Op-Ed – Mike Kiegerl newsletter – March 13, 2011

BACK TO WORK

After an absence of 18 days, I limped into the House Chamber without assistance on Tuesday, March 8 to a wonderfully warm welcome from my colleagues and staff. I spent the day visiting with leadership and catching up with paperwork saved for me by my loyal and efficient secretary June Christensen. It is hard to describe my emotions entering our magnificent Capitol again as I was more exited than when I first set foot in the building seven years ago and I’m honored to serve you. It’s great to be back.

THE PHYSICAL CHALLENGE

I was evaluated Wednesday and encouraged by the findings and prognosis. My progress is to the point where I’m about back to 55% of functioning of my once completely paralyzed left side, I can walk short distances unaided, drive my car, and my left hand allows me to hold, but not grip things. Luckily I’m right handed so I can type this newsletter in my usual hunt and peck style.

I will continue to need both physical and occupational therapy on an out patient basis for the next six months. Whatever improvement has not occurred by then will likely remain as a permanent impairment.
I’m not greatly bothered by such prospects, as I can live with present limitations and I thank God that I recovered as far as I have.
I have to guard against subsequent strokes, which can occur, continue to lose weight, and watch my cholesterol and blood pressure.

For the rest of the session I will be in Topeka Monday, Wednesday and Friday and go the therapy Tuesdays and Thursday. Should important votes come up, I’ll change my schedule but leadership believes that this arrangement can work. After six months, we’ll evaluate what course of action to take about next session.

ONE MORE TIME: THANK YOU ALL

I received more than 400 letters, cards and e-mail get well messages and at times my room looked like a botanic garden with the flower and plants sent to me. Words cannot express how much I appreciated your kindness and concern. I was also assured that many prayers ascended on my behalf; it looks like they were answered. From the bottom of my heart, thank you and forgive me that I will not be able to answer or acknowledge each individual message.

MEANWHILE IN TOPEKA

The following legislation passed the House last week:

HB 2321 re-codifying the criminal code

HB 2318 criminal code controlled substance provisions

SB 67 disposition of residual donations

HCR 5016 Veteran’s compensation for exposure to Agent Orange

HCR 5019 ensures more education funds go to teachers and into the classroom

HB 2107 regulates sexually oriented businesses (SOB)

These bills passed with huge margins. Because of my absence Wednesday, I could not vote for the last two, although I strongly favor them. I voted aye on the others.

The SOB bill got a surprisingly negative response in the press, much of which is plainly wrong. The Star editorial mocked us for attending to “trivial” social issues rather than the economy. Another paper regrets the potential loss of jobs by the ladies in these establishments.

This bill does not close any business; it restricts certain activities and requires closure at midnight. Testimony before committee clearly documented serious problems some of these businesses pose to a community. Reports of prostitution, violence, public drunkenness including DUI, and disturbances late at night are all byproducts of some of these clubs. The job destroying argument is disingenuous, by that logic legalizing prostitution would be job creating. Is this beneficial to our society?

The conservative majority has addressed social issues which have a fair chance of becoming law, gratefully recognizing a change in administration, but not at the neglect of the primary economic issues.
Consider the following comparison of social/economic bills passed so
far:

SOCIAL ISSUES ECONOMIC ISSUES

Late term abortion reporting/fetal pain Pay/GO rule

Community defense act Reduction of 2,000 public FTEs

Voter ID Reduction of 8 agencies

Workers comp reform

School audits authorized

Paycheck protection

Misclassification eliminated

Health care freedom amended

Privatization initiatives

Multiple tax policy changes

HCR 5019 is also crucial legislation I strongly support and which I consider absolutely essential for education reform. We still have 293 school districts with 293 superintendents, secretaries, computers, telephones and offices. All of this consumes 42% of every dollar allocated to education. Consolidation to 40 districts with 10,000 students each would save $300 million annually according to one study.
We must spend more on teachers and in the class room and less on an overpaid bureaucracy.

UNEMPLOYMENT

The latest numbers show that Kansas unemployment in January was 6.8%, which compares favorably to the national average of 9.2%. Still about 100,000 Kansans are out of work. In spite of the huge amounts of stimulus money dispensed by the Federal Government, the economy is growing very slowly. Creating the greatest deficit and unprecedented indebtedness in history has not been helpful.

COMING UP

Next week will be busy with the consideration of 5 major tax initiatives, and the debate will be contentious. It is likely that numerous amendments will be offered and until I see the final version of each bill, I can only give a general idea on where I stand.

HB 2117 makes several technical changes to sales and use taxes, striking certain expiration and rarely utilized provisions. This is least controversial and I’ll support it.

HB 2317 Changes several existing tax policies, allowing a new state income tax deduction for qualified investments (“expensing”), repeal of income tax credits and sales tax exemptions, repeals the Kansas Opportunity Initiative fund, and creates the Job Creation Program Fund. It makes sense as now written.

HB 2091 rescinds the 1 cent sales tax increase as of July 2011. I would have preferred to return the $300 million collected by this tax to the people by cutting income taxes which the governor favors, but I heard you loud and clear, your response was overwhelming for repeal and I will vote for it unless the bill is amended. This may not make it the through the Senate.

HB 2161 changes destination sales tax from destination sourcing to origin sourcing. Important for facilitating business transactions.

HB 2331 Designates forty counties as Rural Opportunity Zones, giving an income tax exemption to out of state taxpayers who relocate to those counties. I’m not certain about this yet.

HB 2381 Eliminates corporate and individual income taxes on a 5 year phase out plan. I’m a strong supporter of this measure. It will do wonders for the Kansas economy, create jobs and make us much more competitive especially with neighboring states.

SB 77 Reforms the State Unemployment Insurance Fund which is in critical condition.

SB 54 The perennial strong beer/weak beer controversy. The question of whether supermarkets can sell liquor and “strong” beer comes up again. There is very heavy lobbying going on but the difference between the two types of beer is actually minor. The alcohol content of one is measured by weight and the other by volume. If you measure them the same way there is hardly any difference .Supermarkets claim it is unfair to prohibit their liquor, wine and all beer sales. Liquor stores allege that they’ll be driven out of business if their monopoly is not protected; the dry forces see an increase in alcoholism if liquor is more easily bought. Supermarkets will never have the shelf space to offer the variety of products specialty stores can provide, liquor store owners must recognize that this bill will pass sooner or later.

HB 2220 Promoting employment through certain benefits including income tax credits. I’ll support.

HB 2087 Protects the rights and privileges granted by the US and Kansas Constitution. I’m a co sponsor.

HB 2333 KPERS reform

As always, I solicit your input. Let me know how you feel about these and other matters.

COMMUNICATIONS REVISITED

My 16 days recuperating from my stroke made me fall behind in some responses to your inquiries. I did answer many messages from my hospital bed, particularly if they came in on my private e-mail address www.jus4smk@aol.com <http://www%2Ejus4smk@aol.com/> , but my computer had a virus and was out of service a couple of days. My valiant secretary June Christensen tried to handle mail coming in at the state e-mail address. Nevertheless it is possible that you did not receive a speedy rely to your question, for which I apologize. Please re-contact me preferably on the private address <mailto:mike@mikekiegerl.com> or simply call me and I’ll see to it that we connect forthwith.

THE CENSUS AND REDISTRICTING

The numbers are in and the 43rd district shows very strong population growth.

Johnson County grew 20.64% in raw numbers in the last decade and Olathe is second in the state with a 35.4% increase from 92,962 to
125,872 while Gardner came in fifth, more than doubling its residents with a growth rate of 103.5 %, going from 9,396 inhabitants to 19,123.
Edgerton added 231 residents from 1,440 to 1,671 for a $16 increase.
While Spring Hill now has 5,437 people up from 2,727 a 99.4% increase.

Redistricting will most likely change the shape of the 43rd district. I’ll keep you informed once the specific information becomes available

KPERS PROBLEMS

The committee on Pensions and Benefits has addressed the seriously underfunded KPERS liabilities and offered a proposal to restructure the plan. The Senate also devised some solutions in SB 33. Please don’t listen to rumors, nothing has been decided and both House and Senate bills will need to be debated and reconciled. The House proposals include elimination of the 85 points rule and tying retirement age to the Social Security full retirement age, effective in 2016.This does not apply to police, firefighters and correction officers. In addition starting in 2013, the employer contribution will go from .6% to.8% per year. The multiplier for FUTURE service is reduced from 1.75% to 1.4% in 2013. Finally, the bill contains a provision that proceeds from state property sales go directly to KPERS to fund liabilities. You may rest assured that I will follow these bills closely and work to see that KPERS solvency is restored. After all, I intend to retire next year and expect my pension to be secure.

VISITORS WELCOME BUT HURRY

We’ll gladly arrange tours, photo ops with the governor if he’s available and a chat, given prior notice. Call June at 785-296-7676, she will also tell you where to park.

Our first adjournment is on April 2nd, we return for the wrap up session April 27-30. Visits in the wrap up session are not advisable as we’re on the floor all day – and sometimes all night too.

THE LAST WORD

“The happiest people do not necessarily have the best things; they simply appreciate the things they have.”

Warren Buffett

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