2010 Session: 5th Week

A week that was anticipated to be one of our busiest of the session lived up to that billing while committees worked to pass legislation before next week’s first major legislative deadline, “Turn Around Day.” Turn Around Day is significant simply because it marks the final opportunity for most bills to be considered in their house of origin. After the deadline, we exchange legislation approved by the House for the Senate’s proposals and the respective chambers begin making their ultimate determinations on those bills.

Wednesday, with surprisingly little fanfare or debate, the House passed our version of the 2010 rescission bill allocating funding for the remainder of the 2010 fiscal year. The bill represents around $90 million in cuts and is very similar to the Governor’s suggested rescission bill. The main difference is an amendment we added during House debate cutting legislator and state “officials” pay by 5% for the rest of the fiscal year. That measure would trim an extra $1.5 million. More importantly though, it signals an understanding that legislators and Kansas officials understand the difficulty we face in balancing the budget and are willing to make sacrifices as all Kansas families and business are already doing.

Aside from the budget bill, work on the House floor was fairly muted, and while we churned through a number of proposals, most were of a fairly non-controversial nature. This is traditionally the case, as we’re only meeting for an hour on the floor each day before Turn Around.

The Commerce and Labor committee continued to work on the SUTA issue (state unemployment tax) which is the annual tax paid into the state by employers on the first $8000 of every employee’s salary into a special fund. This fund pays out unemployment payments to Kansans who have lost their jobs in this economic downturn. Just over a year ago, the fund had a balance of over $550 million dollars and will be depleted within the month. The committee is working on the delicate balance of job growth verses the increased unemployment taxes or general taxes Kansas businesses must pay. House Bill #2444 introduced in Federal & State Affairs proposed the combination of the State Fire Marshall into the Insurance Commissioner’s office. The sub-committee recommended the bill be brought back to the full committee to move ahead with the transfer. Two bills dealing with the unlimited hunting of rattlesnakes and mountain lions were not moved out of the Agriculture & Natural Resource committee for debate on the House floor due to lack of a motion. It is legal to ‘protect person and property’ but it is illegal to possess the body or parts such as the rattles or the mounted cougar body which by the way the Department of Wildlife now admits does roam the state. One bill that was debated but was not sent out of committee was to allow the use of crossbows as well as regular compound bows during the same season (Archery Season). Another motion to demand “a doe be taken before a buck” in Archery Season was defeated as well. There was much discussion concerning the deer population (approximately 350,000 in the state) which promotes the yield of a three and half year buck as the much sought after trophy deer. Kansas ranks in the top three states in the nation along with Illinois and Iowa of having such animals to hunt – for both local and out of state hunters.

The past week was a busy one with visitors from home. Gary Dvork and Raymond Pachta with the North Central Flint Hills Area Agency on Aging were in town on February 9th for Older Kansan Day. They sponsored a breakfast and visited Legislator’s office during the day concerning issues facing the elderly in Kansas today. Linda Sutton with the KS Small Business Development Center in Concordia visited me on Tuesday during her Legislative Day at the Capitol. Erma and Gale Ethridge from Glasco with the Mid Plains Credit Union were in Topeka on Wednesday at the Kansas Credit Union Association annual visit with Legislators. Our County Treasurers spent Thursday and Friday in Topeka for the Kansas County Treasurer’s Association meeting with Pat Baccus from Ottawa County and Leah Hern from Dickenson attending the event. It’s no secret that my favorite youth program here at the Statehouse is the Page Program – I had four Sylvan Grove Students - Justin Canterbury, Aaron Augustine, Fritz Berger and Tyler Patrick page for me Thursday. They had a busy morning on the House floor after watching the Commerce Committee SUTA hearing. They also had their picture taken with Governor Parkinson in his office before session started.

Next week, we are scheduled to be “on the floor” for three full days of debate in order to clear the list of bills the committees have sent to the full body for consideration. It will obviously be a busy time in the House. This also provides constituents with an excellent opportunity to make your opinion on these matters clear. I’m always interested to hear fresh perspectives and hope you’ll share your thoughts with me.

Rep. Elaine Bowers
Phone 1-800-432-3924
Kansas State Capitol
Room: 54-S
300 SW 10th St.
Topeka, Kansas 66612
Phone: 785-296-7642
Email: elaine.bowers@house.ks.gov