House Happenings Week 2

The second week of the 2012 legislative session was abbreviated due to the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. holiday. However, work continued as committees had their second week to address issues and legislation. Bills are starting to come out of committee for further debate and votes by the full House. With the first session deadlines quickly approaching, our pace should pick up in the next week. As always, I’ll keep you updated. Please stay involved and let me know your thoughts on the measures under consideration.

During session, I always look forward to the yearly events that bring people from home to Topeka for conferences and dinners with legislators. District Judge Mary Thrower from Minneapolis attended the KS District Magistrate Judge Association meeting on Tuesday and Scott Henderson from Concordia was in the capitol city Wednesday for the Public Accountants Association. Bill and Dorothy Brown, Minneapolis and Bill and Charlene Watson, Barnard attended the State Association of Kansas Watersheds. I always I if my schedule allows, meet friends from home at these events so please let me know if you will be attending a function in Topeka.

Committee assignments

My committees are meeting daily now mainly with State Agency updates. Kansas Ag Secretary Rodman reported that Kansas net farm income was $3.4 billion in 2010. Agricultural retail, wholesale and manufacturing in Kansas accounts for approximately $50 billion in economic activity annually. Doug Jorgensen, Director of Alcoholic Beverage Control Division (ABC) updated Federal & State Affairs Committee noting that the division oversees not only alcohol licenses but Cigarette & Tobacco and Drug tax enforcement. There are 4623 active liquor licenses in Kansas which is a slight decrease from last year. Just over one million dollars of drug tax was collected (tax due, seized assets and auction of seized property) in 2011 with 75% returned to the law enforcement agency(s) who conducted the investigation and the remaining 25% to the State General Fund.

Rural Opportunity Zones

Updates from the Department of Commerce on the Rural Opportunity Zones (ROZ) were presented to Legislators this week. Cloud County has had five applicants with one approved and Lincoln County with three applicants and one approved as well. The new law which went to effect July 1, 2011 designates 50 counties as Rural Opportunity Zones, provides an income tax exemption for individuals who relocate to those counties from out of state; and authorizes the counties to participate in a state-matching program to repay student loans of up to $15,000 for qualifying students who move into the ROZ counties. To date, there have been 190 applicants statewide from 25 states with the most common applicant as a young person in their mid-twenties to mid-thirties with family ties to the region and who may work in a variety of professional fields including healthcare, education, engineering and law. For more information or questions, contact Program Manager, Chris Harris at rural@kansascommerce.com or phone at (785) 296-6815.

Redistricting Kansas

Every ten years the state of Kansas redraws its Congressional and Legislative boundaries based on the most recent census figures. Each state has its own unique process for how they redraw these boundaries. Figures show the population of Kansas has grown in the eastern part of the state while western Kansas continues to struggle with declining population numbers. As a result, expectations are one Kansas Senate seat will shift from the west to the east side of state, as will approximately three Kansas House seats. The goal is to have 22,761 persons in each Kansas House district, 70,986 in each Kansas Senate District and 713,280 persons in each of the four Congressional districts. Public hearings on the redistricting process were held throughout the state over the summer and fall. Before the 2012 session can come to an end new district maps must be approved by the Legislature so they can get final approval from the court for the August 2012 primary election and November 2012 general election. Each proposed map must meet a specific set of predetermined requirements before it can proceed to be introduced as legislation and subsequent hearings. The main sticking point in the past has been to make the population deviation for each district as close to zero as possible to ensure one person equals one vote. Redrawing the House, Senate and Congressional districts is a time consuming process, and sometimes a source of frustration as members are inevitably forced to swap territory with neighbors. In some cases, a member may have represented a certain community or geographical region for decades. This makes it difficult to part with constituents – or perhaps meet new ones – so it’s a challenging phase for some. A multitude of factors must be considered, and the final product is still weeks away, but the House has committed to making the process as open and transparent as possible in an effort to create a fair and logical map that members feel comfortable voting for, which will allow us to move on to more pressing issues that directly impact our constituents.

State Archives Available Online

The Kansas Historical Society has partnered with popular family history website, ancestry.com to allow individuals with valid Kansas driver’s licenses with free access to over 8 million Kansas records. To access the records, users need to access www.kshs.org/ancestry and enter their name, date of birth and Kansas driver’s license number. Once the number is authenticated users will be redirected to ancestry.com. Users will be able to access Kansas census records from 1865 to 1985; Civil War enlistment papers of Kansas Volunteer Regiments (1862, 1863, 1868); selected World War I manuscripts; and United Spanish-American War veterans certificate collections. The Historical Society also has a digital portal providing access to 200,000 images of photographs, artifacts, diaries, letters, maps and other printed materials at www.kansasmemory.org. For more information on how to get started, visit - www.kshs.org or email reference@kshs.org or call 785-272-8681.

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 at 785-296-7642 or email me at elaine.bowers@house.ks.gov and I’d be happy to discuss any topic you are interested in. Don’t forget that you can also follow the legislative session online at www.kslegislature.org, including live broadcasts of the House and Senate while on the floor. 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
elaine.bowers@house.ks.gov
1-785-296-7642