2011 Session: Week 9

It’s hard to believe we’ve already completed nine weeks of the legislative session—but the Legislature is just a week away from another set of deadlines, and quickly approaching defining phase of the 2011 session. Next week is the last full week most committees have to consider legislation. To be considered by the full House before the regular session comes to an end in early April, it is critical any remaining legislation is passed out of committee by Friday. Accordingly, if you’re tracking legislation or have a bill of interest you’d like to voice concerns on, now is certainly the time!

Unemployment Figures
This week the Department of Labor issued new figures on the unemployment rate in Kansas showing a January unemployment rate of 6.8 percent. For January, all major industries in Kansas reported job losses. A majority of these losses were seasonal because of the winter weather and the end of the holiday season. Compared to January 2010, the unemployment rate for January 2011 was down 0.4 percent. There was, however, some good news included in the report. Five major industries in Kansas reported over-the-year job gains in 2010. These industries include: professional and business services; education and health services; mining and logging; leisure and hospitality; and government. The remaining industries reporting statewide losses over the year were: information services, construction and financial activities.

Community Defense Act (HB 2107)
This week the House passed HB 2107, commonly known as the Community Defense Act, which regulates the location and operation of sexually oriented businesses. The businesses regulated by HB 2107 include adult arcades, adult book stores, adult video stores, adult cabarets, adult motion picture theaters, semi-nude model studios, sexual device shops, and sexual encounter centers. The bill establishes limitations on where these businesses can be located and restricts the types of performances, hours of operation, age of employees, and activities that may take place within such establishments. Cities and counties that have ordinances or resolutions that regulate sexually oriented businesses are allowed to keep those respective ordinances or resolutions that do not conflict with the Community Defense Act and its provisions. HB 2107 passed the House on Wednesday, March 9, by a vote of 91 to 28.

Equal Benefits for Agent Orange Treatment (HCR 5016)
Thousands of Vietnam veterans suffer from the effects of being exposed to Agent Orange. Although commonly associated with Vietnam, the chemical was also extensively used in surrounding areas like Thailand. Today, many of our Vietnam vets who served outside of Vietnam are struggling to obtain the same medical benefits and compensation to treat the side-effects of Agent Orange as those who served in Vietnam. In response, the House this week took action with unanimous passage of HCR 5016, urging the United States Congress to extend equal benefits and compensation for the treatment of Agent Orange exposure to Vietnam era veterans who served outside of Vietnam.

Committee work is slowing down as bills are being passed out which we heard the weeks before. The Agricultural Committee recently heard SB 124 dealing with water supply in nearby Kanopolis Reservoir and a few small technical changes to existing water law. Federal and State Affairs recently had a two day hearing on HB 2337 dealing with stricter regulations on Abortion Clinics and a new bill which will make it easier for Military spouses to transfer their licenses from other states such as teaching certificates as long as they meet certain Kansas criteria. My Social Service Budget committee work is almost complete now that we have sent all of the budgets assigned to us to the full Appropriations Committee where Chairman Crum will represent the entire committee. One more meeting is scheduled for this week of an update of the Quality Care Improvement Panel which was passed into law last Year.

This week was a busy one with many organizations holding their annual legislative days in the Capitol. Steve Bryant with the Kansas Optometric Association and Doug Funk with the Kansas Pharmacist Association from Concordia had lunch with legislators early in the week. Dickinson County Leadership held a dinner at KEPCO with all six of the counties’ legislators – two Senators and four Representatives. The group included both high school students and adults in the county. Linzie, Lexie and Lacie Huber served as pages for me on the House floor Thursday while their parents, Doug and Donna watched from the gallery. Senator Pete Brungardt, State Board of Education Member, Kathy Martin and I spoke at the yearly Ottawa County Farm Bureau forums – one in Tescott and in Minneapolis on Saturday. Afterwards, we visited Crisis City’s open house just outside of Salina. Senator Jay Emler and I will be in Lincoln for the Lincoln County Farm Bureau forum on March 19th at the Mid-America Health Care community room in the basement at 9:00AM.

I hope you are tracking the legislature’s work in Topeka and, if possible, take the time to visit this session. If you would like an individual meeting, I’d be happy to arrange one. In the meantime, I’m always anxious to hear your thoughts on how the issues discussed in Topeka affect you. Reliable feedback is very important in making sure I’m accurately representing my friends and neighbors here in the district. Please feel free to call or email and I’d be happy to discuss any topic you are interested in. Thank you for the honor of serving you.

Rep. Elaine Bowers
Kansas State Capitol Building
300 SW 10th St.
Room 54-S
Topeka, KS 66612