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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Steve Fitgerald legislative update

  • This week the Senate passed legislation to establish the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center at the University of Kansas Medical Center.
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    Real cures coming from Kansas
     
    This week the Senate passed legislation to establish the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center at the University of Kansas Medical Center. This center will focus on scientific advances for adult, cord blood and related stem cell and non-embryonic stem cell research, and therapies for patient treatments. This facility will also produce clinical grade stem cells and facilitate the delivery of therapies. They will conduct clinical trials while also maintaining a resource database for physicians, and provide education training for physicians while informing the public of therapeutic options regarding stem cell advances
     
    SB 199, which I co-sponsored, establishes a new fund to ensure federal grants, private funding, and other dollars will cover the cost of the new project. The new facility will be governed by a 13-member board and advised by the Director of the Stem Cell Facility, which will report to the Executive Vice Chancellor of the KU Medical Center.
     
    Removing Statute of Limitations on Rape - SB 167  Reporting periods for victims of abuse also raised.
     
    This week the Senate unanimously passed a bill that eliminates the statute of limitations for the crimes of rape or aggravated criminal sodomy. This change in current statue will permit the prosecution of extremely violent sex offenders to occur at any time. The bill also extends the reporting period for underage victims of sexual assaults that do not rise to the level of rape until the victim turns 28. SB 167 increases the statute of limitations for such sexual assault on adult victims from five to ten years. The bill preserves current law, which enables the prosecution of sex offenders any time law enforcement uncovers new DNA evidence linking a suspect to the sexual assaultDrug Testing for Welfare and Unemployment Recipients - SB 149  Reasonable suspicion of illegal drug use required.
     
    If there is reasonable suspicion they are using illegal substances recipients of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and unemployment payments will be required to undergo drug testing The bill prohibits individuals who fail a drug test from receiving state TANF benefits until they have completed drug treatment and job skill training programs provided by the Kansas Department of Family and Children (DCF). A second failed drug test would result in additional treatment and training program completion and prohibit the recipient from receiving benefits for one year. Recipients who fail a third drug test are permanently suspended from receiving state taxpayer assistance.
     
    Existing federal TANF funds will cover the treatment programs required for recipients in SB 149. Neither the Kansas general fund, nor individuals who test positive for the use of illegal substances will pay for the cost of treatment. Although individuals who fail the drug test will not qualify to receive state government assistance until the completion of this treatment program, a drug-free third-party will be able to receive and administer TANF funds for qualifying children.
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    SB 149 also requires potential employers who have a job applicant fail or refuse to take a drug test as part of the hiring process to report the outcome to the Kansas Department of Labor. Failure or refusal by a job applicant to take a drug test would result in the individual loss of their unemployment benefits until they complete drug treatment and job skills training programs. This bill passed the Senate 31 - 8.
     
    Wrongful Life and Wrongful Birth - SB 142
     
    No lawsuits based on someone should not have been born.
     
    This bill creates a new section of law prohibiting civil actions for a claim of wrongful life or wrongful birth. The bill also prohibits recovery of damages in any civil action for any physical condition of a minor that existed at birth if damages arise out of a claim that a person's action or omission contributed to the minor's mother not obtaining an abortion.
    The bill includes a definition for the "claim of wrongful birth" as a cause of action brought by a parent, guardian or individual required to provide for the support of a minor. In addition, the bill defines "claim of wrongful life" as a second cause of action brought by or for a minor seeking damages due to physical condition existing at birth, and which claims a person's action or omission contributed to the minor's mother not obtaining an abortion. The last final provision in SB 142 would amend wrongful death statute to include "unborn child" within the definition of "person" for the purposes of the statute- "Unborn child," in SB 142 is defined as a living individual organism of the species homo sapiens, in utero, at any state of gestation from fertilization to birth. This bill, which I co-sponsored, passed the Senate 34 - 5.
     
    Financial Accounting & Reporting - SB 171
     
    School districts must report finances on websites.
     
    The Senate unanimously passed this bill which will amend the Kansas Uniform Financial Accounting and Reporting Act. The bill requires each school district and the Kansas Department of Education to report, on their respective websites, a budget summary for the current school year, as well as actual expenditures for the immediately preceding two school years to illustrate amounts spent per pupil and to show per-pupil revenue amounts received by the school district from local, state, and federal tax dollars.
    Elections, Voter Fraud Crimes - SB 63
     
    Tightening up the laws.
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    This week, the Senate voted on a measure that would create new crimes relating to elections. The bill changes and creates a number of election laws, including:
    • Making it a crime in the state of Kansas to vote more than once
    • Granting the Secretary of State prosecutorial authority for election crimes.
    • Amending current statute to prohibit or require certain actions regarding voter fraud with advance voting.
    • Amending election bribery laws to add exemotion for a business or organization that provides a product worth less than $3 to any person who has voted, such as "I voted" sticker.
    • Amending the crime of voting without being qualified to remove the provision of voting more than once.
    • Increasing the severity level of the crime of election tampering
    • Clarifying the crime of false impersonation of a voter can occur by representing oneself as another person whether real or fictitious
    • Amending the declaration signed by voters to read "...in the election held on this date, in this or any other jurisdiction in the United States, for any offices or ballot issues."
    • Prohibits the Secretary of State from operating a political action committee that contributes to candidates for the legislature or statewide offices.
    This bill passed the Senate 31 - 9.Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards - SB 82 Standards to remain as they are.
     
    SB 82 amends the state's renewable energy portfolio standards, also known as RPS. Current RPS requires utilities to generate or purchase electricity generated from renewable energy resources. The utilities are required to meet a specific percentage of demand with renewable generation capacity as specified in current statue. SB 82 would amend the years 2016 and 2020 to 2018 and 2014 for the period that renewable energy credits could be used to meet a portion of RPS requirements. The bill would adjust the time frame in which a utility is required to use a certain percentage of renewable energy as part of the RPS requirement. It would also allow the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) the ability to delay a utility company's RPS requirement for a specified period of time if the company provided good cause to do so. This bill failed 17 - 23.
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    Workers Compensation Review Board - SB 187 Administrative Law Judges will be chosen by larger board.  Currently the board is comprised of five members, who are required by statute to have a minimum of seven years of experience practicing law in Kansas. A member from the Kansas AFL-CIO and a member from the Kansas Chamber of Commerce are also to be represented on the Workers Compensation Board. This bill which replaces the Workers Compensation Administrative Law Judge Nominating and Review Committee and the Workers Compensation Board Nominating Committee with the Workers Compensation and Employment Security Boards Nominating Committee. The purpose of this committee would be to make nominations pertaining to positions on the Workers Compensation Division, the Workers Compensation Review Board, and the employment Security Board of Review. The committee will still be organized under the Kansas Secretary of Labor.   The bill also expands the current five-member committee to seven members including: the Secretary of the Department of Labor; a member from the Kansas Chamber of Commerce; a member of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, a member of the Kansas AFL-CIO; the Kansas State council of the Society for Human Resource Management; and the final member would be appointed by the Secretary from the Kansas Department of Labor from an employee organization.   During floor debate, Senator Pat Apple (R) offered an amendment which adjusted the term limits. Three members would be appointed for a term of two years and the remaining members would be appointed for a four year term. Senator Apple's amendment passed on a voice vote. This bill passed the Senate 31 - 9. Schools to Offer Certifications? - SB 128  Trying to make graduates "career ready"
     
    The Senate passed legislation this week that would provide incentives for schools to offer certifications to high school students. SB 128 specifies that a student's accomplishment of obtaining an industry-recognized credential in one of certain occupations by the time of graduation will result in an award of $1,000 to the school district. Giving our kids the tools they need to be successful in adulthood is a priority of the Senate. Whether a student seeks to attain a college degree or not, should not determine the success of that student. Providing certifications to our students that will allow them to be career ready out of high school is of much importance and is expected to lower dropout rates and increase student morale.   2013 Session Dates and Deadlines
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    Below are remaining dates and deadlines for the 2013 legislative session. As always, each is subject to modification.
    • 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
    • Fri. April 5 First adjournment
    • 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. Previous newsletters at: http://www.vote4fitzgerald.com/newsroom.html
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