This week we wrapped up the fourth week of the legislative session. Our first major deadline of the session, called turnaround, is Friday, March 1. After turnaround, the Senate's focus will focus on legislation sent to us by the House.
In this newsletter:
Report on State Revenues - they are up and indications are that they will continue to rise.
Financing Education in Kansas, SCR 1068 - bill is in Senate Judiciary Committee. If reported out by the committee and if passed by 2/3 of Senate and House it will go to the people for a vote. If then passed by a majority of the people it will amend the Constitution of the State of Kansas to clarify that the legislature has exclusive authority for education funding. There is also a brief report on a bus trip by the education committees of the Senate and House to visit schools in Oklahoma and Kansas.Drug Testing for Applicants for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF, SB 149) - a bill to require drug testing for some applicants. I have expressed concerns about the feasibility of this bill.Anti-Human Trafficking Laws, SB 61 - passed the Senate in a 38 - 0 vote. The bill will go to the House. If passed it will increase protection for children from sexual exploitation and establish fines to help victims of sex crimes.Confirmation of Labor Secretary Lana Gordon - I voted to confirm despite concerns about her voting record.Term Limits - I have introduced in committee several bills to limit the consecutive terms that an officeholder can remain in office.Awarding Contracts - I have introduced legislation prohibiting the use of unreasonable specifications to limit bids.Judiciary Budget - As the chair of the Ways and Means Subcommittee on the Judiciary, I will report our recommendation for increases in the judiciary budget for automation improvements and to provide some much needed pay increases for non-judicial staff.
It is easy to stay updated by accessing committee schedules, bill status, and other helpful information through the legislature's website, www.kslegislature.org. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me- comments, concerns and suggestions are also welcomed. I always enjoy hearing from constituents. State Revenue Update: January Returns
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The Kansas State Treasurer, Ron Estes, discussed revenues with me and he had some good news. State General Fund (SGF) receipts from the beginning of Fiscal Year (FY) 2013, July 1, 2012, to January 2013 have exceeded estimates. Tax sources that exceeded the estimate by more than $1.0 million were individual income ($107.2 million or 6.3 percent), corporate income ($6.8 million or 3.9 percent), insurance premiums ($5.1 million or 9.3 percent), motor carriers ($3.5 million or 22.3 percent), and liquor enforcement ($1.3 million or 3.6 percent).Financing Education in Kansas, SCR 1608
We have a duty to properly fund schools. For this reason, the vast majority of our state's budget is dedicated schools. We also have a duty to keep taxes low, to support public safety, to provide for the disabled, and to support higher education. By doing these things, we make Kansas an attractive environment for employers to continue grow the economy, and ultimately fund government.
Last week, legislation was introduced to give Kansas voters the final say as to who makes spending and taxation decisions for the state of Kansas. SCR 1608 proposes to amend Article 6 of the Kansas Constitution by adding the following sentence, "The financing of the educational interests of the state is exclusively a legislative power."
In the last 47 years, there have been seven large school finance cases before the Kansas Supreme Court, costing tens of millions of dollars in legal fees and putting Kansas in a cycle of court battles. SCR 1608 is intended to end this cycle of litigation, protect our schools, and allow the people of Kansas to decide whether the elected legislature or the courts should decide what burden Kansas taxpayers should bear.
If approved by Kansas voters, SCR 1608 would make clear that the elected legislature, and ultimately the people who vote them into office, have the final say in budget and tax decisions for the state. SCR 1608 is now in the Senate Judiciary Committee. Hearings are scheduled to take place next week. If approved by a two-thirds majority in the House and Senate, the question will appear on the August 2014 ballot, earliest ballot possible.
Kansas-Oklahoma Education Bus Tour Members of the House and Senate Education Committees visited charter and technical schools to gain a better understanding of nontraditional teaching schools.
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The technical school featured unique half-day programs specializing in auto and mechanical work to nursing programs to computer science, allowing students to spend part of the day focused on core education requirements and the other part on post high school education. Students in these programs have a dropout rate of 7 percent, significantly lower than the rest of the state.
Walton Rural Life Center was the second stop on the day trip. This charter school focused on grades K-4 with the largest class size at 25 students. Walton's focus is project based learning which gives students more ownership in the learning process. One of the projects involves raising chickens and selling their eggs. The students develop a business plan and marketing strategy with the proceeds going to the school.Drug Testing for TANF Recipients, SB 149 A few weeks back I highlighted pending legislation that would require recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and unemployment payments to undergo drug testing if there is reasonable suspicion they are using illegal substances.
The treatment programs required by SB149 would be covered entirely by existing federal TANF funds. However, while this proposal is not intended to punish those receiving assistance who are addicted to illegal drugs but to get those individuals the help they need, I remain skeptical of the overall costs and administrative burdens involved. The end result must be one that is a responsible, targeted approach to help families overcome the evils of drug addiction and ensure the proper use of welfare and unemployment benefits - and it must be practical.
Anti-Human Trafficking Laws, SB 61
One of the Governor's and Attorney General's top priorities this legislative session is to strengthen the state's human trafficking statutes. The goal of the legislation is to put an emphasis on protecting children from commercial sexual exploitation. The bill also provides a fund, paid through mandatory fines by individuals convicted of human trafficking and related sex crimes, for victims of human trafficking. On Thursday, February 7, the Senate passed SB 61 unanimously 38-0 vote.
Confirmation of Labor Secretary Lana Gordon I voted for the confirmation of Secretary Gordon after meeting privately with her and consulting with pro-life leaders in the Senate. Despite her voting record against pro-life legislation she is qualified for the position and confirmation is considered to be in the best interest of Kansas. Her confirmation passed 38 - 0.Term Limits I have introduced several bills proposing term limits for state wide and federal office holders in Kansas. I expect these bills to be worked in the Ethics, Elections, and Local Government Committee on which I serve. The gist of the bills is to limit the number of consecutive terms that can be held before an officeholder must stand aside for at least one term before running for the same office again. I expect this to be a difficult issue and success is doubtful but it is a conversation that we must begin.Judiciary Budget
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Chief Justice Nuss of the Kansas Supreme Court and Chief Judge King of the 1st Judicial District, Leavenworth, appeared before the subcommittee along with other distinguished members of the judiciary. After deliberations the subcommittee unanimously voted to recommend increases the judiciary budget for automation improvements (e-filing) and to provide some much needed pay increases for non-judicial staff. The intention is to provide better service to Kansans and to improve productivity and avoid future personnel costs.Limiting Bids through Unreasonable SpecificationsThe State of Kansas and Kansas municipalities should use industry standard specifications and not limit bids through unreasonable requirements. I have introduced legislation that would make the use of such specifications to limit bidders unlawful. Kansans deserve to get the best deal for their tax dollars.2013 Session Dates and Deadlines
Below are dates and deadlines for the 2013 legislative session. As always, each is subject to modification
- Mon. February 11 Last day for non-exempt committees to request bill drafts
- Wed. February 13 Last day for bill introductions by members
- Fri. February 15 Last day for non-exempt committees to introduce bills
- Mon. February 25 Last day for afternoon committees to meet
- Tues. February 26 Last day for morning committees to meet
- Fri. March 1 Turnaround, last day for non-exempt bills
- Fri. March 22 Last day for bills to be considered by non-exempt committee
I am serving on the following committees: Ethics, Elections, and Local GovernmentTransportationWays and MeansChair Subcommittee on Judiciary and Gaming,Chair Subcommittee on Corrections & Juvenile Justice, Vice Chair Subcommittee on Legislative and Elected Officials, Thank you for the honor of serving you! I encourage you to contact me. It's always fun to have visitors in the building and you're welcome anytime we're in session. I am in Room 135 E. Please call ahead and let me know you are coming so I can work the schedule - call (800) 432-3924 and leave a message, I'll get back to you.Previous newsletters at: http://www.vote4fitzgerald.com/newsroom.html
- Wed. March 27 Last day for non-exempt bill in either chamber
- Wed. May 8 Veto session begins