March 6, 2003
March 6, 2003
Welcome to my legislative newsletter, the Sharp Record!
This newsletter is intended to keep you informed on my committee activities and floor action. You are most likely receiving this email because you responded to the survey I sent out last week, or you asked to be put on the list once I was in office. For the former, I am thrilled that you took the time to complete my survey. Not only am I thrilled that you replied, but that so many of your neighbors did as well - the average return on a direct mail survey is anywhere from two to four percent. My survey results are currently at about ten percent and still inching up! As your State Representative, your views on the issues are crucial to the decisions I make in Topeka.
I have two requests for you as I begin this newsletter: 1) PLEASE give me feedback (good and bad), and 2) when you reply, please make sure to reply to me and not "Reply All." Each of us have so many emails every day, I want this newsletter to be a resource, not an annoyance to anyone. Thanks!
As you may know, I sit on the Health and Human Services, Commerce and Labor, Ethics and Elections, and Insurance Committees. Here is a brief overview of what each committee is doing so far this session:
Health: This committee is fantastic – it is by far my
favorite. We have had many opportunities to do good work this
year. One example: We granted temporary licenses to out-of-state
dentists who come to Kansas to perform charity dental work through the
Mission of Mercy program in Wyandotte and Finney counties (HB 2155,
Another example is a bill that protects the elderly from physical, emotional, or financial abuse. It allows SRS as well as law enforcement to investigate claims of elder abuse and expands the power to report abuses to include those with power of attorney, financial institutions, or hospice providers. SRS is also allowed to assign protective services if the individual lacks the capacity to consent (HB 2254, passed 114-9).
Commerce: The primary focus of this committee this year has been on mechanic’s liens. Basically, those who contract to build a non-residential property have 90 days after finishing their work to file a lien with the owner if they have not been paid for their services. In Missouri, contractors have 180 days to file. This is complicated for Johnson County companies that build on both sides of State Line Road and discourages commercial building. The compromise forged between the contractors and the owners enables contractors to file a warning statement with the Clerk of the District Court within 90 days of completion, if payment has not been made. Following that, the parties have 60 additional days to settle any payment conflicts before contractors or subcontractors are authorized to file a lien. This settlement is a victory for Johnson County builders (HB 2064, passed 122-2).
Ethics: This is the “simple-made-complicated” committee. One little bill can have unending nuances. You may have seen some press about me regarding one of these bills. Democrats proposed a bill to allow “clothing and other accessories” to be purchased with campaign funds. Additionally, the bill gave specific examples of legitimate campaign expenditures. Currently, the Governmental Ethics Commission (GEC) examines campaign finance reports to ensure expenditures are legitimate. HB 2134 sought to undermine the GEC by defining “legitimate” for them. My concern with this bill was that if someone does not know the difference between personal and campaign expenses, they probably should not be in public service. Furthermore, if you are not spending your campaign dollars unethically, you should not be afraid of the GEC’s decisions. I fought hard to remove the “clothing and other accessories” provision of the bill, and was successful in the latter. Though the bill passed out of the committee by a close vote, it was never considered before the full House.
Insurance: This committee has been very slow this year.
One or two highlights:
1) Wood shingle roofs: Rep. Mario Goico (R-Wichita) lost his home to a fire in November 2002. The firefighters told him the fire spread so quickly because of the wood shingles on his roof. Unfortunately, his Home Owners Association (HOA) covenant did not allow a safer alternative. In order to change this provision in the covenant, 75 percent of the homeowners would have to vote to repeal it, a virtual impossibility considering the average turnout of most HOA meetings! HB 2023 would allow HOAs to offer their members a choice of fire-retardant roofing products that look identical to wood shingles. In fact, on a side note, I was at the Overland Park Home Show this weekend and came across these look-alikes. I was shocked at how similar the synthetics look to wood (passed 84-37)!
2) HB 2071 allows insurance companies to issue policies in a foreign language. This should help expand sales opportunities for insurance agents. Under this bill, the purchaser will also receive a copy of the policy in English, and the file copy in the Insurance Commissioner’s office will be in English (passed 122-2).
That about covers the action in my committees. Of course, there has been a great deal of activity on the floor. Last week was “turnaround.” This means that all bills passed out of committee that are not considered before the entire House of Representatives cannot be considered, in effect, they “die.” A couple of the key bills I supported were:
SB 16: Identity theft protection: This bill requires all applicants for a driver’s license, ID card or permit to submit their Social Security Number or taxpayer identification number to verify their ID. The Division of Vehicles is prohibited from placing a Social Security Number on a driver’s license unless requested in writing. And finally, the bill prohibits persons from possessing both a driver’s license and an ID card (passed 80-41).
HB 2088: Upon release from prison, if an inmate has less than $500 in his/her account, they are given $100 “gate pay.” This bill raises that eligibility to $600. Also, public transportation for a released inmate will not be provided at the state’s expense if their account exceeds $600 (passed 122-2).
HB 2145: This bill will enable undocumented students who attended for three years and either graduated or received a GED from a Kansas high school to attend Kansas universities for in-state tuition. These students cannot currently attend state universities because they do not have a Social Security Number and are not allowed to apply for citizenship until age 21. These students will now be given the opportunity to expand their educational opportunities, increasing their skill level and employability. Johnson Countians need educated workers to ensure the continuing success of their businesses. The intent behind this bill coincides with my goal to encourage a P-16 (preschool to college degree) educational environment (passed 81-43).
HB 2332: We heard this bill in the Commerce committee, it was sponsored by Rep. David Huff of Lenexa. This bill is great for working seniors! Many retirees work full- or part-time during retirement. If you are a working senior, collecting Social Security, and you are laid off from your job, under current law, you are only entitled to 50 percent of your unemployment benefits, even though when you are working, you pay in 100 percent! Rep. Huff’s bill rights that wrong against our seniors and enables them to receive 100 percent of their unemployment benefits (passed 120-4).
HCR 5008: This resolution designates School Nurses as first responders in emergency situations.
I wish I had more to share with you on the status of education bills coming out of the House. The problem is – there aren’t any. Rep. Dan Williams of Olathe did a fantastic job presenting a Local Option Budget (LOB) bill to the House Education Committee. However, the committee was very hostile to allowing any districts to increase their LOB, even though Rep. Williams brought some great statistics: 106 of 125 Representatives and 38 of 40 Senators represent a school district that has “max-ed out” its LOB level. Words cannot express the level of frustration among the members of the Johnson County delegation regarding the lack of action on education issues. Despite the challenges, rest assured that the pro-education message is very strong in Topeka, and we are trying very hard to do some good for children.
Well, I have made this issue of the Sharp Record long enough. My next few newsletters will have information similar to this, in addition to other survey-style questions. Please do not hesitate to contact me regarding any issues of concern to you.Warmest regards,
17th District, KS House
Serving Lenexa and Shawnee