Kansas Representative Mike Kiegerl’s legislative update — week four

THE WEEK THAT WAS

This week we began with final action on several bills and introduction of significant new legislation. The bills on general orders we voted on were:

HB 2440 Requires the secretary of corrections to notify a victim and family upon the death or escape of a prisoner. Passed 118-0

HB 2412 The parole board may release a prisoner who has a terminal medical condition and deemed by a licensed physician to die within 30 days and who is not a risk to public safety. Passed 74- 44 (I voted Aye)

HB 2160 Insurance claim payments to be transmitted directly to the primary policy holder without endorsement from a mortgage and lien holder. Passed 97-18 (I voted Aye)

HB 2476 Increases court docket fees by a surcharge of $10 to $15. Passed 86-32. I voted No

HB 2082 Prohibits deceptive commercial advertising, passed 113-2 (I voted Aye)

HB 2411 The K2 bill. Adds to the list of controlled substances synthetic marijuana, Ecstasy, and amphetamine. These substances are already illegal by federal law but were sold openly in Kansas. Passed 110-10 (I voted Aye)

SB 48 Changes funding of the 911 emergency system to assure that the new 911 is properly functioning. It levels the cost and it is revenue neutral, Passed 106-15 (I voted Aye)

SB 298 Identification signage for certain oil and gas wells. Passed 72-49 (I voted No) The bill is unnecessary, retroactive, and vague.

SB 324 Home inspector liability limits. I voted for a similar bill last session but new convincing evidence demonstrated that great damage to a home owner could be the result of incomplete or erroneous inspections. The bill failed 30-81 and I voted No.

BILLS INTRODUCED LAST WEEK WHICH MIGHT COME UP THIS WEEK:

HB 2439 The texting while driving bill. I’ll support it as presently written.

HB 2441 Crimes and punishment, establishes involuntary manslaughter while driving, texting and causing an accident which results in a person’s death. My view same as above.

HB 2442 Establishes the Kansas Streamlining Government Commission which will provide an independent review of state agencies. I believe this is absolutely needed.

HB 2516 Kansas expanded lottery act. Whether slot machines should be allowed at Sedgwick County dog and horse tracks. My view: let the voters in Wichita decide.

HB 2519 Concerning sales taxation streamlined tax and conformity. As I read it now, I’ll support it, but it is likely that have many potential amendments will be offered…

HB 2537 Strong versus weak beer and who might sell which. This is presently before my committee and not likely to be considered this week (see Committee Reports below.)

HB 2541 The Illegal Immigration Relief Act. A hot button issue: we have tried and failed to pass legislation restricting benefits to the undocumented. I have cosponsored several of these bills to no avail. We’ll try again. I’ll support any measure which gives KS taxpayers relief

HB 2622 No public funds for lobbying. We’ve tried this before, too. It’s insane for taxpayers to pay for lobbyists who may advocate issues they oppose. I’ll vote Aye.

HCR 5028 Establishing a three year moratorium on granting new tax exemptions or tax credits. I’m not sure on this one and will need to see the final version. Generally I oppose the easy fix of categorically mandating measures which we should consider individually and cast a vote. Were a meritorious program to come before us we should debate it rather than saying “Come back in three years and we’ll consider it.” By the same token we need to review all tax exemptions which have proliferated into the hundreds to see whether they’re still warranted.

NOTA BENE:

My expressed preferences are not firm commitments on how I will finally vote but my views of how I see a bill now. I want you to have the chance to provide input and I can change my mind if a large number of constituents disagree with my initial perception. If the vote is not a matter of conscience (i.e. Right to Life, or death penalty) I’m guided by a majority opinion of my constituents, in particular if the margin is lopsided. In addition, bills often come to the floor with amendments which might completely change contents, or a gut and go procedure will delete the entire content and substitute some thing else. This would obviously affect how I finally vote. (Last session a bill on cock fighting was gutted and a late term abortion measure inserted.).

For a bill to come to a vote it must be “above the line” on general orders. This is determined by House leadership and particularly by the majority leader. Keeping it from coming up means that the bill dies.

FRESH OFF THE PRESS (CONFERENCE)

I participated in three meetings with the Capitol Press Corps last week to promote and advance legislation I co-sponsored with a number of my colleagues. The first is HB 2630 which deals with property tax reform; this bill allows taxpayers to have a voice in how high government taxes can go. I have 13 co-sponsors.

Second, I made an appearance with Congressmen Tiahrt and Moran to support the Kansas Health Care Freedom Act which gives Kansans the opportunity to vote for their health care sovereignty and prevent our citizens from being subject to fines and penalties resulting from their choice of their own health care provider (32 co-sponsors.)

Finally we rallied to advance a concurrent resolution presently in the Senate which urges Congress to honor the Tenth Amendment of the US Constitution and refrain from imposing controls on our state we find objectionable. I’ll keep you informed of the progress of these measures.

MY COMMITTEE ACTIVITIES

The final draft of the report of the hearings of the Children’s Issues Committee which I chair will be available and presented to the legislature within a week. We found the need to make substantial changes in handling of policies and procedures in the foster care adoption and family restoration programs. I have introduced 4 bills which will be considered Mar 1.

The Federal and State Affairs Committee on which I’m vice chair heard testimony on two bills. HB 2444 proposes to bring Fire Marshals under the control of the Insurance Commissioner. At present Chiefs of Fire Departments are appointed by, and report to, the Governor. Evidence was presented that Fire Inspectors participate in a variety of training programs and that their decisions and judgments are therefore inconsistent and that complaints are ignored in the absence of organizational control. The chairman decided to form a subcommittee to evaluate and discuss the issue and to report recommendations. I will hold hearings as chair of the subcommittee early in the week,

HB 2537 deals with 3.2% and 4% beer, and who may legally sell it. Current law allows only liquor stores to sell the stronger beer and convenient stores and supermarkets can only sell the weaker brew. They want to sell both. The bill is cleverly crafted to exclude Wal-Mart from competing by mandating that more than 50% of revenue for a store must be from food sales to sell strong beer which disqualifies the Super Wal-Marts.

WEAK VERSUS STRONG; YOU DRINK ENOUGH, YOU GET DRUNK

That was the observation for the record by one member of the Committee. He’s right, of course, but what we learned is that there is a minimal difference in alcohol content, because one beer’s alcohol is measured by weight, the other by volume. If you measure them both the same way there is hardly a difference. Nevertheless, this issue is important to liquor store owners who assert they’ll go out of business if Price Chopper gets to sell “strong” beer. The convenience stores argue that competition is good for the consumer and all they want is a level playing field.

SOCIAL SERVICES BUDGET COMMITTEE

…on which I also serve had a busy schedule last week. We are charged with examining the budget requests by the social services agencies and the Governor’s proposal and then make our recommendations to the appropriations committee.

The Veteran’s Affairs budget was cut by the Governor by $818,000 with a potential offset by Medicaid. “Potential” is the key term here as it is not at all certain whether the federal money will be forthcoming or whether we’re even eligible for it. Therefore the committee rejected the Governor’s proposals.

We also considered the budgets for the Board of Nursing, the state’s mental health facilities, and the state mental hospitals. We agreed to restore some of the cuts in the mental health programs. Our facilities are overcrowded and 20% of mental patients are in jail rather than hospitals. That is shameful.

OUR BEST AND BRIGHTEST

…are in the military and we must take better care of our veterans. I recently spoke to the Spring Hill Vets and will visit both the Gardner and Olathe Posts to encourage our veterans to take advantage of all federal assistance. In Kansas, only 13% get benefits while the national average is 24%. The reason for this may be that we have reduced the number of veteran service representatives who advise vets. Call my office for the number to contact your service representative.

The legislature approved the Vietnam Medallion Program which awards a nice medallion to those who fought in that war, but we did not fund it. Therefore the 250 applicants will need to wait until private funding picks up the tab. Shame on the legislature.

PAGES

January 28 was my first page day and I welcomed 5 eager young people to the House chamber. Lyla Goans, Guy Cauthon, Blake Phelps, Benjamin Boline and Caleb Wilson and a couple of Moms enjoyed the experience. Their picture with the Governor was published in the Gardner and Spring Hill papers and will be on my web site.

If you have a child between 10 and 16 years old who want to be pages please email terri@mikekiegerl.com or call TerriLois Gregory at 785-222-0445. She’ll be happy to give you information and make all arrangement.

VISITORS WELCOMED

I’m always glad to receive constituents and my door is open to all. Walk in if you must and take a chance I’ll be in, but better would be to call to make an appointment. In the morning we’re on the floor either voting and debating and I go to committee from 1:30 to 3 pm and from 3:30 to 5pm. Most of the time I can leave a committee meeting to visit; getting off the floor is more difficult.

My secretary Nancy Gilchrist will take your appointment, arrange tours, and help with directions on where to park. Call 785-296-7572. My office is 173 West on the first floor of the capitol.

Last week’s visitors were: Sam Boyajian, Gardner Pharmacy; Melissa Mundt and Stewart Fairburn, City of Gardner; Melanie Landis & Jonathan Roberts, City of Spring Hill.

THE FINAL WORD

The business of liberals is to go on making mistakes; the business of conservatives is to prevent the mistakes from being corrected.

G. K. Chesterton (critic of both socialism and capitalism)

This Newsletter is a service of S. Mike Kiegerl. Content of this newsletter is © 2009 S. Mike Kiegerl

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