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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 astate, action in the Capitol picked up with hearings and voting in theseparate chambers. The new legislators jumped right into all theprotocol 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. Heintroduced a bill through the Kansas District/County AttorneyAssociation to make it a crime to possess with intent to distributesomeone else's prescription drugs. This bill is in response to thegrowing national trend of "pharm" or "skittles" or "trailmix" parties. At these parties multiple types of prescription drugsare combined in a bowl or bag and then taken randomly (often withalcohol) to just see what happens. As the drugs are only prescriptiondrugs and not on the controlled substance schedule, there is no lawagainst 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 thatwould help translate military training into civilian educationrequirements. Many military occupational specialties require moretraining than the civilian equivalents professions, so this bill couldaid 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 statecontracting- Expanding protection from foreclosure for deployed service members- Allowing veteran service organizations to have slot machines in theirfacilities (the Darlene Kenny Memorial Bill) Corrections and Juvenile Justice  The committee was assigned the Governor's Executive ReorganizationOrder 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 lawenforcement's use of GPS tracking devices in investigations.-HB2044 would create 2 new crimes of distribution of a controlledsubstance that causes great bodily harm and the distribution of acontrolled substance that causes death. The premise behind the bill isthat 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 thecircumstances. - 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 "flyby 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 addthe intent to commit various domestic offenses, such as the violation ofrestraining orders, to the crime of burglary. Burglary is the crime ofbreaking 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 thatthere will be 3 risk adjustment programs at first, to mitigate all thenew rules going into effect at once. The federal statute calls for 10categories of essential health benefits that must be included in allinsurance 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 pediatricdental/vision benefits and habilitative services. To see what theexchange will actually look like, there are now videos on the internetthat you can watch at http://www.youtube.com/user/CMSHHSgovTransportation & 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. Theybriefed their plan, so I had a short pre-view of the agency view of theERO prior to our hearings next week in Corrections & Juvenile JusticeCommittee. Keep in Touch You can track my activities on my website www.meier4kansas.com, myFaceBook page www.facebook.com/Meier4Kansas, and Twitterwww.twitter.com/melaniemeier. I am privileged and honored to be yourvoice in the Kansas Capitol. If I can ever be of assistance to you, please feel free to contact me athome or in Topeka. My office is on the 4th floor of the Capitol, Room451-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 atmelanie.meier@house.ks.gov. And do not forget to follow the legislativesession online at www.kslegislature.org. If you need to directly contact a particular agency in state government,you can find useful telephone numbers online athttp://da.state.ks.us/phonebook.
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