2015 Senate Scene Week 3

2015 Senate Scene Week 3
This week, Kansas celebrated the 154th anniversary of its statehood with cake and a commemoration of our rich history.  Thursday marked “Kansas Day”.   Every January 29th the state celebrates the day Kansas became the 34th State to enter the Union.  During the festivities, Governor Brownback recognized the winners from the Discover Kansas photo contest. The contest was hosted by the Kansas Historical Society and a number of sponsors. Over 500 applications were submitted from Kansans in grades one through 12.  The winners photographed everything from Kansas people, to places in Kansas or anything related to the state’s history.  Karsen Odle of Beloit was the 12th grade winner for her photo titled “Canoe at Sunset”.  The winning photos are currently displayed in the Visitor’s Center at the state capitol. 

Legislative Process
Every two years, each chamber votes to adopt a new set of rules to govern their respective bodies for the next two legislative sessions. The Legislature works on a biennial calendar.  Every two years, following an election, the legislative calendar is cleared of any existing bills from the previous two years. This protects any new incoming members joining the House or Senate from being forced to vote on any bills they have not seen introduced. The Chambers also share a set of joint rules. The House debated the joint rules for the 2015 and 2016 sessions this week, and the Senate will review them next week on the floor.

Most of the focus at this point continues to be done in committees where the bulk of work on a bill takes place.  During this stage of the process, legislators will hear testimony, offer amendments, and suggest major changes to ultimately build a working product they will submit to the full body for review.  Bills that pass out of committee are received by the Senate in the form of a committee report. Once the committee report is received, the bill can be brought to the floor for debate by the whole Senate under the heading, General Orders. If a bill receives a majority approval following debate, it is moved to Final Action where the bill receives a final vote of the Senate, determining whether it passes or dies. Remember, if a bill does not pass this session, it is still possible to be resurrected next year as part of the continuing legislative biennium.

Senate Highlights
As the Legislature ends its third week of Session, standing committees continue to hold hearings on various proposals before they bring forward legislation to the Senate floor.  Wednesday, the Senate held its first vote of Session passing Senate Bill 4 (SB 4), a bill dealing with audits with a vote of 38-0.

Police and Citizen Protection Act
The Senate Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice heard testimony this week regarding the use of body camera’s by law enforcement. SB18, also known as the Police and Citizen Protection Act, would require every state, county and municipal law enforcement officer who is primarily assigned to patrol duties to wear a body camera.  The hearing drew a number of spectators and testimony from 24 concerned Kansans. Those opposing the bill cited the fact that most police forces already require officers to wear body cameras. They also noted the excessive price tag that accompanied the legislation, which would ultimately be an unfunded mandate for localities.  Proponents of the bill stated the use of body cameras not only protects police, but also citizens. Many of the individuals that testified in support of SB18 suggested the use of body cameras will cut down on ambiguities during interactions with police and citizens, adding that both the officers and those they serve tend to act more appropriately when they know interactions are being documented. The bill was introduced after a number of altercations with police and citizens across the country. SB18 is still in committee hearings and will require further review. 

Senate Bill Introductions
There were a few key bill introductions from this week. Most notably, SB95 was introduced and assigned to the Committee on Public Health and Welfare. SB95 would ban a method of abortion that involves dismemberment of an unborn child.  A hearing is scheduled for Monday, February 2nd. 

SB93 was assigned to the Committee on Education. This legislation, if passed, would create a performance-based incentives fund for students seeking postsecondary education after completing a certification in technical education. The fund would function as a scholarship for individuals who received their career or technical education credentials. At this point, no hearing has been scheduled.

As budget talks evolve, Senate and House budget committees continued discussions on fixes for the state’s deficit in the current fiscal year. The non-partisan legislative research department indicated that a bill, which is formally referred to as the recession bill, needs to be passed by mid-February so the state can pay their bills on time and end the year in the black. With the impending deadline the Legislature will need to take action on the recession bill before February 13th.

Native Sons and Daughter of Kansas
The group was founded in 1918 and is an organization for all Kansans both native and those who adopted the state as their own.  The mission of the group is to preserve Kansas history, show loyalty to Kansas traditions and instill patriotism in our youth.  Sue Sutton of Concordia, a retired instructor from Cloud County Community College, was selected as the winner of the Distinguished Service Citation for 2014.  I am very proud to say that she was my speech teacher at CCCC who I still consult with today on techniques on presentations!   The Kansas Day ceremony was held January 30th in Topeka during Kansas Day weekend.  The organization also recognized students from the area:  Morgan Beougher of Stockton for her 1st place essay “Where I Come From”, Allison Manley from Marysville for her Best of Show artwork title “Hope and Change” and Jack Blummer for his picture winning the Drawing Category “Train Wheel”.   Madeline Moore also of Marysville was a finalist for her portrait picture “The Color Blue”.  The artwork of Madeline, Allison and Jack are very impressive and Morgan’s words “I will always be proud to be from Kansas and Kansas will always be a part of who I am” closed out the ceremony along with the state song (written in Smith County) Home on the Range.

Visitors from Senate District #36
It was my pleasure to meet with groups across the district during the early few weeks of session.    Visitors representing their organizations from home the past week were the Public Accountants of KS, Rural Electric Cooperatives, the County Appraisers, Registers of Deeds and Clerks, law enforcement officers representing cities, counties and the Highway Patrol, KS Association of Ag Leaders with FFA students. 

As always, I’ll keep you updated on the items under consideration in the Capitol and I encourage you as questions arise, to contact me.  Committee schedules, bills and other helpful information can be easily accessed through the legislature website, www.kslegislature.org  as well as a roster of legislators with email addresses to contact during session.  You can also find the listen-in tab at this website and hear debate and discussion in the Senate Chamber at 2:30pm and in the House Chamber at 11:00am. 

Thank you for the honor of serving you!

Senator Elaine Bowers
Kansas State Capitol Building
Room 223-E
300 SW 10th St.
Topeka, KS  66612
785 296-7389