March 28, 2008

Dear 107th Constituent,

With only a few weeks left in the 2008 legislative session, I’m proud to report a busy and productive week for the state. We had extensive floor debate on a number of bills, yielding some great legislation. Many of the issues we’ve arrived at reflect the issues that were outlined as our primary goals heading into the year. We are making steady progress on this list, and I anticipate this trend will continue in the following week.

This part of the session is the part I most enjoy and I remember the fast pace and intensity from last year. We met in committee for the first part of the week, unless we were held over on the floor with debate. We worked through lunch and moved directly to the committee where they have lunch for us. We often bundle bills together to send out as a group and we did this in tax the first three days. This causes some dilemma to me because I have agreed and disagreed in committee on different bills and these bills will wind up together. This “bundling” also happens in Conference Committee so I need to keep these sorted and recorded to weigh the pros & cons each time I vote this late in the session. Bills are being sent out very rapidly with the intent to have them put on General Orders or the bill will be dead for the two year session and must be restarted through the process with hearings and debate all over again. I’ve been told it takes years to pass good legislation and only minutes to pass bad - and the veterans here would back me up on that statement! Several bills were heard in Federal and State Affairs but at this late date, will not be worked and sent out of committee. Agriculture met only with hearings but again no time to debate the bills.

As expected, the Immigration debate was lengthy - 10 hours at that. It is a very difficult issue with many people affected in all areas of the state. I’m sure we would all agree that the federal government should be stepping up to assume responsibility, but as this isn’t happening, states all over the nation (and surrounding Kansas) have passed or are attempting to pass legislation. This was a Fed and State committee bill, actually three bills rolled into one - we had three days worth of hearings and worked this bill for about five hours. The bill that was introduced was very conservative, heavily penalizing businesses and by-passed a large part of legal rights for a business thus a strong opposition from the business sector. One provision that was removed in committee was a citizenship ID check every time anyone was stopped for a traffic violation. It was changed to arrest due to the time and labor involved by law enforcement and would be a burden and inconvenience to the public. Today this bill was passed out of the house with a vote of 96 to 27. As I have mentioned many times, this is not the final product. It will be sent to the Senate and will surely be put in a conference committee (3 House and 3 Senate members) and the two versions are very different. This is where the compromise and changes occur. And I am sure it will be brought back to us as a vote of Concur or Non-concur many times. We are well on our way to removing the burden of illegal immigration on Kansas taxpayers while welcoming those immigrants that respect and obey our laws.

The other major issue facing the House was healthcare reform. We were determined to craft meaningful healthcare legislation this year and Senate Bill 81 did just that, reforming health care and increasing the accessibility and affordability of quality healthcare to all Kansans. One of the major components of the bill increased the state COBRA policy for those that lose their insurance from 6 months to 18 months. The measure also ensures that more low income children are insured, which has long been a goal. These are great steps in making Kansas a better place for everyone.

Next week will be a long one with many hours of sitting at my desk on the house floor. We will begin the day with calendar at 8:00a.m. to review the bills that will be heard and then onto session until we hear all of the bills which may be midnight or after. There are four pages of bills that are scheduled to be debated. The conference committees are being assigned now and will also meet throughout the week as well. House Leadership expects another round of debates on the energy bill. It is important that Kansas have a firm energy policy that will allow business to invest, grow our economy, and provide inexpensive energy to all Kansans. As you can tell, the Capitol is a very busy place this time of the year!

The last few weeks of the session are expected to consist of many late nights and long talks, but I assure you that it’s work I’m proud to do. We’ve had a great year, and I think we’ve got a strong finish in store. During the April recess I look forward to getting a chance to visit with you and address any concerns you may have so please feel free to contact me. I’m always excited to hear from my constituents and appreciate your concern.

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