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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • At the Statehouse

  • By the first of March the legislature will have officially reached the halfway point, called turnaround, each chamber will then consider only the opposite chamber's proposals with just a few exceptions.
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  • By the first of March the legislature will have officially reached the halfway point, called turnaround, each chamber will then consider only the opposite chamber's proposals with just a few exceptions. This week the Senate debated 10 bills and we will likely see even more bills on the floor in the next few weeks. I am serving on the following committees: Chair Subcommittee on Judiciary and Gaming,Chair Subcommittee on Corrections & Juvenile Justice,Vice Chair Subcommittee on Legislative and Elected Officials,TransportationEthics, Elections, and Local GovernmentWays and MeansJoint Committee on Corrections & Juvenile Justice
    In this newsletter:
    Taxes Amended in Senate Committee - There are a lot of ideas floating around in Topeka concerning taxes and there is some action in the Senate. It remains to be seen what the final bill will look like. Transportation Issues - I continue to work with the Department of Transportation to keep the needs of the district at the forefront. So far there is not much to show as the T Works ten year program makes it extremely difficult to add anything. But, there are plans and there is greater understanding of the needs of the district.Corrections and Juvenile Justice - As the chair of the subcommittee on corrections I recently reported on the proposed budget. There are good things happening in the Department of Corrections there are also some disturbing trends.Mental Health - Secretary Sullivan and I discussed his efforts in this area and I believe he is on the right track.Veteran Scholarships in Kansas - SB 27 clarifies who is eligible for veteran scholarships in Kansas. I will carry this bill on the floor of the Senate this week.Woodlands Reopening - In the Judicial and Gaming Subcommittee I questioned the rationale for the law which has kept the Woodlands closed for the last several years. Judicial Budget - I voted to expand the e-filing system for Kansas courts and to increase non-judicial staff pay.Medicaid Expansion - A potential increase of 1.1 Billion Dollars over then next ten years.Quick Facts
    • According to The Kansas Department of Education, taxpayer support for education will set a new record this year at $12,738 total in per pupil spending
    • Nearly 15,000 Kansas 11th-grade students are unable to fully comprehend grade-level reading material (Kansas Department of Education, NAEP Scores)
    • By 2023, 21 percent of Kansas' population is projected to be on Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act up from 13 percent in 2012 (Kansas Division of the Budget)
    • Kansas Medicaid expenditures are projected to grow by an additional $4.7 billion, 29 percent, beyond the increase projected without the Affordable Care Act (Kansas Division of the Budget)
    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. Taxes Amended in Senate Committee  This week, the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee amended the tax bill to remove a provision of eliminating the deduction for property taxes Kansans pay on theirhomes. The Governor's plan if passed, will continue to gradually lower state individual income taxes over the next five years, speeding up the rate of reductions if the state experiences healthy economic growth. To help balance the state's budget, the plan retains the current sales tax rate and eliminates the state tax deduction on interest Kansans pay for home mortgages. The tax committee is still considering a number of proposals to help balance the budget while lowering the overall tax burden on Kansans. While it's easy to look at individual deductions or other tax policies and draw quick conclusions, it's important to remember tax policy must be considered in a holistic fashion, considering how an entire tax structure impacts citizens rather than specific policies. The goal must be to decrease the overall tax burden on all Kansas citizens and foster continued growth throughout the state. During this process, I encourage you to contact me with input on which parts of this tax proposal or any that might impact you directly. Transportation Issues The need for better transportation in the district is gaining visibility in the Kansas Department of Transportation. Secretary of Transportation King announced a preliminary engineering study for widening or adding to the Centennial Bridge which spans the Missouri River in Leavenworth. Other needs being pursued include the realignment of K-5 to provide a high speed route to I-435, a limited access roadway west of Leavenworth and Lansing cities, further upgrades to K-7 including traffic light synchronization, and of course the planned improvement to the K-7 / I-70 interchange. Roads are vital to the district and I will continue to advocate for more and better roads for Wyandotte and Leavenworth. As a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, I have been able to gather a lot of information and I am very impressed with the quality work that the department is doing.Corrections and Juvenile JusticeReorganization - As a result of an audit conducted by the Legislative Division of Post Audit, the governor criticized the decisions of policy makers and previous administrations regarding juvenile justice as failing to provide necessary safety and security. He ordered the Kansas Juvenile Justice Authority (JJA) to be folded into the Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC). The governor believes that by moving JJA to KDOC, there will be an increased emphasis on safety in addition to continuing to provide programs to reduce juvenile recidivism. Growth - Since 2009 the prison population has grown by almost 23% and is projected by the Kansas Sentencing Commission to continue to grow at approximately the same rate in the foreseeable future. Recidivism - The good news is that the recidivism rate is dropping and the rate in Kansas is well below the national average (33.7% compared to 43.3%). This is a great testament to the work of the corrections officers, parole officers and the entire system. Unfortunately, while we are doing better at getting prisoners back on the right track, there is a definite increase in the number of offenders who are being sentenced to prison - including those who have had their probation revoked. Mentally Ill - Most disturbing is the large and rising number of inmates who are mentally ill. Since 2006 the mentally ill population has increased by 126% and currently 38% of the inmates are mentally ill. Our corrections facilities have become the provider of last resort for Kansans with serious mental illness. Mental HealthSecretary of Aging and Disability Services, Sean Sullivan, and his staff visited with me last week to discuss my concerns about the way we have failed to properly address mental illness in Kansas for many years. Although I think the Governor's shift of 10 Million Dollars to support mental health only begins to address the need, I am persuaded that Secretary Sullivan and his staff are seriously engaged in developing a better and more effective approach. I intend to track these efforts and provide what support I can.Veteran Scholarships in KansasSB 27 broadens the qualifications to include veterans who have served in international waters or on foreign soil in support of military operations for at least ninety days. I voted in favor of this bill in the Ways and Means Committee and I will present the bill to the full Senate this week. I was a veteran when I went to college and I know that the veterans who take advantage of this program will be mature and serious students - it is money well spent. Woodlands ReopeningAs chair of the Judicial and Gaming Subcommittee I expressed my concern that the district is being harmed by confiscatory taxation that prevents a reopening of the Woodlands - which would add to the attractiveness of the area as a destination as well as boost the economy and provide a good number of jobs. There is concern about slot machines at the race track competing with the Hollywood Casino. However, the track will attract more people to the area and be a growth factor for the entire area.I expect proponents to provide a bill shortly.Judicial Budget The Judicial and Gaming Subcommittee report recommended funding the e-filing system which will allow greater productivity and avoid further personnel costs while aiding the delivery of court services. We also recommended raising the pay for non-judicial staff who have been seriously underpaid. I was able to get this report accepted by the full Ways and Means Committee.Medicaid Expansion On Friday, February 8, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) released the results of an independent analysis, done by Aon Hewitt, on the potential enrollment and budget impact of the Affordable Care Act's (ACA) implementation to the state Medicaid/Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP). The study estimates that if the state chooses not to expand Medicaid, the Medicaid/CHIP enrollment will increase by 20,563 in CY2014, ramping up to 41,538 by CY2016, when the ACA is expected to be fully implemented. The anticipated 10-year (CY2014-CY2023) state general fund (SGF) increase for no expansion will be $513 million. If the state chooses to expand Medicaid, Medicaid/CHIP enrollment will increase by 111,880 in CY2014, ramping up to 226,003 once the ACA is fully implemented. The anticipated 10-year (CY2014-CY2023) SGF increase with expansion compared to no ACA will be $1.1 billion. Governor Brownback has not yet announced a decision on whether or not the state will expand Medicaid. An increase of $1.1 billion over ten years to state expenditures would have an impact on the state's ability to fund its other core responsibilities, such as education. The ACA does state that the federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost of the expansion for the first 3 years and then 90 percent after that. However, if the federal government, which is currently running trillion dollar deficits, is not able to make good on its offer, then the impact on the state budget would be even greater.KanCare Educational Meetings for Members As a reminder, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment has announced it will be hosting educational meetings for members beginning next week. 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 www.kancare.ks.gov/events.htmFebruary 18 in Dodge City, Manhattan, Winfield and TopekaFebruary 19 in Garden City, Salina, Parsons and Kansas CityFebruary 20 in Colby, Great Bend, Fort Scott and OlatheFebruary 21 in Hays, Wichita, Emporia and Atchinson2013 Session Dates and Deadlines Below are remaining dates and deadlines for the 2013 legislative session. As always, each is subject to modification.
    • 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
    • Wed. March 27 Last day for non-exempt bill in either chamber
    • Wed. May 8 Veto session begins
    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.
    Page 2 of 2 - Previous newsletters at: http://www.vote4fitzgerald.com/newsroom.html
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