March 06, 2009

Greetings from Topeka!

It’s difficult to believe, but the 9th week of the session is already upon us and while we’ve made some excellent progress already this session, there is still a long list of commitments to fulfill. The legislature is scheduled to have “first adjournment” in less than a month, so activity in the next 3 to 4 weeks will be quite hectic later in the session.

Last Saturday was “turn around day” which means we have received a number of proposals from the Senate addressing new issues in the coming weeks. Among those will be the smoking ban, minimum wage, our negotiations on the 2010 budget, and our comprehensive energy proposals.

As many of you will remember, our decision concerning energy is a critically important and highly controversial topic. Last Thursday, we debated and overwhelmingly passed HB 2014, our comprehensive energy proposal for 2009. The bill represents months of work on behalf of our energy and utilities committee and is one of the more advanced policies in the nation. The bill encourages renewable energy technology, includes true “net metering” guidelines, and most importantly establishes clear, reasonable permitting guidelines which will encourage critical economic development throughout the state and keep utility rates reasonable for all Kansans.

The other item generating considerable buzz here at the Capitol this week was our passage of two laws dealing with late-term abortions. While any debate dealing with this issue draws interest as well as concern, the bills we passed dealt not so much with the right to have abortions, but rather the safety of those patients, and the information they are being provided with leading up to their decisions. I understand legislators may not ever completely agree on the matter—but the two measures clearing the house this week were overwhelmingly approved on the merits of their intent, which is simply to properly educate and protect women.

Committees still meeting are covering a multitude of topics that will still have time to be considered in the ’09 session including Prop K, a somewhat controversial property tax bill that would automate the property-appraisal process and limit property valuation increases to two percent a year. Sub. for HB 2320 is one of the key pieces of the Republican Agenda to fix the policies surrounding the structural imbalance in the budget. This is a great step in order to provide a responsible and accountable state budget that prioritizes taxpayer dollars. The bill would enact a new law establishing the Budget Stabilization Reserve Fund (Stabilization Fund) in the State Treasury. Revenue sent to the State General Fund in excess of the amount expected during a fiscal year, based on the April consensus revenue estimate, would be transferred to the Stabilization Fund. Money in the Stabilization Fund could only be spent to make up for shortfalls when compared to the previous year’s budget. This bill will take effect in fiscal year 2011. This is equivalent to a “rainy day” fund to me.

As a former 4-Her, I was very happy to have Laura Wilson and Allie Danielson of Clyde and Allissa Kearn, Kaylee Mosher and Erica Johnson from Concordia visit me on 4-H day here in the Capitol with Pat Gerhardt, District Extension Agent. Judie Deal with Tiny K (Kindergarten) came over to my office in the Docking Building and sat in on Session at 11:00. Denise DeRochfort-Reynolds, Concordia, Doris White, Lincoln and Frances Drummond, Minneapolis attended the Kansas Librarian Association meeting in Topeka and presented a poster supporting reading to me – it is currently hanging in the Frank Carlson Library. On Wednesday I attended a dinner with Connie Walenta from Concordia with the Kansas Association of Insurance Agents. It’s an exciting time of the year and as the weather continues to improve I hope more people can make the trip to the Capitol to visit. Even though the Capitol is under renovation, it is still a beautiful place to visit.

On March 21, Senator Pete and I will be at a Legislative Coffee in Ottawa County again this year sponsored by Farm Bureau. The first meeting will be at 8::00 AM in Tescott and the second one in Minneapolis at 10:00 AM.

Next week, we’ll begin to finish most of our committee work. Soon after, action will move almost exclusively to the house floor, where we will be debating and voting throughout the day—and sometimes into the night, please feel free to call or write with your concerns and I’ll be happy to assist. I invite you to contact me if you have concerns with issues and I’ll work diligently to get back with you as quickly as possible. I appreciate your comments and calls.

Representative Elaine Bowers
107th District
300 SW 10th
Topeka, KS 66612