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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Connie's Corner

  • March 1st was the deadline for all bills originating in non-exempt House committees to make it to the House floor and be approved for advancement to the senate for their consideration.
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  •  TURNAROUND - March 1st was the deadline for all bills originating in non-exempt House committees to make it to the House floor and be approved for advancement to the senate for their consideration. When House members return to Topeka on Wednesday, March 6th, they will be looking at legislation sent over from the senate and those bills that are in exempt committees. The House exempt committees are Taxation, Appropriations and Federal and State. Before a bill becomes law it must pass both the House and Senate and be signed by the Governor.  The second snow storm to hit Kansas this winter delayed but could not deter legislators from completing their work before turnaround. House members worked more than 70 bills this week. Many of the bills which survived the legislative process, about 80%, made their way to final action on the House floor and received bi-partisan support by a majority of House members. Only a handful of bills were vigorously debated before receiving a simple majority vote, and only a couple of those bills failed to be advanced to the senate for consideration.
    Equal Access for Professional Employee's Organizations HB 2221 - This was one of the more important bills we passed this week and is referred to as the Equal Access Act. The Equal Access Act would modify the Professional Negotiations Act by requiring school boards to give equal access to all professional employees physical or electronic mailboxes and allow equal access for all professional employee association to attend all new teacher or employee school orientations and other meetings. Local school boards would also not be allowed to designate any day or breaks in a school year by naming or referring to the name of a professional employees association, Additionally, current law would be amended by the bill to expand the definition of "professional employees' association" to include those existing for the purpose of professional development or liability protection. HB 2221 would ensure that all organizations offering professional services for teacher are afforded equal access to the teachers in Kansas. This allows teachers to make an informed choice by providing them with information and available resources regarding professional development and liability.The vote was 71 to 53 in favor. Judicial Selection HB 2019 - This bill was debated on the House floor on Thursday. This bill reforms the judicial selection process of the Kansas Appeals court. The current way appeal court judges are appointed is by a 9 member commission. The commission is made up of 4 non-attorneys appointed by the governor,4 members elected from each of the 4 congressional districts by attorneys admitted to the Kansas Bar, and a chairman elected at large by attorneys who are members of the Kansas Bar. The commission accepts nominations of attorneys, interviews them, and selects 3 to send to the governor for his selection. If the governor does not chose one of the Commission's three nominees the Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice makes the choice. Some say this system presents a conflict of interest because it is primarily attorneys who are picking the judges. It's like two competing baseball teams but only one team gets to pick the game's umpires. With a nominating commission dominated by lawyers it's the lawyers who are picking the judges they will appear before. By passing HB 2019 we took a step to eliminate the commission and adopt the federal plan which allows officials elected by the people to be the major components of judicial selection. HB 2019 allows the Governor to appoint judges to the Appeals Court and requires the Senate to confirm those appointments.The House voted 73 to 50 for favorable passage. Party Affiliation HB 2210 - Addressed the issue of changing party affiliation. In this last primary election there were some folks encouraging members of their party to change party affiliation in order to advance a candidate from the opposing party that was more acceptable to them. HB 2210 would prohibit changing party affiliation after the candidates filing deadline in June. Opportunity to change party affiliation would be reopened after the Secretary of State's office officially confirmed the winners of the August Primary elections. On final action this bill failed by a vote of 60 to 62 but that's not the end of the story. This bill was taken up again the following day. Any legislator voting against a bill can offer a motion to reconsider and that's what happened. The following day, after some legislators has a little more time to consider the issue, the motion to reconsider was offered. Motion to reconsider passed by a vote of 69 to 53.On final action, second time around, HB 2210 passed by a vote of 72 to 49.  HB 2078 - Licensing for Military Personnel. This bill allows military service members to apply for a medical license with the Board of Nursing and Board of Healing Arts. This bill allows military personnel to use training received in the military to serve as the educational requirement needed for a state medical professional license. The Board would review qualifications and make the final decision as to whether an applicant meets the necessary standards for a health care related license.HB 2078 passed by a vote of 119 to 0.  Taxation, Budget, 2nd amendment legislation, etc. There's a lot that House members haven't considered. Many of the bills in exempt committees have not made their way to the House floor for consideration. There are several important non-exempt House bills that failed to make it to the House floor for consideration but those issues are not dead because similar legislation was passed by the Senate and will now be considered by House members. One issue is a Kansas Constitutional Amendment changing the Judicial selection process for Supreme Court Judges. The current process is for Supreme Court judicial selection is the same as the one used for the Appeals Court judicial selection mentioned above. The legislation passed by the Senate would change that process to mirror the federal model. Governor appoints, Senate confirms. Currently there doesn't appear to be the 2/3 majority support needed in the House to advance this Constitutional Amendment for consideration by Kansas voters. Pages On Thursday, February 28, I had the pleasure of sponsoring five students from the Genesis School in Tonganoxie as pages for House members. This is a wonderful experience for students. They get to see first hand legislators at work and how the legislative process works. Jake, Evan, Donna, Annabell, and Kristen had a busy day as legislators were spending all day on the House floor. For lunch we had pizza and the students were also given a tour of the capitol in the afternoon. The pages generally enjoy going on the tour because they get to go to the top of the capitol. The renovation are almost complete with shining copper railing, the marble floors, and murals around the building being restored. I hope you take the opportunity to come and see how beautiful your newly renovated capitol looks. Monday and Tuesday, March 4th and 5th, are off days in the legislature as staff work through and process the bills passed this past week. There are several administrative procedures that need to be accomplished in order to properly prepare the bills that will advance to the Senate. Revisors must check the amendments passed to the bills, clerks must document and record everything, research staff must update the explanations of the bills that were amended. Next week, we will begin working bills sent over from the Senate. The speaker will assign bills to their appropriate committee for consideration. You can track the progress of these bills at www.kslegislature.org  I encourage you to let me know your thoughts and concerns on issues being discussed by the legislature. Please feel free to call or email me 785-296-7683 and connie.obrien@house.ks.gov. I look forward to hearing from you. Thank you for the honor of serving you in the Kansas House.

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