March 17, 2003
March 17, 2002
Greetings from Topeka - I hope this greets you wearing green and having the luck o' the Irish! Don't suppose anyone watched basketball this weekend? That KU game was a hair-raiser! Here's the latest from the week of March 10-14 at the Capitol:
Shortly after sending my last newsletter, the Governor's budget estimating group reported an additional shortfall for 2003 of $105 million. For those of you doing running totals, that is added to the previous November estimate of $125 million shortfall for 2004. Considering the Governor's budget leaves the state with only $400,000 in the bank for 2004, that's not good. And not to mention, the state is carrying a "Certificate of Indebtedness" worth $450 million. The Governor's budget suggests repaying that Certificate on June 30 and taking it back out again on July 1, the start of the 2004 fiscal year. So, that's another $450 million down for FY04. The Kansas Constitution prohibits the state (and rightly so) from running a deficit. We have a lot of work to do. $105m + $125m + $450m = $680m (and that's not including what was taken from the transportation budget last year, or a couple other things!).
This new estimate results from the state not bringing in revenues equal to the estimates. So, this new estimate may get even worse by year's end if we continue to fall below expected revenues into the state. Revenues haven't met estimates in a year or more.
Governor Sebelius is expected to offer a new 2004 budget and revenue package next week sometime. As you may know, she traveled across the state this week hearing from Kansas about the prospects for next year. From the articles I have read, Kansans are begging not to cut schools and are asking for tax increases to make sure schools are not dying, that mirrors what I heard from you going door-to-door this summer.
House Bill 2176 deals with the regulation of abortion clinics as ambulatory surgical centers. Proponents (Kansans For Life) wanted these clinics supervised by the KS Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), and I supported an amendment that would do that. The bill, unfortunately, had regulations assigned by legislators, and the amendment had actual doctors making the rules and regulations. Seems to me that doctors know a lot more about the appropriate measures that should be taken, than do legislators. In addition, the original bill did not include other in-office surgical centers that do invasive procedures such as colonoscopy. The amendment would have expanded the regulations to all office surgical centers (that protects men as well as women!). However, the amendment failed. Please see the attached comments - this was my first floor speech! I supported the final bill because I think it is a step in the right direction, and I believe that the inconsistencies and problems I had with the bill can be fixed in the Senate committee hearing of HB 2176.
With the budget situation becoming worse, the Governor this week lent her support to a proposal to allow slot machines at pari-mutuel racing facilities in Kansas. Under the plan supported by the Gov. Sebelius, slots would be allowed at dog and horse race tracks and at one stand-alone facility (presumably in Dodge City.) The Governor's staff was working on ways to guarantee at least $30 million in FY 2004. The Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee is hearing several proposals this week regarding gaming. On a related front, Indian tribes are expected to officially make a proposal to the Governor next week on a Wyandotte County casino with exclusivity rights for the tribes. If the tribes succeed in getting an exclusive compact with the state, all of the other slots proposals would be prohibited. It is unclear whether or not any proposal will bring all of the proponents of gaming into agreement.
4. My Committee Action:
Health: We are gearing up for the Physical Therapy Licensure bill. I attended the Board of Healing Arts Legislative Committee hearing on this bill (SB 225) and it was fascinating. I left the hearing at 9:30 pm, though I understand it continued until 11:30! The turf battle on this one is truly amazing - OTs don't want PTs to have what we gave them last year, chiropractors are worried about losing business (did you know that you don't have to have an undergraduate degree to get a Doctor of Chiropractic degree? Me neither!), physicians are supporting the PTs - it is hard to know which side is up in this debate. This sort of reminds me of those petty arguments with my brother growing up... "Just because" is not a legitimate reason not to do something.
Insurance: Insurance scoring and Title Insurance!
Insurance scoring has been in the news quite a bit lately, and I think
this bill is a good compromise between the consumer and the insurance
companies. Substitute for Senate Bill 144 enables consumers to
appeal a bad score, is policy-specific (i.e. your speeding ticket that
affects your auto insurance rating will not be used to determine the
cost of your homeowner's insurance, etc.), and allows consumers to get
their credit re-scored upon request every 12 months.
Senate Bill 66 enables real estate companies to sell title insurance, in an effort to provide "one-stop" shopping. Realtors must disclose that there are other title insurance companies out there and could provide different rates, in an effort to encourage competition among title companies (and better rates for consumers!).
Ethics: We are looking at a recall bill that sets out the definitions of "misconduct" to include violating the law and the inability to conduct one's official business.
Commerce: We dealt with a couple of bills from the Board of Accountancy. Nothing too controversial, cleaning up some language regarding the examinations, education requirements, and investigations.
I visited the House Education Committee today, they were hearing Senate Bill 22, a bill that would enable school districts to use their Capital Outlay funds for things like: increases in property, casualty, and health insurance costs, computer software and technology expenses, and increases in utility costs. The hearing went well, though it was pretty uneventful, the "usual suspects" on each side. I'll keep my ear to the ground and see if this has any chance of moving.
Again, I wish I could say more. I wish my other colleagues had constituents so wildly supportive of education as you are!
I promise to try to keep these shorter!! In my next survey, I will have a contest. Not sure what the prize will be, but watch your Inbox next week!
Enjoy the beautiful week.
17th District, KS House
Serving Lenexa and Shawnee