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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • At the Statehouse

  • The Senate to allow more cooperation between the two agencies, debated HB 2234, a bill that expands the authority for KTA and KDOT to contract with each other.
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  • KDOT/KTA Partnership (HB 2243)      Saving taxpayer money for road maintenance.
     
           The Senate to allow more cooperation between the two agencies, debated HB 2234, a bill that expands the authority for KTA and KDOT to contract with each other. During debate on HB 2243 on the Senate floor, an amendment was adopted which gives KDOT authority to use any bond interest or toll revenue to build a maintenance fund for future repairs on Kansas highways. This will allow the state to provide any necessary maintenance in the future without having to request funding from the legislature or issue more bonds in order to pay for road repairs in the future.
     
    HB 2243 passed by a vote of 26-14. I voted for this bill.
     
    Kansas Reads to Succeed Act - Sub HB 2140      Focus on Kindergarten and first grade readers.
      
           A goal for the 2013 session is to increase reading proficiency of Kansas students.  In 2011, the National Assessment for Educational Progress scores showed that 29 percent of 4th graders in Kansas read below the "basic" level and the National Center for Education Statistics states that 40 states are higher than Kansas on 4th grade reading. 
     
           The program focuses on developing interventions starting in kindergarten and first grade and provides mandatory retention of some first-grade pupils if they are unable to pass the state reading assessment. Several provisions are included in the bill for students who are known for under-performing on assessments but making achievements in class. If a student is unable to achieve a passing score on the first assessment, the student would be administer a second alternative standardize reading assessment before the district would require the pupil to remain in the 1st grade. Also included are several exceptions to the retention of a student and would allow for additional instruction until they achieve the appropriate grade-level reading skills.
     
           Sub HB 2140 is only applicable to school districts that have a higher-than-statewide average number of students scoring at the lowest achievement standard on the most recent statewide assessment. The bill also establishes the Kansas Reads to Succeed Task Force and awards school districts based on improvement in reading proficiency at the second grade level. If signed into law, the measure will take affect at the beginning of the school year in 2016-2017.
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    Sub for HB 2140 passed by a vote of 30-10. I voted for this bill.
     
    Unemployment Insurance - HB 2105       Reducing the number of weeks - increasing employer contributions.
     
           This week the Senate passed HB 2105 which revises current employment security laws, commonly referred to as Unemployment Insurance or UI. Unemployment Insurance provides a safety net for employees who are laid-off. Currently, the UI fund is depleted due to an increased unemployment rate. 
     
           Most notably, this bill increases the amount businesses pay for Unemployment Insurance and reduces the weeks an individual can claim benefits. By increasing the amount employers pay into the fund, we can ensure that the fund can retain a healthy balance in the future for those who require assistance.
     
           The bill also provides incentives to business that currently retain a positive balance. Unemployment Insurance is a partnership between the federal government and the state. Almost all wage and salary workers are covered by the program. An amendment adopted during floor debate would also disqualify suspended employees from receiving benefits.
     
    HB 2501 passed by a vote of 30 to 10. I voted for this bill 
      
    Telecommunication Deregulation - HB 2201       Saving money with more modern technology
     
           Like many states Kansas has a Universal Service Fund into which every wired and wireless phone user pays as a part of their monthly phone bill.  The Kansas Universal Service Fund (KUSF) supports access to phone service for Kansans living in rural areas where access is more difficult and costly to provide. The KUSF was enacted by the 1996 Kansas Legislature and the size of the fund is currently at over $60 million.
     
           As telecommunication begins to modernize, focus has started to turn from providing access to wired phone service to access to more wireless phone service and broadband Internet service.  With this in mind, the Senate passed a telecommunication deregulation bill that includes a reduction in the KUSF.  The bill, HB 2201, would provide for reductions to the KUSF of about $10 million. Such a reduction would directly benefit all Kansas consumers by lessening the fees assessed to them on their phone bills.   
     
           While the bill will provide immediate relief to the consumer, legislators also felt more review was needed therefore the bill includes a provision establishing a study commission to study how KUSF funds are being distributed and whether further reductions can be made. The commission would also help ensure that telecommunication providers are given the regulatory flexibility to better advance the statewide telecommunication infrastructure.
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    HB 2201 passed by a vote of 36-4. I voted for this bill.
     
    Regulatory Certainty for IP - HB 2326        Providing a stable environment for high tech investment.
        
           This bill exempts Internet Protocol (IP)-based services from regulation by the Kansas Corporations Commission (KCC). IP is the broadband technology of the future that is already being deployed to meet consumer demand for popular applications that connect them in their daily lives including e-mail, Netflix, and Skype. 
     
           In the 1980's, the Kansas Legislature passed laws protecting wireless communications from state regulation. As a result the wireless industry in Kansas continues to flourish. Currently, IP-based services are rapidly growing and investment dollars are pouring into these technologies.  
     
    The Senate passed HB 2326 by a vote of 37-1. I voted for this bill.
     
    Knife Regulation - HB 2033      Law-biding citizens rights to carry knives protected. 
     
          This legislation updates the law regarding what type of knives may be carried and produced in the state of Kansas. The regulations include several specific types of knives as well as knife characteristics. The core arguments for the bill were that restrictions of weapons only prevent law abiding citizens from obtaining these knives and not criminals who wish to do harm. This is very similar to gun control legislation which would put restrictions on legal citizens while those who break the law can find these weapons and use them.
     
           The bill excludes school districts, jails, and juvenile correctional facilities, which may restrict knives in these facilities.
     
    HB 2033 passed by a vote of 40 to 0. I voted for this bill. Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm - HB 2052        Uniform laws throughout the state.
     
           This week the Senate considered HB 2052, a bill that would establish a uniform state law addressing unlawful discharge of a firearm within or into any city. The bill would define the unlawful discharge of a firearm as the reckless discharge of any firearm within or into the corporate limits of a city and would make such a violation a misdemeanor. Additionally, the bill would provide for circumstances in which a firearm may be discharged into or within a city without being considered unlawful.
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           One of the circumstances for when a firearm may be discharged into or within a city without being considered unlawful would be in the case of lawful defense of a person or property. Cities would be prohibited from enacting ordinances that would penalize discharging a firearm even if done in defense of person or property.
     
    HB 2052 passed by a vote of 35 to 5. I voted for this bill.
     
         
    2013 Session Dates and Deadlines
     
           Below are remaining dates and deadlines for the 2013 legislative session. As always, each is subject to modification.
    • 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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