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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Adventures at the Statehouse

  • Tuesday was Kansas' 152nd Birthday.
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  • Kansas Day
     
    Tuesday was Kansas' 152nd Birthday. As we celebrated 152 years as a
    state, action in the Capitol picked up with hearings and voting in the
    separate chambers. The new legislators jumped right into all the
    protocol and procedure – sink or swim!
     
    Our own Leavenworth County Attorney, Todd Thompson, was in the Capitol to testify before the Senate Judiciary Committee this week. He
    introduced a bill through the Kansas District/County Attorney
    Association to make it a crime to possess with intent to distribute
    someone else's prescription drugs. This bill is in response to the
    growing national trend of "pharm" or "skittles" or "trail
    mix" parties. At these parties multiple types of prescription drugs
    are combined in a bowl or bag and then taken randomly (often with
    alcohol) to just see what happens. As the drugs are only prescription
    drugs and not on the controlled substance schedule, there is no law
    against providing them to others.
     
    Veterans, Military & Homeland Security
     
    We had some great testimony this week. We heard from the Kansas Center for Safe and Prepared Schools and the Kansas Commission of Veteran Affairs.
    We had hearings on HB2077 and HB2078, which are bills that
    would help translate military training into civilian education
    requirements. Many military occupational specialties require more
    training than the civilian equivalents professions, so this bill could
    aid many unemployed veterans in getting to work soon after their release from the military without having to repeat training in the civilian education system. The national rate of unemployment for veterans is twice the rate of others, so this is a priority issue.
     
    We also introduced a number of bills including the following issues:
    - Creating a disabled veteran owned business preference in state
    contracting
    - Expanding protection from foreclosure for deployed service members
    - Allowing veteran service organizations to have slot machines in their
    facilities (the Darlene Kenny Memorial Bill)
     
    Corrections and Juvenile Justice
     
    The committee was assigned the Governor's Executive Reorganization
    Order to combine the Department of Corrections and the Juvenile Justice Authority. We will have a hearing over several days next week to decide if the committee agrees. An ERO will automatically go into effect if neither the House nor Senate disapproves. February 7th is the deadline for submitting a resolution to disapprove.
     
    This week we had several hearings on various issues including:
    - HB2034, that would create a new type of search warrant for law
    enforcement's use of GPS tracking devices in investigations.
    -HB2044 would create 2 new crimes of distribution of a controlled
    substance that causes great bodily harm and the distribution of a
    controlled substance that causes death. The premise behind the bill is
    that anyone who is distributing drugs illegally is acting recklessly.
    The opponents stated that the law would place all the blame of a tragedy on the person who distributed the substance, no matter the
    circumstances.
     
    - HB2043 brought in the TV cameras. It proposes creating 2 new crimes of aggravated battery by DUI. Several District Attorneys testified that there is a gap in the penalties between manslaughter by DUI and the Class B misdemeanor of DUI. This bill would make a DUI in itself a reckless act, therefore if anyone suffers severe bodily harm as a result of a DUI the driver would be charged with aggravated battery.
     
    - HB2065 creates the crime of home improvement fraud. It targets "fly
    by night" operations that take a homeowners money with no intent to do the work. We heard this bill last year in Judiciary Committee.
    - HB2080 is another bill we heard in Judiciary last year. It would add
    the intent to commit various domestic offenses, such as the violation of
    restraining orders, to the crime of burglary. Burglary is the crime of
    breaking and entering with the intent to commit further felony crime.
     
    Health Exchanges
     
    With open enrollment for the new Kansas Health Exchange just around the corner (October 1, 2013), the Kansas Health Institute was here to give legislators an idea of what it will look like.
    They explained that starting in 2014, there will be no more exclusions for pre-existing conditions.
     
    Your premium rates will be based on 4 factors: your age,
    family status, geographical location and tobacco use. They said that
    there will be 3 risk adjustment programs at first, to mitigate all the
    new rules going into effect at once. The federal statute calls for 10
    categories of essential health benefits that must be included in all
    insurance plans, so the Kansas Health Institute is using the Kansas Blue Cross and Blue Shield plan as a benchmark. As Blue Cross & Blue Shield is the largest plan in Kansas and already has 8 of the 10 categories, they believe it is the best system to estimate what the new plans and cost will be.
    The only 2 categories that have to be added are pediatric
    dental/vision benefits and habilitative services. To see what the
    exchange will actually look like, there are now videos on the internet
     
    Transportation & Public Safety Budget
     
    We heard from various agencies this week in preparation to going through their proposed budgets next week including: the Kansas Highway Patrol, Department of Corrections, Juvenile Justice Authority, Board of Indigents' Defense Services, Kansas Bureau of Investigation, State Fire Marshal, and Department of Transportation. These are just some of the 17 budgets the committee is responsible for. The Speaker has set a strict timeline to get the budget put together and we have a lot of work to do in a short time. We also heard from the Department of Corrections and the Juvenile Justice Authority and what they think of the Governor's Executive Reorganization Order to combine them. They
    briefed their plan, so I had a short pre-view of the agency view of the
    ERO prior to our hearings next week in Corrections & Juvenile Justice
    Committee.
     
    Keep in Touch
     
    You can track my activities on my website www.meier4kansas.com, my
    FaceBook page www.facebook.com/Meier4Kansas, and Twitter
    www.twitter.com/melaniemeier. I am privileged and honored to be your
    voice in the Kansas Capitol.
     
    If I can ever be of assistance to you, please feel free to contact me at
    home or in Topeka. My office is on the 4th floor of the Capitol, Room
    451-S. To write to me, my office address is Kansas State Capitol,
    Topeka, KS 66612. You can also reach me at the legislative hotline,
    1-800-432-3924. Additionally, you can e-mail me at
    melanie.meier@house.ks.gov. And do not forget to follow the legislative
    session online at www.kslegislature.org.
     
    If you need to directly contact a particular agency in state government,
    you can find useful telephone numbers online at

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