March 07, 2008

We’ve just put the finishing touches on the eighth week of the 2008 legislative session and are now past the midway point, considering Senate measures and other House bills that have been carried over. I enjoyed our short break and was able to spend some time back in the district listening to constituents and taking a pulse of things before hearing back.

Action on the floor this week was fairly minimal as legislators were still busy regrouping. This gives me a chance to tell you a little bit about an important piece of legislation that was passed in the last month and might not have gotten as much media attention in light of all the other issues in play right now.

HB 2730 is one of the more exciting measures we’ve passed this year and concerns government accountability and taxpayer rights. I’m proud to announce that on March 1st the state launched an online searchable database for Kansans to keyword-search their Kansas’ receipts and expenditures. The website can be found at http://www.kansas.gov/kanview/ and is attracting national attention to our state for our efforts to keep our taxpayers informed. This is legislation that I was certainly proud to support and hope that you’ll find the information on the website useful.

We also voted on the final version of the energy reform bill after receiving suggestions for improvement from the bipartisan conference committee. The bill cleared the house on a 75-47 vote and will now be sent to the Governor for approval. It appears likely that the proposal will be vetoed and sent back to the House. If this happens we will be seeking a veto-proof 84 vote majority in an effort to keep Kansas utility rates in check and protect both current and potential business interests.

It has been a quick short week but full of hearings and bills to work in my committees. Tax and Federal and State Affairs are exempt committees so house bills can still be referred to us and worked even after turn around which was last week. These committees will be busy right up until March 28th and then we work only on the house floor until session ends. We have been discussing sale tax exemption bills for non-profit organizations in Tax Committee. This is a very difficult topic and it has had many years worth of discussion without a standard policy being set by the legislature. The Department of Revenue would like to have a broad tax base and non-profit organizations are like a “patchwork quilt” of varying exceptions, some with sales exemptions and some with purchases exemptions. It is agreed that there needs to be a standard policy but arriving at this policy is very difficult. It is hard to say that one non-profit is more deserving than another and I ask myself if this is where we want to find more money for the state coffers. I truly doubt that we will find a solution this year but we are trying as a committee to have a workable bill for debate on the house floor and then the senate. We are also working on a corporate tax rate reduction so that Kansas can remain competitive with the surrounding states and their rates. The intent is to continue to be a “business friendly” state and entice companies to locate here and not next door in a neighboring state. As I have mentioned before, my Federal and State Committee hears a variety of bills from alcohol, gambling, abortion, immigration and this week guns and state championship football games. Kansas law enforcement must go out of state to purchase automatic weapons and silencers for their departments and HB 2742 would allow Kansas registered dealers to order and sell these guns to our law enforcement divisions across the state. An interesting bill we heard today was the chance for Kansas state championship football games to be played at either KU or KS stadiums. These games are currently played around the state at different locations and this would be a chance for kids to play in one of these two large stadiums. The first two or three days of next week will be devoted to the immigration bills. There are currently five that we have heard and we must merge all into one. This is also a very delicate subject with many aspects affecting both businesses, public entities and human beings. My last committee of the day, Agriculture and Natural Resources (the only non-exempt committee) has had a slower week with only one conference committee meeting in its place. However, this was a very important conference committee for us as it was the final step for the Republican River bill that I thought should have been passed out favorably from both houses. A conference committee is made up of three Senators and three Representatives (two Republicans and one Democrat from each house) who must agree to one final version - often this takes a lot of “tweaking” between the houses but all parties must sign off. It will be brought back to us for a final vote - this is called a “concur or non-concur vote” then it will be sent to the Governor for her signature.

As it was a short week, I didn’t have too many visitors but had two friends, Angela Champlin and Donna Trost with Parents as Teachers, come in on Wednesday and update me on their program in our area. I attended a summer function with them and I know they have a wonderful operation.

Senator Pete Brungardt, State Board of Education District #6 member Kathy Martin and I attended the Ottawa County Farm Bureau Forums last Saturday in Tescott and Minneapolis with good turn outs in both towns. I would like to thank the people who took time to come listen and talk to us. It is important for us to hear your opinions and we truly appreciated the chance to come home and visit one on one.

I’m excited to dig into the second half of the session, and am optimistic that we’ll have a host of meaningful legislation make its way to the floor in the next month. I’ll remain committed to keeping you informed on all of these measures and look forward to hearing your input or seeing you in Topeka.

As always, please contact me if you have any comments, questions, or concerns. I am serving in Topeka for YOU!

Elaine Bowers
House of Representatives
District #107
300 SW 10th Avenue
Room 110 S
Topeka, KS 66612
785-296-7644
bowers@house.state.ks.us
www.rep-elainebowers.com