved a bill authorizing counties and cities to issue temporary alcohol licenses for special events. These licenses can be used for events such as fairs, concerts, etc. that only last for a day or two.

Cities and counties currently have no authority to issue temporary licenses. According to the Alcohol Beverage Control Division, current law only permits licenses to be obtained for a full calendar year.

JANUARY REVENUES UP

Kansas’s financial forecast continues to look brighter. Reports from the Kansas Department of Revenue indicate that monthly state revenues were up more than 5 percent above estimates.

Several factors played into the above-estimated receipt. Although sales tax receipts were $5.5 million under estimates, use taxes were up $26 million. Individual income tax was also up 6.2 percent.

Year-to-date, the State of Kansas has received $5.4 million above November estimates.

The report indicates two important factors: Kansans are spending more online, and more Kansans are back to work. It’s a clear sign that we’re on the path to economic recovery.

WEAR RED DAY

Today, legislators participated in National Wear Red Day to support the fight against heart disease in women.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in Kansas. In 2007, one out of every three deaths of a Kansas woman was attributed to cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke.

Fortunately, there is something we can do. Ask your doctor to develop a heart disease prevention plan that controls key risk factors, including:

  • Obesity
  • Tobacco Use
  • High blood pressure
  • High blood cholesterol
  • Physical inactivity
  • Diabetes
  • Unhealthy diet

You can also help raise awareness by sharing information and wearing red. While this observance is a call for women, men can show their support for the women in their lives by “Going Red” too.

Together, we can prevent more Kansas women from the devastating effects of heart disease.

ADDICTION HELP AVAILABLE

Beginning Feb. 1, Kansas will offer assistance to addicted individuals and their families. The aid will be paid for by funds generated by the state-owned Dodge City casino.

Approximately $80,000 will be available during FY 2011 to provide treatment for up to 57 Kansans dealing with an addiction. Confidential, no cost assistance is available by calling the Kansas Problem Gambling Helpline at 1-800-522-4700 or ValueOptions, Kansas at 1-866-645-8216.

EXECUTIVE REORGANIZATION ORDERS

Gov. Sam Brownback issued the 36th Executive Reorganization Order (ERO) last week. ERO’s are used when the governor plans to combine or eliminate several state agencies.

The governor may reorganize only departments within the executive branch. He cannot order changes to the judicial or legislative branches of government. All ERO’s must be issued within the first 30 calendar days of the session.

This is the governor’s 36th ERO in less than one month. To put that in perspective, only 33 ERO’s have been issued since the 1970s.

ERO’s ordered by Gov. Brownback:

  • Abolish Kansas, Inc., and replace it with the Governor’s Economic Council;
  • Merge the Kansas Technology Enterprise Corporation (KTEC) into the Department of Commerce;
  • Move Kansas Commission on Disability Concerns to the Governor’s Office;
  • Add a part-time Native American Affairs position to the Governor’s Office;
  • Merge the Human Rights Commission into the Attorney General’s Office;
  • Move E911 grant functions to the Attorney General’s Office;
  • Abolish the Kansas Arts Commission and replace with a private Arts Council;
  • Merge the Kansas Health Policy Authority into the Department of Health and Environment;
  • Eliminate the Parole Board and move its functions into the Department of Corrections;
  • Move the Juvenile Justice Authority to the Department of Corrections;
  • Merge the Animal Health Department, the State Conservation Commission, and Agriculture Marketing into the Department of Agriculture;
  • Move Travel and Tourism to the Department of Wildlife and Parks.

EROs are sent to the House and Senate for consideration. The ERO becomes effective July 1 unless the Legislature passes a resolution to change or veto it. The Legislature has 30 calendar days after it receives an ERO to act on it.

KANSAS ARTS COMMISSION

I have received a number of e-mails regarding Gov. Brownback’s proposal to change the Kansas Arts Commission (KAC) into a non-profit organization. Please know that I am opposed to this plan.

Elimination of the KAC would cause Kansas to lose more than $1.2 million each year – nearly $800,000 from federal matching funds and $437,000 in grants from its regional partner.

The Kansas non-profit arts sector also supports 4,000 full-time jobs, generating over $15 million in local and state revenue. If the Kansas Arts Commission ceases to exist, jobs will be lost. Grants and professional development programs offered by the Kansas Arts Commission will no longer be available, curtailing the ability of small business owners to function.

An investment in the arts is an investment in private sector business. Cities thrive, grow, attract and retain businesses when the arts are supported. Investment in the arts increases the capacity of Kansas cities to build tourism and broaden their tax base.

Without arts programs, cities will be unable to grow and compete in the marketplace.

If you are concerned about KAC’s elimination, I encourage you to call the Governor’s office and share your thoughts. The number is (785) 296-3232.

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

A bill introduced Monday would make two big changes to unemployment benefits. First, it would reinstate the waiting week. Second, it would delete the “relocating spouse” clause.

For decades, unemployed workers were forced to wait a full week before receiving benefits because time was needed to manually process a claim. Current computer technology has made this practice outdated and unnecessary. And in 2007, the Legislature eliminated the waiting week.

As we all know, utility bills, rent, and food expenses don’t wait when a worker is unemployed. Bills need to be paid, and families need to be fed. Reinstating the working week would put an undue strain on thousands of Kansas families.

Under the “Trailing Spouse” clause, a person who quits their job because a spouse has been transferred can still apply for unemployment benefits. That means, if your spouse is transferred to a job in Oklahoma, you could join your spouse out-of-state without losing your benefits.

In 2009, 470 Kansans filed as a “trailing spouse.” Eliminating it would make it even more difficult for families to stay intact when one is voluntarily – or involuntarily – transferred far away.

State Sen. Kelly Kultala, D-Kansas City, represents the 5th Senate District, which includes parts of Wyandotte and Leavenworth counties.

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