2015 Senate Scene Week 6

Senate Scene Week 6
This week, the Kansas Senate finished week six of the 2015 Legislative Session. With “Turnaround” occurring next Friday, February 27th, this week was the last full week for committees to meet before the critical deadline. Turnaround is the point in session where a bill, with a few exceptions, must pass the chamber it was introduced in. If the legislation fails to gain approval, the legislation cannot be acted upon until the following year. Overall, the Senate debated and approved 12 bills on the floor and the proposals have been sent to the House for consideration.

Pages for Session 2015
On February 16, 2015 Chloe Nielsen, 8th grader at Concordia Jr. Sr. High school, Amber Cherney, 8th grader at Republic County Jr. Sr. High School and Taylor Cherney, 6th grader at Republic County Elementary School were pages in the Kansas Senate for Senator Elaine Bowers.  They took a tour to the Dome, explored the Capitol, ran errands for the Senators and had their picture taken with Senator Bowers and Governor Brownback.

Visitors from Senate District #36
It was my pleasure to meet with groups across the district this past week.  Visitors representing their organizations from home were members of Kansas Livestock Association (KLA) and the Leadership Mitchell County Leadership Class who I always enjoy seeing on their yearly visit to Topeka. 

Happenings for this week
Scrap Metal Theft Reduction Act
With Kansans seeing a continued increase in scrap metal theft, such as copper, over the last decade, Senator Mike Petersen (R-Wichita) crafted a proposal that has garnered broad support. Senate Bill 11 (SB 11) establishes the “Scrap Metal Theft Reduction Act” by giving the Attorney General additional jurisdiction and enforcement powers with regards to scrap metal thefts. The bill would establish a fee fund that allows scrap metal dealers to be licensed with an annual registration fees ranging from $500 - $1500. SB 11 would also establish a database to regulate the scrap metal sales and would establish civil penalties. The information from the database would help track scrap metal theft. A scrap metal dealer would be required to photograph the seller and any regulated items being sold. The dealer would then keep the photographs and transaction record to be turned into the database. The data collected would be confidential and only released to law enforcement officials with authorized uses. Civil penalties would be set by the Attorney General and would range from $100 - $5,000 for each violation of the act made by a scrap metal dealer. Those who commit the crime of scrap metal theft would face a minimum of 2 ½ years behind bars.  SB 11 passed out of the Senate unanimously with a vote of 40-0.
For more information on the bill visit: http://li.kliss.loc/li/b2015_16/measures/sb11/

Kansas Water Rights
Senate Bill 36 (SB 36) makes two changes to the multi-year flex accounts (MYFAs). MYFAs are a voluntary, five-year term permit that would temporarily replace an existing water right. It allows a water right holder the opportunity to exceed their annual quantity in any year. SB 36 allows MYFA permit holders to make changes on their place of use by up to 10 acres or 10% of the authorized use. It would also allow MYFA permit holders to roll over unused water up to a certain capped amount. SB 36 provides flexibility and more incentive to conserve water by those who hold water rights.  For more information on the bills visit: http://li.kliss.loc/li/b2015_16/measures/sb36/

SB95 - Kansas Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act
Thursday, the Senate considered legislation that would protect unborn children from an abortion procedure that dismembers their bodies as a means to end their life. Specifically, the bill would define any procedure of an unborn child by dismembering their body and extracting the child one piece at a time from the uterus as an abortion.

Other Legislation
The senate also passed bills with various subject matters including changes to the Kansas Judicial Council, school district performance audits, and insurance clean up bills: SB 55, SB 14, SB 24, SB 17, SB 76, SB 36, SB 8, SB 72, and SB 101.These bills are now headed to the Kansas House. For more information on these bills visit: http://li.kliss.loc/li/b2015_16/measures/bills/

Job Growth in Kansas
The number of new businesses in Kansas is at its highest level this decade with 15,780 new registrants in 2014 alone. Kansas also had the second-largest increase in the number of new businesses in any state in our region, according to data collected by the Kansas Secretary of State’s Office. The total number of registered businesses in Kansas for 2014 was 170,489. This is an increase of around 9,753 from 2013.  Many economists believe that statistics such as these are indicators of strong economic growth and prosperity to come. However, some time will be needed before employers are in a position where they can start hiring. For more information see fair press coverage at http://tinyurl.com/nvv8up2  or www.sos.ks.gov.

Capitol Tours
After the Capitol was dedicated on Kansas Day, January 29th  of last year, new tours were announced to the public which replaced the decades long standard walking tour.  The guides, some of who are volunteers, will now take people on a choice of eight different tours.  All tours originate in the new visitors center right next to the map of Kansas on the floor at the front of the north entrance.   The new tours are all one hour long and are:  Historic, Bleeding Kansas & Civil Rights (From John Brown to Brown v. Board), Civic & Government, Art for the Ages, Discovering Small Treasures (a scavenger-hunt like tour that encourages a lot of “close looking”, Building the Capitol (An architecture & renovation tour), One of a Kind (Truly unique & amazing parts of the Capitol) and finally the Dome tour – the 296 steps from the fifth floor to the top.  You may call the Capitol Visitor Tour Center at 785 296-3966 to set up a tour or call my office and we can line it up for you as well. 

What to look for next week…
Senators can expect to see significant debate on the floor over a wide range of subject matter on Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon as well as all day Thursday. If you would like to listen in, debate will be live-streamed at the following address: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/

As we continue to work here in Topeka, I hope you will follow along and stay informed on the issues under consideration by the Kansas Legislature. It is easy to stay updated by accessing committee schedules, bill status, and other helpful information through the legislature’s website, www.kslegislature.org.  If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me—comments, concerns and suggestions are also welcomed and email is the best way at this time of the year.  I always enjoy hearing from my constituents on the topics under consideration and I appreciate the perspective from those outside the Statehouse.

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