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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • At the Statehouse

  • The Senate made significant strides this week; the most important was passage of the Senate budget package.
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    The Senate made significant strides this week; the most important was passage of the Senate budget package. This week was also the last week for most Senate committees to consider legislation. April 5th is the last day for regular session and we will adjourn for a month long break before returning to Topeka for what is called "veto session."
     
    Veto session in the past has been utilized by the House and the Senate to negotiate an agreement in many areas where there are major differences between similar bills passed, most notably tax and the budget. However, under new leadership, our goal is to complete the bulk of this work before we return for veto session. We will be debating on the floor all day early next week. Then, during the first week of April, small teams of House and Senate negotiators will meet to reconcile bills to be passed in what are called "conference committee reports" before adjournment of the regular session on April 5th.  Stay informed of the issues under consideration by the Kansas Legislature. Committee schedules, bills, and other helpful information can be easily accessed through the legislature's website at www.kslegislature.org. Please do not hesitate to contact me with your thoughts, concerns, and suggestions. I always enjoy hearing from my constituents on the topics under consideration and appreciate the perspective from those outside the Statehouse.   Reminder: 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 Government Ways and Means Joint Committee on Corrections & Juvenile Justice In This Newsletter:   The Senate Budget - Cuts everywhere - almost  KanCare Oversight Committee - Legislature to stay deeply involved Licensing for Military Personnel - Skills transfer - so should certificatesPreservation of Religious Freedom Act - Protecting first rights Supporting Military School Districts - Getting the count right
     
    Hunting Permits for Wounded Warriors - Out of state veterans get free licenses
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    Reopening the Woodlands? - There is a bill in the works
    2013 Kansas Book Festival Grant Winners- $12,555 to librariesSenate Budget - Senate Substitute for HB 2143 Dealing with cuts in spending and taxes.
     
    Last year, the state passed the largest tax cut in history by significantly reducing state taxpayer's income rates and eliminating income taxes on small and corporate business owners for non-wage revenue. The 2013 legislative session continued the focus on lowering income tax, while looking for increased efficiencies in state government. Combined with last year's tax cut and the continued efforts to ratchet down the tax rates, the legislature has focused on responsible spending habits. Last week, the Senate passed a tax plan that would continue the march to zero. The Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee along with the Senate Ways and Means committee have worked in tandem to meet their obligations and continue tax reform within the state.
     
    The Senate budget has an ending balance of $492.0 million in FY 2014 and $377.7 million in FY 2015 -this includes the current year to date revenue dollars which are above projected estimates. As you recall, the Governor proposed a two-year budget cycle to allow for a more comprehensive forecast for state expenditures and to elevate pressure from state departments by providing a two-year outlook for budgeting projections.
     
    The budget includes the Governor's recommendation to hold K-12 education at current funding levels. Additional legislation will be considered after the annual April break to consider supplementary funding requests of state agencies, departments and programs.
     
    This was the first time the Senate considered a budget proposal under a pay-go rule, which requires any amendment that spends additional money have a method in it to pay for the costs. The following amendments were added to the bill:
    • Masterson amendment: Technical amendment which adjusted funding amounts with in the bill that were left out during the drafting of the bill
    • Denning amendment: Restores $5 million in funding to KU Cancer Research Center and to the K-State Animal Research facility
    • Kelly amendment: Transfers $25,000 to the sexual violent predator expense fund operated by the Attorney General's office
    • Wolf amendment: Transfers $7 million dollars for the Governor's "Kansas Reads to Succeed" initiative to the Children's Initiative fund for early childhood block grant funding in the event the Governor's initiative is not signed into law
    • Pyle amendment: Allows Governor Brownback to approve Medicaid expansion program but is subject to legislative oversight
    There were numerous other amendments that failed to get the necessary votes.
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    The House passed their budget proposal on March 20th. Now, both bodies will appoint a conference committee to negotiate the differences between the two budgets.
     
    Senate Substitute for HB 2143 passed, March 21st by a vote of 24-16.
     
    I voted for this budget. In an explanation of my vote I expressed concern with inadequate funding for corrections, the courts, and mental health and urged that they be increased in the conference committee work..KanCare Oversight Committee - HB 2025 Taking responsibility for the KanCare system
     
    This bill establishes the Robert G. (Bob) Bethell Joint Committee on Home and Community Based Services and KanCare Oversight, consisting of eleven members from the legislature and meeting at least three times when the legislature is in session and at least once during each of the second, third, and fourth calendar quarters. This committee will provide oversight of the administration of KanCare by elected members of the legislature.
     
    According to HB 2025, state agencies will be required to provide to the committee data and information on KanCare programs, including pay for performance measures, quality measures and enrollment and dis-enrollment in specific plans, KanCare provider network date, and appeals and grievances made to the KanCare ombudsman. The committee will submit its own report to President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, the House Committee on Health and Human Services, and the Senate Committee on Public Health and Welfare. It would also be able to introduce legislation as deemed necessary in performing its functions.
     
    HB 2025 passed by a vote of 40 to 0. Licensing for military personnel - HB 2078 Giving credit where it is due
     
    On Thursday the Senate passed HB 2078 to allow for military service members to apply for licenses with the Board of Nursing and Board of Healing Arts. Currently there are certain civilian educational requirements to obtain a license. This bill would allow military personnel to use training received in the military to serve as the educational requirements needed for state licensing for medical professionals. This bill would not require state regulatory agencies to issue licenses. Instead, it would allow the military education to be substituted for civilian training and the board would have final decision as to whether an individual meets the necessary requirements for a healthcare related license.
     
    During debate on the floor, a similar bill HB 2077 was amended into HB 2078. HB 2077 is along the same lines in allowing the Board of licensing to grant honorably discharged members of the military to obtain licenses for training acquired during their service.
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    HB 2078 passed by a vote of 40 to 0Preservation of Religious Freedom Act - HB 2203 Things the government may not do.
     
    On Thursday, the Senate approved a proposal that would create the Kansas Preservation of Religious Freedom Act. This act affirms that the government shall not place burden on a person's right to exercise their religion. The bill outlines clear definitions of religious freedoms and defines clear lines which the government cannot cross.
     
    HB 2203 passed by a vote of 34-4.
     
    I voted for this bill.
     
    Supporting Military School Districts - HB 2109 Accounting for changes in student population during the year.
     
    HB 2109 extends current law to allow school districts in areas with strong military presence, like Fort Riley and Fort Leavenworth, to adjust to the high-turnover rates by providing a second count of students in February of each year.This second count accommodates the arrival of military personnel in the district after the state-wide cound each September.
     
    HB 2109 passed by a vote of 40-0.
     
    Hunting Permits for Wounded Warriors - HB 2030 Up to ten out of state wounded veterans to get free licenses.
     
    HB 2030 authorizes the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism to offer free hunting licenses to veterans wounded in combat. These licenses are reserved for wounded warriors living outside Kansas.
     
    Up to ten Individuals will be selected by random drawings. The wound warrior permits are subject to certain restrictions of the hunting season already outlined in state law, e.g.,equipment style.
     
    HB 2030 passed by a vote of 40 to 0.
     
    Reopening the Woodlands Bill introduced in Federal and State Affairs Committee I have authored a bill to correct inequities in the law and thereby make feasible the reopening of the Woodlands Racetrack. The bill was introduced in committee on Friday. There is great reluctance to revisit the gambling issue. However, this bill is intended to bring horse racing back to Kansas - providing a boost to agriculture and the overall economy. 2013 Kansas Book Festival Grant Winners
     
    This week First Lady Mary Brownback announced the winners of the 2013 Kansas Book Festival Grants for 16 public schools and libraries from across the state. Winners will receive a portion of $12,555 in grants.
     
    Technology GrantsRossville Community Library, Rossville, $1,050Blue Rapids Public Library, Blue Rapids, $1,030Lebo School Library, Waverly, $1,600Payne elementary School Library, Wichita, $1,200Jackson heights Middle/High School Library, Holton, $1,000
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    Book GrantsCentral Elementary Library, Goodland, $500Lawrence Gardner High School Library, Topeka, $500Garfield Early childhood Library, Garden City, $500Tipton Community Grade School Library, Tipton, $500Grainfield City Library, Grainfield, $1,000Florence Public Library, Florence, $400Clifton-Clyde Grade School Library, Clifton, $500Norcatur Public Library, Norcatur, $1,000St. Joseph School Library, Ellinwood, $500Washington High School Library, Kansas City, $1,000Central Heights Elementary School Library, Richmond, $275
     
    The Kansas Book Festival started in 2011 and is hosted by Kansas' First Lady. The 2013 Book Festival will be held on September 7th at the Kansas State capitol in Topeka. All age groups are invited to attend the free, day-long event. To learn more, visit kansasbookfestival.com.  
     
    2013 Session Dates and Deadlines
     
    Below are remaining dates and deadlines for the 2013 legislative session. As always, each is subject to modification.
    • 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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