March 20, 2009

Greetings from Topeka!!

This week in Topeka we kicked off our own version of “March Madness” with deadlines rapidly approaching and committees working hard to shut down for the 2009 session. Committees had to wrap up deliberations by the end of the week, so while much of the work going on was behind the scenes our rush to the finish is officially underway. Action next week will be focused entirely on the floor of the House and much of that work will be dealing with the major issues of the session—which are typically reserved for this latter part of the session.

One of the most encouraging developments this week was the Appropriations Committee’s passage of our House budget proposal for the 2010 fiscal year. The committee spent weeks listening to constituents and budget experts to determine how the federal stimulus package will affect Kansas and how to best approach our budget shortfall not only for this year, but future years as well. I was very pleased to see the committee find a way to use every federal dollar, without encumbering future budgets as a result of the “strings” attached to those dollars. In addition to our budget debate next week we still have yet to determine the status of bills concerning energy and the Holcomb power plants, minimum wage, abortion, and a host of other well-publicized issues.

As I mentioned, our committees have finished work for 2009. I’m proud of the work that took place on the various committees I sit on and the work that was done. We have heard a variety of topics recently including deer population, clothing for hunting, milk labeling, water issues, concealed carry, home inspectors, wine shipments and even a bill for a mural to be painted in the Capital of the Topeka Brown vs. Brown case.

One bill from Commerce and Labor which has created a lot of attention is SB160, the Minimum Wage Act. The Kansas minimum wage is $2.65. Curious enough, there are 5 states who do not have a minimum wage at all. This bill will simply match the federal rate of $7.25. Most businesses in Kansas take checks or credit card or do interstate commerce therefore must pay the federal minimum wage. It should be heard on the floor this next week. It isn’t as hotly debated as I suspected and seems to have support from both parties. Another bill of interest to us is HCR 5017 – this bill would change wording in section 4 of the Kansas Bill of Rights in the State Constitution to read this: A person has the right to keep and bear arms for the defense of self, family, home and state, for lawful hunting and recreational use. It will require a 2/3rd majority vote here in both the house and the senate and a vote of the people across the state on a future ballot.

I currently am working on a spreadsheet from the State Treasurer’s office including over 5000 names of people from District #107 with funds being held at the state as unclaimable. These monies are from a variety of sources - rebates, insurance proceeds, utility deposits, court and other fees. For one reason or another, this money was undeliverable to the Kansas resident and is now being held until it is claimed. You can go online at www.kansascash.com or call 800-432-0386 to see if your name is on this list. The amounts range from a few dollars to thousands of dollars. And of course, you can always call me at 785-296-7644 to check for your name.

After wrapping up in the next couple weeks I’ll be back home for a break before we begin our veto session in which we consider final measures before adjourning for the year. During this time, I’m always looking for activities in the district. If you have an event or gathering that you would like to have me attend, please don’t hesitate to ask. I also plan on visiting as many schools in the district as I can.

I had two groups of pages this week – Seth Bowers and Luke Benfer from the Longford School helped me on a very busy Monday morning. Marie Brewer, Emily Brown, Hadrian Currier, Cody Schmitz from Concordia and Jacy Martin and Darien Bellows from Glasco were pages on Thursday. They also attended my Commerce and Labor meeting before walking in the tunnel under Harrison Street to session in the capitol.

Please contact me anytime with your comments or suggestions. You can find me in on the 7th Floor of the Docking Building or email me at: elaine.bowers@house.ks.gov or phone me at 785 296-7644. It’s my honor to serve you, and I look forward to hearing your thoughts and seeing you in Topeka!


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