March 13, 2009

Greetings from Topeka!

It was another busy week of work both behind the scenes and on the floor of the House as we continue to rapidly approach first adjournment on April 4th. Committees are busy trying to squeeze in last minute hearings on a host of topics and the list of bills awaiting a full debate before the body is growing quickly. Each week we’ re taking a chunk of bills off that list, but with so little time left and so many good proposals before us, it’s going to be a wild finish.

Among the measures that came before us this week were two bills that represent responsible government planning and spending—both of which I think are important priorities given the current economic climate. The first, HB 2320, establishes a rainy day fund for the state. This way, in years where the state is collecting more than we’re spending we’ll be able to save up for periods similar to this in which revenues fall short. We simply call this at home a “savings account”!

The second measure, which is still being debated in committee, would fundamentally change the way we spend money in Kansas by transitioning to a zero based budgeting system. If passed, the measure would require us to begin each fiscal year with a clean slate, and add spending items based on their merit. Under the current system, we begin with a pre-established budget and have to remove any items we deem unnecessary---a much more difficult process.

In addition to the broader issues shaping up for the final weeks of the session, my committees have been busy grinding through last minute proposals as well. We continually have weekly updates from the Department of Labor with the latest unemployment rate at 6.4% up from 4.9%. Although this rate is creeping up, we are still well below the Federal rate at 8.1%. Remember to call me if you are experiencing difficulty getting through to the agency – they answered between 9-12,000 calls a week during January which is twice as many as last year at this time. The Federal & State Affairs committee recently worked a concealed carry bill, an amusement ride bill and had a hearing on a bill allowing liqueur cabinets in restaurants and other organizations. This committee is always interesting and often times with issues I have rarely thought of. The last bill I mentioned deals with the storage of your own wine at a restaurant you would frequent often and would want to be served your wine only. A bill in Agricultural and Natural Resources which I believe to very important to us and one that I am amazed we haven’t heard more about is SB 64 concerning water appropriations. I was surprised to learn a water permit may be applied for at the state of Kansas without the knowledge of the owner of the land. SB 64 bill would correct this situation. In my opinion, it is simply unfair to land owners to not have this information or notification of any kind. Of course, this would become very important when the property would come up for sale. It gives an unfair advantage to a potential buyer especially if the owner was not aware of a pending water permit. It was sent out of committee and awaits a vote by the entire house body.

I am always happy to see familiar faces from home and I had a lot of them March 5th when the Concordia 7th grades came to the Capitol for the annual visit. They were able to step on the Senate and House floor with Senator Taddiken and myself. Dr. Steve Bryant and former Clyde resident Travis Sharpe attended the Optometric Association Legislative day and had lunch with me. Although Wava and Kim Kramer are in District #64 at Longford, it was a great honor to congratulate them on winning the Emerging Business of the Year Award along with Linda Sutton with the Kansas Small Business Development Center. They are known for their great tasting water at their company Longford Water Company – It was a treat to have Stewart McCormick, owner of the Miltovale Record, spend the day with me at the Capitol Friday. He was able to set on the house floor during session with the legislators and witness the legislative process up close and personal.

As I mentioned, the upcoming weeks are going to be busier than any we’ve had so far this year, with a number of our most important issues making their way to the floor. The conference committee on the comprehensive energy proposal met this week and we expect the Governor’s veto soon. We also are continuing to hold many discussions on the budget solution for 2010 and beyond. As simple as it would be to accept all the federal dollars blindly - there are “strings attached” - I feel it’s important to get an accurate assessment of what we’re agreeing to in accepting the money before making any final decisions.

I appreciate your interest in our work and assure you I am dedicated to representing your wishes to the best of my ability. Please feel free to reach me if you have concerns or questions on any of the topics we’re debating.

Representative Elaine Bowers
District #107
Kansas State Capitol Building
300 W. 10th
Topeka, KS 66612