May 4, 2006
I'm the first to admit I don't know where to begin with this update! I kept intending to send one sooner, but there was no resolution on the education bills we have been working since Monday. But now, we have worked long and hard for bills that were all killed. However, I thought I should update you on happenings.
There are so many moving pieces, a lot of the information below has been voided, and other parts set in motion! Confusing, I know, but here goes my first attempt…
Education and Personal Activities
Education and Personal Activities
The Senate passed a bill last week, which the Select Committee on Education proceeded to cut, cut, and cut.
1. Since the House already has a position (we already passed a bill to fund schools), there wasn't much need to negotiate against ourselves (especially when it includes great provisions for Shawnee Mission schools). Our coalition replaced the Senate bill with our House bill (again), reinforcing the House position on school funding.
§ The underlying bill from the Select Committee had a handful of policy provisions that make the entire thing null and void, including withholding school funding until the Montoy case (mid-size schools lawsuit against the state) is dismissed. In other words, we tell the Court what to do or schools don't get money.
o Another policy in the bill withholds money to be spent on achieving the goals in No Child Left Behind until the federal government gives us money to do so. The KS Board of Education established the NCLB guidelines as the ones for KS schools to follow, and no one is expecting the feds to help us pay for that any time soon. You do the math.
2. Over the next few hours (which turned into 2+ days), amendments were brought to insert the original Senate plan including varying LOB provisions, but not removing the above offending policy provisions.
3. End result? The Senate plan with some LOB (not removing the cap like our coalition plan) passed General Orders, along with all of the terrible provisions for Shawnee Mission. Upside? I got to vote against these terrible provisions, and the folks who said they'd never vote for a dime of education money passed $460 million (a great election-year cover vote). Somewhere I saw a quote about the quality of policy passed in an effort to win versus policy passed in an effort to do the right thing… The bill was killed yesterday and now we start from scratch. Seven days into veto session and no end in sight.
I'll keep you informed as education news breaks!
For as much time as we have spent on the floor, we haven't been productive on bills that have much general interest (other than education, see above). The following bill and conference committee report have also been debated.
HCR 5043 TABOR "lite"
Most of you have heard of TABOR (short for "Taxpayers Bill of Rights", I change the last word to "rites"), a constitutional amendment limiting state spending to population increase and inflation. Sounds good, but Kansas' population has been on the decline for years, and our poverty rate, health care and transportation costs on the incline, meaning costs continue to rise and more Kansans qualify for State services. Plus, the plan sends every tax increase to the voters.
§ Colorado passed this legislation ten years ago and recently passed a statewide vote to keep TABOR from being enforced. Between that widely covered vote and your local organizations protesting against TABOR, I'm guessing you've heard of this. There was so much opposition that supporters of the proposal tried something new - requiring a 2/3 vote of both legislative chambers to pass any tax increase.
§ Of course, this allows a minority to run the direction of the state, slightly at odds with the democratic process. So folks brought amendments to the bill requiring a 2/3 vote to pass ANY bill, to exempt Medicaid costs to nursing homes, exempt higher education to keep our universities from further increasing tuition, and a handful of other exemptions.
The bill was referred back to committee for more study.
Constitutional Amendment text: http://www.kslegislature.org/bills/2006/2006_5043.pdf
Jessica's Law/Private Prisons
This is great legislation that targets "s" predators with various policies:
§ Prohibits offender transitional housing (halfway houses) within 2,000 feet of "facilities where children are located". This is a compromise of the proposal that no offender can live within a certain limit of a school, which causes problems for rural areas,
§ Requires distinguishable offender driver's licenses, renewed annually,
§ Offenders report to their Sheriff twice/year to update info and photographs,
§ Adds the following penalties to the list of lifetime offender registration
o Aggravated Trafficking; Rape; Agg indecent liberties w/a child; Agg criminal sodomy; promoting prostitution; and "s" exploitation of a child.
Unfortunately, the bill was combined with a private prisons bill in conference committee. Everyone wanted to vote for Jessica's law, so it's a bill that will attract a lot of bitter pills. Because of that, the House sent it back to committee for more work.
Is anyone a researcher or academic on private prisons? I would love to have the unbiased pros and cons, so I can make an educated decision. The folks around here all have a vested interest in either side, and I don't feel like I can get a straight answer (and there has never been a hearing in the House…) Help?
Bills headed to the Governor
HB 3004 AP bill
Remember the bill requiring the Board of Accountancy to recognize credit granted by a university for an Advanced Placement exam score? The Senate made some changes; the House was OK with them, so the House moved to concur with Senate amendments. This motion sends the bill directly to the Governor's office, instead of a conference committee.
Motion to Concur 65-57. I voted YES.
HB 2706 - This started out as a child support collection bill, the conference committee added in SB 432, which is where my uninsured driver/suspension bill was placed, and then passed it!!!! If you remember, I introduced my bill at the request of constituent Craig Jorgensen. It allows the State to suspend a driver's license if an uninsured driver fails to comply with an agreement to reimburse another driver/driver's insurer for damages from an accident.
Conference Committee Report passed the House 108-14. I voted YES.
Passed Senate 36-4.
SB 528 "Abortion Information" bill
Not only did the bill pass out of the House with provisions that open up medical records for women who receive abortions (coincidentally not the medical records of the Y chromosome that was a contributing factor), but in conference, a new certificate was created for "attempted abortions" that resulted in live births.
Conference Committee Report passed the House 89-34. I voted NO.
Passed Senate 25-15.
Johnson County Statehouse Hotline - Call Topeka for free! Dial 913.715.5000 and ask for your Representative or Senator. If you don't know, simply give them your address and they'll head you in the right direction!
Please do not hesitate to contact me about these or any other issues of interest to you. I appreciate the opportunity to represent you in Topeka.
Rep. Stephanie Sharp
17th District, Kansas House
Serving Lenexa and Shawnee
Topeka phone: 785-296-7654 (Note: this is a change from last year.)