Legislative update: Week 11
The Legislature was only in session through Wednesday of this week, however, I have been in Topeka Thursday and Friday serving on conference committees and attending a Kansas Electric Transmission Authority board meeting. Next week will be the last week of the regular legislative session. This evening I will attend the Leavenworth/Lansing Chamber’s legislative forum from 4:30-5:30 at the Carnegie Arts Center. The weather look a little iffy this weekend, but I hope you are able to relax and spend time with family and friends.
And by the way, Rock Chalk, Jayhawk.
NEXT WEEK LAST ON FLOOR
Next Saturday, April 2, is “drop dead” day for the 2011 session. After this date, bills that haven’t passed both chambers can no longer be debated. Certain bills, such as the budget, are exempt from this deadline.
After a short break, legislators will return for the wrapup session in late April. At this time, the budget bill, conference reports and any vetoes by the governor will be considered.
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.
Leavenworth’s Danny Zeck Ford has been nominated for the Secretary of Defense Employer Support Freedom Award. The award is presented each year to companies who show outstanding support to employees who serve in the National Guard or military reserves.
The Fort Leavenworth Chapel Community will host its 10th annual father-daughter banquet on April 10th at the Riverfront Community Center. Dads and daughters of all ages are invited to attend. For more information, call 684-6820.
Grinter Place Friends is now in the process of sending applications for growers, crafters and those who bake pies and make jams and jellies. The organization is identifying those who "grow it, bake it or make it" as a first step toward determining who will be accepted as a qualified vendor for the old-fashioned farmer's market. Interested vendors are encouraged to call 913-721-9735 and ask for Phil Noah, or call Lou Braswell at 913-220-8266. The e-mail addresses are email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org. The web site is up now at http://web.me.com/photographybynoah/GPF_Farmers_Market and will be updated regularly to tell viewers the names of vendors and any special events taking place at the market.
A rummage sale will be from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 16 at the PCEA Learning Center, 13651 Donahoo, Kansas City, Kan. Proceeds will benefit the 21st Century Preschool and Childcare, a program sponsored by Piper Community Education Association. Donations are welcome. For more information go to www.pipercomunityed.com or call 913-721-2577.
WOMEN’S HISTORY MONTH
On Wednesday I had the pleasure of co-sponsoring a Senate Resolution recognizing March as National Women’s History Month. Approved by Congress in 1987, Women’s History Month honors the contributions of American women.
The stories of Kansas women are a large part of our state history as well, from Mabel Chase, the first woman sheriff, to Amelia Earhart, the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic, to Hattie McDaniel, the first African American to receive an academy award and to Kathryn O’Loughlin, who in 1932 was elected as the first Kansas Congresswoman.
As March comes to a close, I hope every Kansan will take time to learn more about our Kansas foremothers. Our state, our nation, and our world would have been much bleaker places without their tireless work.
For the first time in more than two decades, the Senate has passed substantial changes to workers compensation law. The new mandates will increase outdated compensation caps to injured workers as follows:
For permanent total disability, from $125,000 to $155,000
For temporary total disability, from $100,000 to $130,000
For permanent or temporary partial disability, from $100,000 to $130,000
For death, from $250,000 to $300,000
Under the current caps, which have been in place since 1987, if you are permanently injured on the job at age 45 you will spend the rest of your life living off of $125,000. If you live to age 85, you’re left with just over $3,000 per year to support yourself and your family. And that doesn’t cover medical expenses that are a result of your injury.
These caps were woefully inadequate in today’s economy. By adjusting them, the Senate has recognized the dignity and worth of our state’s injured workers.
Because the Senate bill differs from the House, a conference committee will need to work out a compromise. The Senate will then have an up-or-down vote on that compromise report.
The Senate has passed a proposal to raise the state’s annual KPERS contributions to $23 million beginning in 2013. A similar plan introduced in the House would raise the contribution by $10 million.
Anyone hired before July 1, 2009 (Tier 1) will have their contribution rates increased to 6% by January 2015. A 1% increase would be enacted on January 1, 2014 and another 1% increasd on January 1, 2015.
Anyone hired on or after July 1, 2009 (Tier 2) will be given an option to have their contribution rate increase from 6% to 8%. Those opting in to the increase will maintain their COLA. Those opting out will forfeit their COLA, but maintain their current 6% contribution rate.
All state employees hired after July 1, 2013 will contribute a mandatory 6%.
Our KPERS system faces a $7.7 billion gap between anticipated revenues and benefits promised. If long-term underfunding isn’t addressed, more than 150,000 KPERS beneficiaries risk losing their retirement.
EMERGENCY RESPONSE FEES
The Senate passed a bill on Monday prohibiting municipalities from charging a “service fee” when EMT’s, fire or police respond to an emergency but their services are not used. Under current law emergency responders may charge an accident response fee, even if their employees or equipment are not needed once on the scene. This can happen when several emergency vehicles show up during an emergency, but only one or two are needed to control the situation.
I supported this bill. Service fees can get extremely expensive; this bill helps control costs for those involved in an emergency.
In a bipartisan effort to protect Kansans from identity theft, members of the Kansas Senate have strengthened penalties for convicted offenders. Under HB2008, identity theft will result in mandatory prison time if a person has been previously convicted of a similar crime.
Identity theft is a highly-personal crime that can permanently damage a victim’s good name and credit record. By making prison time mandatory, we’re sending a message that identity theft will not be taken lightly by Kansas courts.
To learn more about deterring, detecting, and defending against ID theft, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website at http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/.
PAROLE BOARD ERO
The Senate has upheld an Executive Reorganization Order (ERO) eliminating the Parole Board and moving its functions into the Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC). Under the Kansas Constitution, the Senate is able to override a gubernatorial ERO if a 21-member majority votes to do so. Wednesday’s effort failed 20-19.
I voted to keep the Parole Board in place. While some ERO’s will help maximize efficiency, I believe the Parole Board needs to be an independent entity free from outside influence.
Kelly Kultala, D-Kansas City, represents the 5th State Senate District, which includes parts of Wyandotte and Leavenworth counties.