January 23, 2004
Well, off we go! We certainly have a running start to the session… I am setting up a new web-based newsletter system, so bear with me. In the next couple of weeks, it will arrive as HTML in your Inbox!
Floor: Not much action at all on the floor, we passed a bill on General Orders that authorizes counties/residents in a judicial district to vote to convert from a county attorney system to a district attorney system; if voters approve, counties create via agreement, a body made up jointly of commissioners of county to oversee, and provide for funding of the office; bill requires that district attorney have a presence in each county in the judicial district not less that 40 hrs per week. (Thanks to Rep. Ward Loyd for this description!) We will have the Final Action vote on this bill on Monday.
Procedure: What’s the difference between General Orders and Final Action?
1. There are two votes on most bills, General Orders and Final Action. If a bill passes on General Orders, it is forwarded to the Final Action calendar. If a bill does not pass GO, it will not be given a final vote. General Orders is not a recorded vote. Many times a bill will pass to Final Action, but will not survive the recorded vote.
Education: Ahhh, the constantly evolving state of affairs under the Capitol dome! It seems to me that the governor is backtracking on the special education changes in her Education First (Ed1) plan. As you will see below, a handful of us were called into a meeting with the governor early this week. We expressed concerns from our school districts and special ed is looking like it will stay as it is funded in the current plan. Our other concerns were the definition of at-risk and the lack of local control.
- Under the governor’s tax plan, Johnson County would send roughly $66 million in property, income, and sales taxes to Topeka, and receive less than $10 million in return. If this sounds like a good deal, I have some great ocean-front property I’m trying to sell!
- We MUST negotiate for more local control and for a change in the definition of “at-risk” students.
Currently, “at-risk” is defined as the percentage of students in a school district that receive free and reduced lunches. To give you an idea, I was a reduced lunch student. Straight As, highly involved in school activities and government, and no disciplinary issues (Well, okay, I fess up. Two detentions for talking – I plead guilty). Do I sound “at-risk” to you? I would like to see the definition changed to cover students who are truly at-risk, such as those who are flunking classes, have severe disciplinary problems, pregnancy/parenthood, or serious home/parental issues. This may sound very familiar – we have resurrected Rep. Lisa Benlon’s “at-risk” bill from a couple of years ago!
Health Committee: Great week! We heard our first bill, one that I helped to sponsor.
Currently, the KS Dept. of Health and Environment operates a disease reporting system that has been functional since 1999 (5 years!). Disease tracking through this system is only reported from 30 of the 99 county health departments, and individual physician offices must make any disease reports they have through their local health department. Does this sound efficient to you? Me neither!
A handful of legislators who are concerned about the future of disease reporting in Kansas (especially over recent concerns in our meat industry and West Nile) introduced a bill to increase the capability and reach of electronic reporting to a truly statewide level. There are many companies that specialize in this area, and one in particular, Cerner Corporation (of Kansas City) is already linked to Johnson and Wyandotte Counties and gave a presentation of what their program does. It was pretty incredible, especially compared to the status quo program.
The hearings were great, but unfortunately, there is a fiscal note attached to the bill - about $300,000 - and we were told by leadership that if a bill has a fiscal note, it’s not going anywhere. If you get a chance, read The New Killer Diseases by Elinor Levy, Ph.D. and Mark Fischetti, if you are interested in the need for disease better reporting in the U.S. However, I wouldn’t suggest you read it on a plane going to China. Not a good idea!
Insurance Committee: Agency briefings and bill introductions, but nothing of note.
Ethics and Elections: We passed our first bill of the year – the same day it was
introduced and heard! The bill enables candidates to sign their own campaign finance reports. Traditionally, the treasurer signs the report. In many cases, candidates are their own treasurers, and they do sign the reports. But in other cases, the treasurer is in name only and the candidate actually fills out the paperwork for the finance reports. None of us found a problem with including a candidate signature line, so the candidate OR the treasurer could be the official signature on the forms.
Commerce and Labor: Again, more agency reports and staff briefings on interim
committee activities. Rumor has it that we will begin working on Senate Bill 181 (SB 181) in the next two weeks. This is where I need your help! If you have had ANY dealings with the worker’s compensation system (good or bad) on either side of the issue (employer or worker), please share your story with me (confidentially, unless you would like to share your story with the committee).
Johnson County Statehouse Hotline! Call Topeka for free – 913-715-5000 and ask to speak with your Representative or Senator.
Next week’s committee schedule:
LIVE! Paperless House Health and Human Services Committee (1:30 – 3:00 pm daily):
- See and hear the committee in action, read agendas and testimony for the day
LIVE! House or Senate Chamber:
Where’s Waldo (Rep. Sharp)? January 16, 2004 – January 23, 2004
(Besides session and committee meetings 9am – 5 pm)
- Pages! I hosted FIVE pages all day on Tuesday. Thank you very much: Nikki Steege, Brittany Weaver, Forrest Saucier, and Jen and Michelle from Blue Valley Middle School.
- 4 one-on-one constituent meetings
- Small group meeting with the governor re: education and taxes
- Last night, I attended my first-ever KU basketball game! I’ve been told I cannot return and apologize for being the bad luck charm!
- KS Credit Union Assn.
- KS Health Care Assn.
- KS Family Physicians
- Johnson County delegation lunch (sponsor: Greater KC Chamber)
- PS: I was elected Secretary/Treasurer of the delegation!
- Tonight, I will be attending the Lenexa Chamber of Commerce Annual Dinner. See you there!
Question of the Week!
Last week’s QUESTION:
This year’s Kansas Days events on January 30-31 will mark what anniversary of the Republican Party in Kansas?
ANSWER: Last week’s winner is Chris Ronan of Lenexa. This week will be the 150th Anniversary of the Kansas Republican Party.
New Question: The Kansas Republican Party was started in what territorial Kansas town?
Hint: This town is also home to a state mental health facility.
Have a GREAT week, and I look forward to your feedback. Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can ever be of service to you.
17th District, KS House
Serving Lenexa and Shawnee