House Happenings Week 3

Week three of the 2012 session saw a noticeable increase in the pace of legislative business, making each day seemingly fly by. Committees are meeting and working on bills daily, and a steady stream will begin making their way to the floor for debate very soon. On Wednesday, the House was on General Orders for the first time to debate legislation with final votes following on Thursday. I anticipate more votes will be made next week since our first session deadlines are quickly approaching.

Every year we are assigned page dates so that we can ask school children from home to come work with us on the House floor during session. I had this opportunity thirty years ago when I paged for Representative Bill Fuller. Miltonvale when I was in high school in Minneapolis. Students should be at least 10 years old and arrive at the Capitol around 8:00AM to report to the page supervisor. They will have the opportunity to meet and have their picture taken with Governor Brownback and attend committee hearing with me before they begin work in the House Chambers at 11:00AM. The two dates this year are February 22nd and March 29th but if for some reason these dates won’t work into student’s schedules, let me know and I can check to see if others days are available.

I am very pleased to announce that Patricia Williams will again be my Assistant for the second year in my office. She will answer your calls during the day and forward messages to me and can make appointments for visitors and help arrange the page visits as well. This year I have a college Intern with north central Kansas roots. Murl Riedel who grew up in Tipton is a finishing up his Masters in Museum History and will work with me on a weekly basis during session. He also works full time at the Kansas Humanities Council and is a Captain in the Kansas National Guard. Murl and I became acquainted when he was the Commandeer of the National Guard Unit in Concordia and lead our local troops to a peace keeping mission to Egypt in 2010. Our office phone number is 785 296-7642.

Two annual events that I never miss were held in Topeka this week. Members of DS&O and Prairieland Electric Cooperatives were attending their yearly Legislative Update and also David and Susan Studebaker and Phil Ballou were in the Capital city for the Kansas Cooperative Council Legislative Action Day. It is my pleasure to have guests from home visit – please let me know if you are attending an event in Topeka and I will make time to see you and even arrange a tour of the Capitol building for you.

Committee Work
We are now holding hearings on bills in committees along with various Agency updates. Two bills in Ag and Natural Resource of interested to us are the KEEP program which would
establish a check-off for equine similar to the grain, beef and milk industries in Kansas and HB2502 which would license swine operators the same way as dairy operators. HB2451dealing with water control in closed areas especially in western Kansas otherwise known as “use it or lose it” policy will be heard this week in Ag and possibly sent out for a floor vote soon. Federal and State Affairs had a two day hearing on Concealed Carry, HB 2353, which deals with where a concealed carrier can carry a gun. This bill should be worked in committee next week and sent to the “committee of the whole” – all 125 of us. Social Service Budget will begin tackling individual budgets which will then be sent to the Appropriations Committee to prepare for the final budget bill.

Kansas Bioscience Authority Audit
Early this week an external audit revealed concerning details regarding the leadership of the state funded Kansas Bioscience Authority (KBA). Based in Olathe, the KBA’s primary goal has been to attract high-tech biological science companies and jobs to Kansas through its partnership with the state. Since its inception in 2004, KBA has received $175 million in state funding to carry out this mission. This partnership demands a great deal of trust, as the legislature has a critical responsibility to ensure taxpayer dollars are being put to efficient use in an open and transparent manner. Over the past year, both the legislature and the executive branch had become increasingly concerned with reports of spending abuse and inappropriate business dealings within the KBA. In response, a full forensic audit was ordered and subsequently conducted over the following months. Overall, the audit found little fault with the structure and operations of the KBA. However, Governor Brownback has suggested the KBA place a moratorium on new investments until the legislature determines how to move forward with the audit results.

Governor, Attorney General Object to EPA Regulation
Governor Brownback and Attorney General Schmidt have submitted a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) urging the agency to stop a proposed regulation on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) based on concerns the rule would place an undue burden on Kansas livestock producers. The regulation of contention, the CAFO Reporting rule, would require all CAFOs to report to the EPA regardless of their size or permit status. Kansas already maintains a comprehensive database and permitting process for animal feeding operations and Brownback and Schmidt contend the only change the rule would bring is an additional, unnecessary layer of federal government paperwork.

Redistricting Kansas
During the 2012 session, the legislature will redraw congressional, legislative and State Board of Education districts based on the 2010 census results. This practice is mandated by the Kansas Constitution and federal courts to ensure all districts are nearly equal in population. Our priority is to first focus on the House district map, then on the Senate, congressional, and Board of Education maps. At this point in the process, it appears that I will continue to represent Cloud, Ottawa, Lincoln and move into north Saline County and I will lose Dickinson County. It is interesting to note that Dickinson County currently has six legislators – two Senators and four Representatives.

Caylee’s Law (HB 2534)
This week the House introduced legislation to address one of our first caucus priorities in 2012. House Bill 2534, if passed, would implement Caylee’s law, after Florida 2-year-old Caylee Anthony who disappeared in 2008. Anthony’s mother, Casey, failed to notify authorities of her daughter’s disappearance for a month. Unfortunately, current law does not view this sort of negligence as a crime in many states. In response, numerous states are now aiming to prevent this from occurring again by creating reporting standards. Current Kansas law does not impose criminal penalties for failing to notify law enforcement of the death or disappearance of a child.
The bill currently resides in the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee where it is waiting on a hearing.

Regents Reporting Requirements (HB 2533)
In the fall of 2011, Penn State University was rocked by allegations that former football coach Jerry Sandusky had been caught sexually assaulting or inappropriately interacting with underage boys on or near university property. Subsequent investigations appeared to reveal that eyewitness accounts of the abuse were not reported to proper university and law enforcement authorities.
As a result, HB 2533 was introduced to require all state post-secondary educational institutions to develop reporting standards for cases of abuse. It currently resides in the House Judiciary Committee where it is waiting on a hearing.

As always, I’ll keep you updated and encourage you to stay informed of the issues under consideration by the Kansas Legislature. You can easily track the action through our legislative website ( where you find links to the various committees and pull up copies of the legislation we’re working on to evaluate. I always enjoy hearing your thoughts on the topics under consideration and appreciate the perspective I gain from an observer outside the building.

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