May 3, 2005
Campaign finance reform (pretend), more on SB 181, and the budget. The latter of which wasn’t controversial, the middle was DOA and the former, well, read on…
Personal Activities and Education
Announcements – From the City of Lenexa
I-35 will be closed both northbound and southbound from the US-69 split south of 75th Street to 95th Street, beginning Saturday night, April 30 (weather permitting).
This complete closure will begin at 10 p.m. on Saturday until 10 a.m. on Sunday, May 1. At 10 a.m. Sunday, both northbound and southbound I-35 will re-open to at least one lane in each direction. The opening of all lanes on I-35 will be completed by 5 a.m. on Monday, May 2.
This closure is required for the removal of the south portion of the 87th Street bridge over I-35. In addition, lane restrictions will be in place on 87th Street at this location. Traffic will follow marked detours along US-69 and I-435.
During construction traffic should expect major delays, and the Kansas Department of Transportation advises drivers to take alternate routes.
Personal Activities and Education
SB 181 – Again, the controversial suitability/three-judge-panel legislation. House passed it earlier in the week. The Senate just killed it (5:00 pm Saturday) on a final vote of 7-32.
Health care reform (9:30 pm)?
Remember the Governor’s ERO (Executive Reorganization Order) which moved Medicaid and other programs to the Department of Administration, and we killed it because there was a better plan?
Well, we actually got to take a look at that better plan and vote on it tonight (it’s 9:15 pm on Saturday as I write this. The plan is VERY similar to the governor’s, although it goes a bit deeper. The plan passed the Senate on an unheard-of (for such a broad policy change) 39-0 vote. The KS Medical Society, Nurses Association, and Hospital Association all supported both the ERO and this plan (SB 272). I have concerns about how long the plan will take to set in motion, but think the long-term vision is a good one and will have positive impacts on health care in Kansas. The plan is too long to explain here, but Legislative Research did a great overview that should help:
Basically, we move all the state’s health negotiating power under one umbrella instead of a bunch of different agencies and will be able to get better coverage rates – saving the state money and making health care cheaper for EVERY Kansan.
Final Action 121-0.
Campaign Finance Reform (11:30 pm): The House paid lip service to campaign finance reform tonight, and was punished for it. Background? Director of the Governmental Ethic Commission, Carol Williams, is always granted the respect of full hearings and bills. Her bills are always reasonable, so they get passed without much ado. Until this year. The Governmental Ethics Commission recommended reforms to so-called “527” groups (named for the part of the tax code they fall under). These are the groups that dropped tens of thousands of dollars in races all across Kansas, and are not required to report any of it, or where it came from. Basically, a handful of Kansas races were decided by rich interests on the coasts.
The House refused to give these reforms consideration because many are hoping to benefit from these groups during the next election cycle. Fortunately, there were enough level heads to realize that any real reform must include all of the Commission’s recommendations, not just the ones that suit a personal agenda.
· The bill included two minor provisions:
o Reporting of contributions over $350 within 11 days of the election.
§ I support this, but it hardly qualifies as reform, this is one of those no brainers!
§ If I run for a seat at the City/County level, or for the Senate or statewide, I can use any money I have raised for my House races.
· This provision needs more regulation – The money I am able to raise far outpaces city council races – that’s not quite fair if I used it to run against Amy Slater (she’d kill me!). There was an amendment in the committee to change transferability between levels, so you could use your money laterally, but not vertically (i.e. city/county to city/county, legislative to legislative, statewide to statewide, but not statewide money to run in a city race and vice versa)
The bill was sent back to committee for more work. If you have seen things that drive you crazy about campaigns, I would be interested to hear them!
SB 43 (12:45 am) – This is what I call the “Omnibus stuff we forgot from other bills” bill. It is a “clean-up” of some of the provisions of the school finance bill, HB 2247, including:
· LOB increase to 27% for schools that are not already at 25%. Current law says you can only max to 27% if you are already sitting at 25%.
· Three-judge panel for school finance lawsuits (the good part of SB 181).
· Priority appropriations: Bill would amend current law to require we budget for education first and pay school districts first from state revenues.
· Clarifies distribution of “Skills for Success” funds (which is apparently funded with the budget we’re working on tonight.)
· Allows funds for Four-Year-Old At-Risk program to be carried forward from year to year instead of swiped at the end of each year.
Final Action 94-27. I voted YES.
Budget (2:30 am):
This budget wasn’t all that controversial for most people – the House and Senate negotiators were basically squabbling over individual pet projects and postponed coming to an agreement. The budget passed by a wide margin because it isn’t all that different from the Governor’s request, so if Republicans drafted it and like it, and it isn’t all that different from what the Governor and the Democrats want, that’s a pretty good deal!
Of note in the discussions: The Senate supported the state buying the Circle K Ranch in western KS to be used for public lands and eventually some sort of hunting resort for economic development. The general consensus in the House was that this was better left to private industry instead of the state taking on this project, so it was overwhelmingly rejected by the House.
Final Action 89-31. I voted YES.
House adjourns – 3:00 am, Sunday, May 01, 2005.
Where’s Waldo (Rep. Sharp)? April 29 - 30, 2005
- Yes, I’m here. It’s GORGEOUS outside, so enjoy it for me… I’m living vicariously through each of you!
Johnson County Statehouse Hotline! Call Topeka for free – 913-715-5000 and ask to speak with your Representative or Senator.
LIVE! House or Senate Chamber
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17th District, KS House
Serving Lenexa and Shawnee