Week 5 was a crazy busy week in the Statehouse! Many groups were here to bring attention to their causes: The Kansas Realtors, the Early Childhood Education Coalition, the Higher Education Coalition, several Veteran groups, the Travel Industry Association of Kansas, the Kansas Bankers, the Pork Association, Advocates against Sexual & Domestic Violence, and more.
Busy Week Week 5 was a crazy busy week in the Statehouse! Many groups were here to bring attention to their causes: The Kansas Realtors, the EarlyChildhood Education Coalition, the Higher Education Coalition, severalVeteran groups, the Travel Industry Association of Kansas, the KansasBankers, the Pork Association, Advocates against Sexual & DomesticViolence, and more. These groups usually have rallies or demonstrations in the Capitol as well as make appointments to meet with as many of the Legislators as possible. A surprising number of bills were placed on the House Consent Calendar this Friday. When a bill is considered by a committee as beingnon-controversial in nature, such as a language clean up, the committee will place it on the Consent Calendar. It remains on the calendar for 3 days unless any legislator objects. Once it is on the calendar for 3 days with no objection, it automatically moves to final action for a vote without debate. Ten bills are now on the Consent Calendar this week from several committees. You can check the calendar on kslegislature.org. Veterans, Military & Homeland Security Friday was the deadline for bill introductions by most committees.Three more veteran related bills were read in: HB2356 proposing anHonor & Remember Flag license plate to assist Honor & Remember, Inc. in raising money for the personalized flags they present to families of fallen servicemembers; HB2357 that would designate a portion of HWY 169 the 242nd Engineer Company (Kansas National Guard) Memorial Highway; and HB2360 that would enhance protections for deployed military service members and their families. This coming week the Committee has two hearings. The hearing Tuesday, 19 February, is for HB2212. This is a very important bill regarding the Veteran Service Representatives that assist our Kansas veterans in submitting their claims and navigating the bureaucracy of the federal Veteran Administration system. They were once state workers, but are now paid through a grant program to Kansas veteran service organizations. This bill would amend and stabilize the grant program with oversight of the Kansas Commission on Veteran Affairs. The hearing on Thursday, 21 February, is for HB2303. This bill would allow a veteran to have the designation of "Veteran" placed on theirdriver's license if requested and would allow the drivers' licensebureau to share the list of veterans with the Kansas Commission onVeterans Affairs so that they can better ensure our Kansas veterans arereceiving the services they earned. Enhanced Penalties for Theft of Firearms This week in Corrections & Juvenile Justice Committee our ownLeavenworth County Attorney and the Lansing Police Department will be testifying on HB2278, a bill to enhance the penalties for theft orburglary of firearms. Under current law, the theft of a firearm has thesame penalty as stealing a dvd player or bicycle. I have not heard theproponents' testimony for the bill yet but as I see it, the state ofKansas has very good laws on the sale of firearms, so thieves enablecriminals to circumvent our laws by not only obtaining a firearmillegally, but also providing the stolen firearms to others who areunable to purchase them legally or try to hide their purchase. Proposed Cuts to our Corrections System The Transportation & Public Safety Budget Committee worked the budgets for the Department of Corrections, the Juvenile Justice Authority (JJA), and all their facilities. After representing our corrections facility community and serving on the Corrections & Juvenile Justice Committee for several years, I have heard the concerns of our Corrections officers and have seen the effects of our budget cuts on our Corrections systems. This committee voted 7 – 2 to make some significant cuts to ourcorrections system. It actually recommended to spend $0 (nothing) onhighschool education for juveniles in detention, cutting personnelpositions in JJA (after we received the legislative audit last summerabout the dangerous personnel shortages and turnover) and not to fund the two psychologists for intensive sex offender programming (which means juvenile sex offenders will be released into our communities with no treatment). Rep Clayton from Johnson County and I were the dissenting votes. The committee recommendation also cut offender rehabilitation programs in half and the Kansas Sentencing Commission's program for substance abuse treatment programs that are mandated by Kansas statute and were expanded by the legislature last year, by $198,000. Kansas used to be a leader in low recidivism rates and emulated by therest of the country, but we have now eliminated almost all of ouroffender and reentry programs over the last 4-5 years. The Secretary of Corrections described the situation by saying that these programs have been cut so severely that if we cut anymore it may actually raise the cost of trying to keep them going. Lower recidivism means moreoffenders behaving once they are released and hopefully becomingcontributing members of society. It means less victims because thereleased inmates do not reoffend (commit a new crime). It is less costfor court proceedings and it is huge savings of less people in prison. Interesting Bills Awaiting Debate in the House The number of bills that have been passed out of committees to the House as a whole for debate is growing. As I scan the list, I noticed some that I have been hearing from home about and others that may interest you. You can look them up at kslegislature.org and let me know any input, suggestions or comments you may have: HB2118 - historic preservation, HB2075 - disposition of abandoned property, HB2037 – religious displays on public property, HB2095 – term limits for the members of the ethics commission, HB2221 – the equal access act, HB2112 – the use of unexpended campaign funds, HB2153 – disposition of unused medication, are just a few. There are a couple of bills that directly affect our community: HB2109 – funding of education for military pupils, and HB2135 – concerning property tax on militaryhousing. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. 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 athttp://da.state.ks.us/phonebook.