The third week of the 2013 legislative session continued in the very fast-paced fashion of the previous two weeks.
The third week of the 2013 legislative session continued in the very fast-paced fashion of the previous two weeks. After only three weeks, almost two hundred bills have been introduced
where the committee votes whether to approve the bill.
Bills report. Once the committee report is received, the bill can be brought to the floor for debate by the whole House under the heading, "General Orders." If a bill receives a majority
approval following debate, it is moved to "Final Action" where the bill receives a final vote of the House, determining whether it passes or dies. This week the House debated, voted on, and ultimately passed its first bill of the session, leading off many more debates and
votes to come.
By visiting www.kslegislature.org and clicking on the calendar tab at the top, you can view the schedule for the House each day that it is in session. The votes for that day are listed
under the heading, "Final Action and Concurrent Resolutions."
On Tuesday, the Kansas House of Representatives celebrated the birthday of Kansas, Kansas Day. Our state was founded on January 29, 1861 when President Buchannan signed
the resolution establishing Kansas as the 34th state to join the Union. This was a critical time in our county's history as we were about to fall into the deepest and most bloody war in our nation's history. The roots of our state were sown in the abolitionist movement,
opposed to slavery and its expansion west. This led to many violent protests in the state which were labeled by many newspapers as Bleeding Kansas.
One of the traditions to celebrate in the House is to sing 'Home on the Range,' the state song, which was led this year by Rep. Barbara Ballard. The song was originally a poem written in the 1870s by Dr. Brewster Higley called 'My Western Home.' Dr. Higley resided
in Smith County, KS. The Kansas Legislature adopted his song as the state's official song on April 8, 1947.
On Thursday, January 31, the House passed its first piece of legislation of the 2013 legislative session, House Bill (HB) 2023, commonly referred to as the Paycheck Protection Act. HB 2023 would ban state or other units of government from making payroll deductions for members of public sector unions for the purpose of contributing to
the union's political action committee (PAC.) Currently, unions negotiate the amount and frequency of the deduction with government entities. The money from the deduction is contributed to the PAC, but in many cases the member is not given the ability to specify
how the deduction is then used. Thus, the aim of the bill is twofold: to eliminate state and local governments as bookkeepers for the political activities of public unions and to ensure that union members can contribute to the PAC without any undue pressure.
While the bill would eliminate the option for the payroll deduction, it is important to note members are not prohibited from contributing to their union's PAC. If a member wishes to make a contribution to a PAC, he or she would need only to write a check noting it as
a PAC contribution. It would also be permissible for the member to set up an electronic transfer from his or her bank account to the PAC fund. This protects union members from any self-imposed or peer pressure to check a box allowing a payroll deduction and,
therefore, better ensures each member is making a free and deliberate decision to contribute to union political activities. Furthermore, it not only is unnecessary, but arguably also inappropriate, for the state or any other local unit of government to be in the business of
making payroll deductions for political purposes.
Similar legislation to that of HB 2023 has been challenged in the Supreme Court as infringing on freedom of speech. In 2009, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality
of paycheck protection legislation enacted by Idaho in Ysursa v. Pocatello Education Association. Like HB 2023, Idaho's bill prohibited units of government from making
payroll deductions for political activities. The unions involved in the case argued the law violated their First Amendment rights by making it more difficult for them to collect political contributions. The Court, however, disagreed stating that the state "is under no
obligation to aid the unions in their political activities. And the state's decision not to do so is not an abridgement of the unions' speech; they are free to engage in such speech as they
see fit. They simply are barred from enlisting the state in support of that endeavor." It is the case, then, that the legislation passed by the House is not unprecedented.
The House passed HB 2023 by a vote of 68 to 56. The bill is now headed to the Senate for further consideration and action.
The process of reform is often slow and complex. However, this week reforming our state's court system took a meaningful step forward. The current system of selecting judges relies
on an undemocratic, opaque process which allows Kansans little input.
This week, legislation establishing a more transparent and democratic model passed the Senate and will now be vetted in the House Judiciary Committee. The bill sent over from the Senate would abolish the judicial nominating commission and instead allow the governor to select his own nominee with the confirmation of the Senate. This bill received 28 votes in support and 11 against in the Senate.
There have been several options introduced in the House to make changes to address the undemocratic nature of the commission. Options to amend the commission include changing the nature of who makes appointments, to include democratically elected state
officers, such as the Speaker of the House and President of the Senate, alongside the governor's appointments.
Two other options have also been submitted to eliminate the commission. The first would replace it with a federal model allowing the Governor to select a nominee who would then
be approved by the Senate, which is what the Senate passed this week. A second option would allow Kansans to vote on judges similar to the way Sedgwick County selects judges.
All three options would require a constitutional amendment which takes a 2/3 vote in both chambers and ratification by the voters at the ballot box. Changes to the state's appeals court would not require a constitutional amendment as it is created by statute.
Anti-Human Trafficking Laws
Kansas Governor Sam Brownback and Attorney General Derek Schmidt have introduced language strengthening the state's human trafficking statutes, with an emphasis on protecting children from commercial sexual exploitation. Senate Bill 61, if passed, would establish a Human Trafficking Victim Assistance Fund to provide support for those
victimized by human trafficking. The fund will be paid for through mandatory fines by individuals convicted of human trafficking and related sex crimes. The bill also provides for special Child in Need of Care procedures for children who have been subjected to human trafficking and expedites expungement procedures for those convicted of selling sexual relations, if they were subject to coercion. A new crime of Commercial Sexual Exploitation of a Child is created in the bill, increasing the penalties of the existing crimes of patronizing a prostitute and promoting prostitution of a person under the age of 18.
Additionally, the bill includes training and tools for law enforcement to combat human trafficking.
This week, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed the Senate Bill 61 and it now awaits consideration the opportunity to take up the bill and pass these reforms to better protect our children.
KanCare Educational Meetings
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has announced that it will be hosting educational meetings for members in late February. The educational tour will take place in 16 cities across Kansas from February 18-21 and announcements about these meetings are
being mailed to each KanCare household. The cities and dates are listed below. For more details, including locations and times, please visit http://www.kancare.ks.gov/events.htm.
Feb. 18 in Dodge City, Manhattan, Winfield and TopekaFeb. 19 in Garden City, Salina, Parsons and Kansas CityFeb. 20 in Colby, Great Bend, Fort Scott and OlatheFeb. 21 in Hays, Wichita, Emporia and Atchison
The Education Committee has spent the last two weeks hearing testimony from many outstanding school districts and educational leaders from around the state on issues that are making a difference. A lot of new and exciting techniques and programs are being implemented. I am, and will continue to be a big proponent for technical/Vo-Tech schools at both the secondary and post secondary levels. This week, we had the opportunity to take
the entire Senate and House Education Committee, along with two members of the State
School Board and several lobbyist organizations to Oklahoma City for a tour of Francis Tuttle Technology Center. This is one of the most modern and top-notch tech centers in the country. It was a great learning experience and well worth the expense in time, money and
effort. Hopefully we can put many of the ideas and concepts we learned to work in Kansas.
I encourage you to let me know your thoughts on the issues discussed by the legislature and others which might be affecting you. Please feel free to call 784-296-7653 or email me at John.Bradford@house.ks.gov and I'd be happy to discuss any topic you are interested in. Thank you for the honor of serving you!