2010 Session: 4th Week

The close of the fourth week in Topeka finds the legislature in full swing. With members spending the bulk of their time churning through proposals in committee, the priorities and headlines for the 2010 session are coming into focus. The budget will continue to be the looming priority facing the legislature. We’ll soon be looking at bills concerning a wide range of issues from healthcare, lobbying reform, tax policy and immigration to texting bans and the legalization of marijuana. Some of the more controversial issues will typically not survive the committee process to make it on the floor for debate—but in an election year we always see some of the “hot button” issues in the spotlight.

Functionally, it was a very productive week for the House. The highlight of our work was the passage of the 2010 rescission bill, which the Senate cleared last week. This is an important development as the rescission bill simply covers funding for our current fiscal year. It’s not expected for the House and Senate to take long in reconciling their respective versions of the bill, which means we’ll be able to get to work on the controversial 2011 budget right away.

We were also fortunate to have four days of debate on the House floor. There were a couple of highly publicized bills, such as the ban on synthetic marijuana, but for the most part the bills we’re covering right now are of a non-controversial nature and enable us to keep the legislative calendar clear.

My three committees have met daily all continuing to have updates from agencies and testominy on a few bills in each meeting. Commerce and Labor should have a bill this next week to work on tax relief (SUTA – state unemployment tax) for Kansas businesses with the goal to spur on more hiring and create new jobs. A bill in Federal & State Affairs addresses a proposal to combine the State Fire Marshall into the Kansas Insurance Department office. Currently, the Fire Marshall is appointed by the Governor but would fall under the elected Insurance Commissioner’s chain of command. I was appointed to a sub-committee on this bill to gather more facts and bring back a suggestion to the full committee if we should proceed to “work the bill” or leave the department as is. I always enjoy watching people from home testify on bills – Dr. Bill McGuire from Cloud County County Community brought along students from one of his Equine Management classes and testified on the importance of Agri-business in Kansas’ ecomony. The Kansas Department of Agriculture continues to update us on rankings in the Agricultural & Natural Resourse Committee: Kansas ranks first in cattle slaughtered, second in cattle and calves on farms and third in cattle and calves on grain feed. The state is also ranked ninth in hogs on farms, 12th in market sheep and lambs, 15th in sheep and lambs on farms, 18th in milk production and 19th in meat and other goats. The committee also toured the Kansas Department of Agriculture Research Center located at Forbes Field. The basic function of this complex is to manage plant pests (insects, weeds and plant diseases) that may cause harm to agronomic crops. One Plant Pest Alert they have issued is for a fungal disease caused by a walnut twig beetle which attacks only walnut trees. Currently, the disease is found in Colorado and New Mexico but the department fears it will be brought accidently into Kansas through the transport of firewood. If you would like more information on this disease, feel free to call the KDA at 785 862-2180.

It is always my pleasure to spend time with people from home and this week was full of visitors. Dean and Chris Allison, Delphos and Jerry and Mary Jane Gallagher from Concordia attended the KS Electric Cooperatives on Monday evening. Doug and Kathy Funk took time to watch the House in session on Tuesday and have lunch with me during the Pharmacists Legislative Day at the Capitol. City Hall Day was Wednesday and Larry Uri and Ronnie Copple from Concordia found my basement office (with the help of a former law classmate of Larry’s who is now a revisor in my office complex) and also viewed the debate on the floor before lunch. The annual Farm Bureau Dinner was held Wednesday night. KFB President Steve Baccus from Ottawa County introduced Governor Parkinson who spoke about the importance of family farms. My guests from home were Tina and Mark Steinhaus and Raymond Splitter from Lincoln County, Tom Tibbits from Ottawa County and Brenda Morgan representing Cloud County.
As always, I’m glad you’re interested in our work. The process for bills making their way through the legislature can sometimes be difficult to follow, but I’m always happy to speak with constituents and would be happy to assist you in understanding how the process works. If you would like more information on the bills we’re hearing in my committees, or the status of a certain bill you may have read about please contact me. I’m always able to provide you with as much information as you need.

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