2010 Session: 12th Week

Dear Constituents,

After completing our busiest and most substantive week of work in the 2010 session, our work is nearly complete. The looming budget issue will remain unresolved until the end of our veto session in early May, but most every other issue that’s been brought before the legislature has at this point been passed, killed, or shelved for another year. The House spent full days on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday churning through bills, and after challenging debate on some of the most controversial issues, headed home Wednesday evening for a two day break.

On Thursday and Friday, small groups of House and Senate designees known as “conference committees” were meeting to reconcile differences between their respective versions of bills—but few of these appeared to be of a controversial nature. If you remember, these committees are made up of three Senators and three Representatives and I feel one of the most important steps in the legislative process. This is where the compromises are worked out between the two chambers and the bills are returned to us for our final approval – and we often send these reports back to them for more “tweaking”. We will return next week to vote on these conference committee reports, then head home for the annual “spring break” before returning on April 28 for our veto session. At that time, we’ll have fresh budget projections and revenue numbers—and reach our ultimate decision on the budget.

One major flashpoint this week was the response to Congress’ passage of the comprehensive health reform bill. Similar to the rest of the nation, our body was split on its reaction to the news. We even considered a constitutional amendment that would essentially allow Kansas the ability to “opt out” of any federal legislation on the matter. The measure, which would require a 2/3 majority to be place on ballots for a statewide vote in November, garnered 76 votes in the House—short of the 84 required for the supermajority. We actually had three votes on HCR5032, once to move it to final action, the final vote and then another vote when it was brought back up for reconsideration.

While the bills on General Orders are too numerous to list, our work this week ranged from substantive debate on critical abortion standards, to major changes in conceal and carry laws. Many of these issues made headlines throughout the state—you can always find more info on the legislature’s website at www.legislature.org or of course, contact me and I’ll be happy to provide you with more information on any of these measures. I had my first opportunity to carry a bill this year from the Federal and State Committee. The base bill of HB452, which was requested by Juvenile Justice Authority Commissioner Jennings, dealt with juvenile detention, alcohol and current practices. Ironically, as the new bill was written to amend a statute in Chapter 41, it was amendable to liquor bills and amendments. Two minor amendment concerning farm wine production in Kansas were added but neither affected the original content of the bill. The bill passed of the House floor 122-0 the next day.

One visit I look forward to every year is from the annual Lincoln County Leadership class. They visited the Capital on March 18th – one of the busiest days of the session. But even with our schedules, Senator Emler and myself, along with State Treasurer Dennis McKinney and Deputy Education Commissioner Dale Dennis had a working lunch with the group at the Ag Retailers Association Building across the street from the Capitol. Tom Tunnel, a former resident of Lincoln County, hosted the luncheon and spoke to the group about his firms’ duties and responsibilities as lobbyists.
It is hard to believe but it has been nearly thirty years since I was a page at the Capital for Representative Bill Fuller while I was a student at Minneapolis High School. I remember how important that day was to me and encourage students to spend part of a day paging for me. I was happy to host four pages from Minneapolis on Wednesday – Colton Baker, Tyler Mocckel, Adam and Noah Garbin. As it was spring break for most students in Kansas, there were many pages but they all had opportunities to run errands for us during our busy day on the floor. The Governor was in his office that day as well so they had a moment to shake his hand and personally introduce themselves to him along with a photograph to record their visit.

I look forward to seeing you the next weeks during the longer spring break in the month of April. What was originally conceived as a time for farmers to return home to plant crops has now turned into a pivotal time for gaining feedback before returning for the legislature’s final push in the “veto” session. It also allows researchers to provide us with fresh numbers on what’s happening and where budgets are expected to be when we return. If budget projections remain flat or fall within an acceptable range I’m confident we’ll be able to wrap up reasonably quickly—however if revenues continue to fall we’re going to face a very difficult session.

Please call me if you would like me to visit your group during my break. I hope to get around to as many school classes as I can and I will be happy to speak at meetings or lunches as time allows. I look forward to hearing your input, and hope you’ll contact me if you have any requests or questions. I appreciate your continued support—and thank you for your interest in the legislative process.

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