Legislative update: Week 7
Topeka Wow, what a mess we have here in Topeka with the rain, snow, sleet, wind, etc. It was quite a chore to clean off the car this morning. Thank goodness I didn’t take the boots home to KCK. OK, let’s hope this is the last snowstorm of the season and that Spring is just around the corner.
Today is our Turnaround deadline and the legislature will be closed till next Wednesday. I hope everyone has a safe, warm and happy weekend.
TURNAROUND MARKS MID-SESSION
This week, legislators worked all day on the floor in preparation for Saturday’s turnaround, which is the deadline for most bills to clear their house of origin. In total, we debated more than 60 bills. On top of my typical legislative duties, it made for a very long but productive week.
The Senate will be off this Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday, we’ll continue debating bills sent over from the House of Representatives. Conference committees will also continue to meet on bills that have been approved by both chambers.
All House and Senate sessions are open to the public. And live broadcasts of Senate and House proceedings can be found at www.kslegislature.org. To hear legislative proceedings, just click on the “Listen in Live” link.
LEGISLATURE DESIGNATES REP. MARGARET LONG INTERCHANGE
The juncture of U.S. Highway 24 and K-7 Highway in Wyandotte County has been officially designated the Representative Margaret Long Interchange by the Kansas Legislature. The House of Representatives initially approved on Wednesday, following a unanimous approval by the Senate last Tuesday.
“Representative Long served the 36th House District proudly for a decade, leading the charge on a number of education, transportation and energy issues,” said Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore, who succeeded Long and co-sponsored the bill. “She was a true leader, always making the needs of Wyandotte County her first priority.”
Senate Bill 58 will now be sent to the Governor’s Office to be signed into law.
“As ranking member of the House Transportation Committee, Representative Long was instrumental in drafting our state’s current 10-year comprehensive transportation program which will put more than 170,000 Kansans to work,” said Sen. Kelly Kultala, also a co-sponsor. “It’s only fitting that she be honored in this way.”
Rep. Long served the 38th House District from 1998 to 2002 and the 36th House District from 2003 until her retirement in 2010. She was the ranking minority member on the House Transportation Committee for 10 of those years. She also served as a member of the education and utilities committees.
- Sporting Kansas City – formerly known as the Wizards – has signed its second-ever home grown player. Nineteen-year-old defender Kevin Ellis, a Kansas City native, played four years on the Juniors League before signing onto KC’s 2011 roster.
- Congratulations to Leavenworth resident Phyllis Bass, who was recognized by Churches United for Our Youth on Saturday evening for her dedication to educational programs at the Richard Allen Cultural Center and Museum.
- Taste of Leavenworth - A sampling of Leavenworth's finest in food, beverages, music, businesses, artisans, silent and live auction; fundraiser for the Leavenworth Historical Museum Association, Old Sears location-Leavenworth Plaza, 3400 S. 4th St, 5:30-10:30pm. 913-682-1023 (Always call and confirm events.) Email Address : firstname.lastname@example.org
- The AARP tax assistance program has four area locations including Providence Medical Center, 8929 Parallel Parkway, Kansas City, Kan., 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays; Kansas City Kansas Community College, 7250 State, Kansas City, Kan., 10 a.m. to 2 pm. Tuesdays and Thursdays; Kansas City, Kansas, City Hall, 701 N. 7th, Kansas City, Kan., 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Mondays, and Turner Recreation Center - community library, 831 S. 55th, Kansas City, Kan., 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Thursdays. Those participating should bring documents, Social Security cards, last year’s return and receipts if itemizing. Information about the program is on the web here. The program offers assistance for low- and middle-income taxpayers, with special attention to those 60 and older.
- The eighth annual Christ the King School auction will take place Friday, Feb. 25, at the Kansas National Guard Armory, 18th and Ridge, Kansas City, Kan. The doors open at 5 p.m., with dinner at 6 p.m. and a live auction at 7:15 p.m. The event is for those 21 and older. Tickets are $35 per person. For more details, contact 913-302-5117 or 913-287-8883.
- The seventh annual Piper High School auction starts at 5:30 p.m. Feb. 26 with the silent auction, followed by dinner at 6:15 p.m. and a live auction at 7:15 p.m. at the George Meyn Center, Wyandotte County Park, 126th and State, Bonner Springs. The event is sponsored by Security Bank. The cost of the event is $25, including a catered dinner from CNJ Catering of brisket, chicken, meatballs, salad, green beans and dessert. One drink is included. Tickets at the door are $35. There also will be music with a disc jockey from Full Blown Entertainment. Those attending must be at least 21 years old.
RETAIL TAX RECEIPTS
Senators have approved legislation to better protect consumers against unlawful sales tax charges.
As it was originally introduced, Senate Bill 1 mandated that Kansas retailers print the current sales tax rate on all electronically printed receipts. In committee, the bill was amended to give retailers another option for posting the current tax rate. The amendment allows retailers to either print the rate on receipts or display the rate in a highly visible location near the register.
I supported this bill. An investigation found that at least three Kansas convenience stores were taxing consumers more than 10% on their purchases, although the current tax rate in those counties was 8.925%.
It’s our duty as elected officials to protect the people of Kansas from unscrupulous practices. By mandating the retailers post their current tax rate, the legislature can better protect hard-working consumers and pinpoint retailers who have knowingly overtaxed their customers.
SPORTS-RELATED HEAD INJURIES
The Senate on Tuesday passed a bill that will make it safer for school athletes to play dangerous sports. Senate Bill 33 requires the State Board of Education and KSHSAA to provide information to students about the risks of sports-related head injuries. It also sets new guidelines for when a student can return to play after suffering a head injury.
According to research, nearly 136,000 high school athletes suffer concussions each year. More than 50,000 concussions are to high school football players – approximately 5 percent of all players.
Teens take longer to recover from head injuries than adults, and are at a higher risk of serious re-injury. By preventing players from returning to the field before full recovery, we can help prevent permanent brain injuries and dementia.
The Senate approved Senate Bill 145 this week, which changes disclosure requirements for radio and TV political advertisements. Disclosure typically includes information about who paid for the ad and the organization’s treasurer. The amended bill eliminates the “paid for by” requirement, bringing state law into compliance with federal rules.
A conference committee continues to work on negotiations over the current year’s budget. Slow but steady progress is being made on the K-12 special education shortfall that threatened forfeiture of more than $100 million in federal aid.
Both chambers have agreed to find a way to fund maintenance of effort mandates, preventing recurring federal penalties, however each chamber has its’ own plan it supports.
There is still disagreement on funding for the last two years of undermarket pay adjustments for state employees. The Senate-approved rescission bill approved the measure. The House rescission bill did not.
Gov. Sam Brownback said he wanted the bill on his desk by the end of January, but at the present pace he may be lucky to see it by the end of March.
LEGISLATIVE WEBSITE RELAUNCHES
Kansas Legislative Information Systems and Services (KLISS) has re-launched the state’s legislative Website. The new site includes community discussion groups, and the ability for users to post and respond to questions. Visitors can also access and track bills, read committee minutes, find legislators and much more.
Check it out here.
State Sen. Kelly Kultala, D-Kansas City, represents the 5th Senate District, which includes parts of Wyandotte and Leavenworth counties