Donohoe: Making progress in Topeka
At the halfway point of the 2011 session, the Kansas House has made tremendous progress on top priorities. Facing a $500 million deficit in Kansas, we’ve responded to the governor’s proposed budget with solutions that would create a $37.5 million ending balance. Additionally, we’ve passed significant legislation that protects taxpayers, children and persons with disabilities.
State Budget Proposal
As a member of the Appropriations Committee, I’ve been involved in the effort to cut spending and reduce debt. I supported the House budget that provides the state a cushion of $37 million, while the Senate proposal added an additional $35 million in spending. The biggest ticket item on the Senate’s list is for dollars allocated for special education to meet a yet-unknown amount of federally-required maintenance-of-effort (MOE).
The Senate proposed borrowing a large sum from KPERS to pay for special education. We rejected it in the House, because Senators proposed no way to pay it back to KPERS, which already has an $8 billion unfunded liability. We are ready to meet again with the Senate on this.
In recent work, the House voted to:
• Repeal in-state tuition for illegal immigrants. The House voted 72 to 50 to repeal the 2004 law that requires public universities and colleges to give in-state tuition to illegal immigrants who have attended at least three years of high school in Kansas. This is current federal law, so we are going back to the rule of law.
• Institute union member paycheck protection. Despite union efforts to intimidate your elected officials, the House voted 76 to 45 to prohibit unions from automatically withdrawing dues from members’ paychecks to be used for political action committees. This legislation protects workers from forced and coerced political contributions. Seven other states have passed similar legislation. The U.S. Supreme Court has unanimously upheld the constitutionality of paycheck protection provisions.
• Strengthen late-term abortion restrictions. This measure greatly restricts abortions after 21 weeks when medical research indicates a baby can feel pain.
• Require parental consent for a minor to have an abortion. This measure passed overwhelmingly, 95 to 26.
• Enacting the Health Care Freedom Act. I also co-sponsored the constitutional amendment to preserve the right to choose health care services and participate in health insurance plan.
• Ensure that voters show photo identification at the polls. This legislation ensures the votes of Kansans are protected from being canceled out by ballots cast illegally. Documentation that qualifies includes college ID cards and expired drivers’ licenses for voters over sixty-five years of age.
What’s next in the House
In the second half of the session, the House will focus on the budget, tax issues and the governor’s call for school finance litigation reform.
In the past two months, we have considered and debated hundreds of bills in addition to our critical work of resolving budget deficits in all areas of state government. I am currently serving on the Appropriations, Taxation and Legislative Education Planning Committees, and I am Vice Chair of Health and Human Services Committee. Extensive details of my committee work and the summary work of the House is available on my website, owendonohoe.com, and I encourage you to review it and find additional resources with which you can stay informed.
I am diligent about thorough study of the facts and considerate of taxpayer burdens as I consider and propose solutions to the challenges we face in Kansas. I welcome your thoughts and concerns. I look forward to a productive second half of the Legislative session, and I will continue to work hard on your behalf.
— State Rep. Owen Donohoe is a Shawnee Republican.