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Kansas Legislature
Johnson County Election Office
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Communities of the
25th District

Mission Hills
Mission Woods
Prairie Village
Roeland Park
Westwood Hills


In Topeka: 
State Capitol Room 352-A
Topeka, KS 66612

At home in Fairway
4124 Brookridge Drive
Fairway, KS 66205

Dear Friend:

Town Hall Meeting
Sunday, February 11 at 2pm
Fairway City Hall
5240 Belinder Road
It was a pleasure to see local PTA members for the Kansas PTA's annual legislative day. Thanks to Devin Wilson and Brian Hogsett for grabbing this shot, I'm so bad at remembering to take pictures!

K-12 BudgetLive Stream
Our K-12 Budget Committee chairman, Larry Campbell of Olathe, was appointed to serve as the new Budget Director by Gov. Colyer last week, creating a vacancy in the Chairman’s seat. Speaker Ryckman elevated Rep. Fred Patton of Topeka to the position of chairman. Rep. Patton is an attorney who has long served as a school board member for the Seaman School District. He also served a term as president of the Kansas Association of School Boards. Fred is an excellent choice to take the reins. Rep. Steven Johnson of Assaria was added to the committee to fill the vacancy. Rep. Johnson is a member of House Appropriations and chairs the Tax Committee. His financial planning skills are a welcome addition to the committee.

With the transition complete, we are moving forward on the immense workload before us. We held a briefing on what is known as the “bond cap,” a set of constraints on school bonds added in conference committee last June. These complex provisions never received a committee hearing to learn the details from stakeholders. As a result, problems have arisen and we are faced with unintended consequences due to lack of proper committee vetting.
Monday, we will hold a hearing on how new school funding is being used by districts and why it matters. The Commissioner of Education, Dr. Randy Watson, will present to the committee along with several superintendents from around the state. Thursday we will learn about at-risk interventions in a hearing that showcases “best practices” in our schools.

The House Education Committee held several extensive public hearings last week. We spent over two hours hearing testimony for HB 2602, a bill to add mandatory dyslexia screening for all students. The families who testified gave heartfelt accounts of the struggles their children have experienced but the bill is redundant as most of the coverages it requests are already included in federal and state law. Many of us on the committee felt the real problem lies with implementation and professional development. We had a healthy discussion about the strain budget cuts have placed on schools. Watch for a proposal from our committee in the near future.
Later in the week, we held a hearing on bullying policies. Again, the testimony was moving and the discussion was worthwhile. HB 2578 would require school districts to post a link to district bullying policies and reporting procedures prominently on the district homepage.
In the week ahead, we will have a hearing on an autism therapy bill, a bill changing requirements for Braille and other assistive devices for private school students, and a bill dealing with the 2.5 mile busing zone.
Federal & State AffairsLive Stream
We have passed several different bills that have streamlined regulations concerning microbreweries in Kansas. The committee has found near unanimity as this burgeoning industry is spurring economic growth in a wide variety of communities. Most of the changes are technical in nature and were requested by the Division of Alcohol and Beverage Control.
We passed a bill to erect a statue of Dwight Eisenhower on the Statehouse grounds, paid for by private foundation funds. This bill became the first bill sent to the desk of Gov. Colyer. The statue should be in place by October.
Under HB 2562, all Kansas House and Senate committees would have live audio-streaming on the internet as of January 1, 2019. On January 1, 2020, those same rooms would be required to have live video-streaming as well. Also, an archive will be kept of all previous recordings for the duration of the legislative biennium (two years).
I carried HB 2438 on the floor this week. The bill prevents vendors who bid on a state IT contract larger than $5 million from participating in the design of the project plan. The Division of Post Audit recommended this to prevent a vendor from designing a project only they were qualified to bid on, or that includes unnecessary features that drive up cost.
This should have been a simple bill to carry – in fact it ultimately passed unanimously. However, an amendment was offered during floor debate to put “net neutrality” provisions in place for state contracts.
An issue as important and complex as net neutrality needs to go through the regular public hearing process for Kansans to have their voices heard. Springing it on the floor without proper vetting, consensus building, and lawmaker education presents a number of problems.
  • Some of my colleagues were unclear what “net neutrality” actually means, and thus were unprepared for debate.
  • The intersection of federal and state law needs to be explored. In this case, the FCC likely has the power to supercede state law.
  • State contracts affected likely include public safety and emergency management services. In those cases, prioritization of service is both warranted and desired. Preventing such prioritization poses a major problem for our first responders. We owe it to Kansans to fully understand the public safety implications before taking a vote.
    • AT&T operates our legacy phone lines, which are protected to ensure public safety (regulation dating back to its origins), but all other carriers could be affected by rules preventing prioritization.
  • The state may lose the ability to negotiate competitive pricing and potentially see providers simply choose not to offer broadband service in Kansas at all.
From the beginning, I have taken the time to read and understand the ramifications of the bills we consider. I make a point of learning about unfamiliar topics from all sides before making up my mind. I offered to help arrange a committee hearing in Federal & State Affairs, and our committee chairman publicly invited a bill introduction. Instead of withdrawing the amendment to collaborate on the proper vetting process, my colleague persisted and the amendment was voted down. I voted NO as there were simply too many unanswered questions.
To be clear, there is a time and place for floor amendments to be offered. Medicaid expansion last year was a floor amendment (in fact, it was a gut & go). After several years of talking about the topic, and committee hearings in both House and Senate, it was fair game to offer the amendment on the floor. Our recent debate on the repeal of campus carry shared a similar history – four years of conversation on the topic, and several rounds of public hearings.
Sometimes floor amendments are simple. On Thursday an amendment that changed the sunset date on a local sales tax for Russell County needed no in-depth research to understand.
Offering the net neutrality amendment was certainly part of the process. It was offered, ruled germane to the underlying bill, debated but ultimately defeated because too many of us had no clear understanding of the consequences. Perhaps our freshman colleagues will learn that it takes teamwork to pass legislation.
In the meantime, I am doing my homework and promise to keep an open mind on the topic of net neutrality, even though it is largely a federal issue. Here is a selection of articles in case you would like to learn more as well:
Please don't hesitate to contact me with questions or ideas about these or other legislative issues. It is my honor to serve you.


Rep. Melissa Rooker
Kansas State Representative, District 25
Serving Northeast Johnson County
Copyright © 2018 All rights reserved.
Melissa Rooker,