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Dear Friend:
It has been a long few weeks, folks! The first two weeks of March were very slow and there wasn’t much to report, so I waited until this week. And now there’s TOO much going on.

Around the District 
This Saturday, March 24th, Rep. Joy Koesten, Rep. Jan Kessinger and myself will be hosting another town hall.
Saturday, March 24th - 9:30 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
Leawood City Hall
4800 Town Center Dr., Leawood

After Sprint announced they will be laying off hundreds of employees over the course of the next couple weeks, the Kansas Department of Commerce, KANSASWORKS and Workforce Partnership are organizing a tech career fair in Johnson County and the surrounding area:
Tech Career Fair
Tuesday April 3 – 2:30 p.m. - 6:30 p.m.
Johnson County Workforce Center
8535 Bluejacket St., Lenexa
It was a pleasure to meet constituents Jackson and McKinnley Harwood who were serving as legislative pages for Rep. Joy Koesten. They are students at Blue Valley High School.

Senate District 11 Resources:

BookFlix is an online resource for children in grades PreK-3 that pairs video storybooks with related nonfiction e-books. Imagine Curious George paired with a nonfiction book about monkeys. The read-along storybook highlights each word as it is read. This option can be turned off. Related word games and puzzles reinforce early learning reading skills. BookFlix requires Flash.
  • If the page above asks for a Kansas Library eCard number, you may get one at any library in Kansas.  Most people will be automatically recognized as inside Kansas and will not need this step. Adobe Flash is needed to view the animation and hear the narration.  Questions: or 785-296-3296. 
I thought you might enjoy this graphic from the League of Kansas Municipalities that gives you a good idea of the breakdown of the legislature by party, gender, and population:

In the News
Education Funding Formula
I had hoped that this newsletter would include an overview of the study the legislature commissioned on the cost of school funding, but it looks like that is still on hold. The study was due March 15, which meant by midnight, so the Senate Select Committee on Education Finance met with our House K-12 Budget Committee colleagues while the Senate and House attorneys (Jeff King and Curt Tideman, respectively) gave their initial thoughts on the report. Because the attorneys didn’t write the report, they were not able to answer questions sufficiently enough for the members, and the report’s authors are not available until Monday. However, I want to get this update out to you, so I will write another update specifically on education once we know more from Monday’s meeting with the experts. 

On the Floor
This week’s legislative calendar - Live Stream
“Convention of the States”: If approved by two-thirds of the Kansas House and Senate, SCR 1611 would petition Congress under the Constitution to hold a convention for proposing constitutional amendments to limit the power of the federal government. Specifically, Kansas would like to impose fiscal restraint on the federal government; limit the power and jurisdiction of the federal government; and place term limits on Members of Congress. To call a convention, 34 states would have to pass such a measure and if the convention is called and changes are made to the constitution, 38 states would have to ratify those changes. It failed 22-16; I voted no. This vote needed a 2/3rds majority (27). Beyond the fact that this effort could open up a Pandora’s box to unelected conventioners to change the constitution at-will. Your emails and calls came in at about 75% in opposition and 25% in support of the effort.
We debated and passed two important pieces of gun legislation:
  1. HB 2145 is the least controversial of the two due to amendments added in the Senate Committee. Originally, this bill prohibited those convicted of domestic violence from owning a gun until five years have passed, or those subject to a restraining order. In the Senate committee, amendments were added to protect Kansas manufacturers of weapons silencer devices, and the recreational use of throwing stars. The bill passed both the House and Senate unanimously.
  2. HB 2042 began as a bill to recognize the weapons licenses of other states, specifically with regard to concealed carry. Though Kansas would be recognizing the concealed carry license, licensees must follow the rules and regulations of Kansas law. An amendment in the House would allow 18-year-olds to buy and possess a gun, but also would require training equivalent to the concealed carry license.
    1. Such a license is not required in Kansas, but many still seek the license and required training due to laws in other statesIn the Senate, hours of discussion and debate regarding a variety of attempted amendments took place.
    2. After many amendments, no changes were made to the bill. Previously, it passed the House, 76-44, and passed the Senate on March 15, 25-15; I voted no. It will now go to conference committee to hammer out the differences between the versions of the bill passed by the Senate and House.
    3. Besides my fervent support for our law enforcement personnel’s ability to protect our communities, I voted for all of these amendments because I heard strong support from you to vote for common sense changes to our gun laws. Each vote is hyperlinked for reference:
      1. Raise age to purchase and possess to 21: Failed 13-27
      2. Ban “bump stocks” like that used in the Las Vegas shooting: Failed 20-20
      3. 3-day waiting period: Failed 17-23
      4. Recognize licenses from other states only for gun owners 21 years and older: Failed 12-26
      5. Remove campus carry: Failed 19-21
Committee Work
The committee has been very busy with dozens of bill hearings, only the first of which have been “worked” yet. Next week is the deadline to kick bills out of committee, so I expect a lot of these will be passed to the full Senate for consideration.
The House Transportation Committee combined three bills into HB 2599 (HB 2678 and SB 273) to create distinctive license plates for the Special Olympics, a “Choose Life” plate, and a City of Wichita plate. Creating the new plates is estimated to cost almost $3,500. Current law states that a sponsoring organization is responsible for paying up to $20,000 in initial production costs. The Department needs a list of 500 initial customers for each plate before production can begin. Our committee passed this bill to the full Senate last week; it previously passed the House on a unanimous vote.
You likely remember the tragic story of Johnson County Sheriff’s Deputy Brandon Collins, who had 21 years of service when he died on Sept. 11, 2016. He was killed when a suspected drunken driver hit the rear of his patrol car during a traffic stop. HB 2436 would designate a portion of U.S. Highway 69 as the Brandon Collins Memorial Highway. When highway signs are posted honoring someone, current law requires the family or supporters of the sign to raise the funds necessary to have the sign created, posted, and maintained.
SB 404 would create four new distinctive license plates, including one for Korean War veterans, one for Operation Desert Storm veterans, one for Operation Iraqi Freedom veterans and one for Operation Enduring Freedom veterans. These plates would be exempt from the current law that imposes fees on personalized license plates.
Current law requires drivers carrying hazardous materials licenses (HAZMAT) renew those licenses every five years. HB 2511 would change commercial driver’s licenses (CDL) from a four year to a five-year renewal so they could be taken together. Hearing testimony is available here. The House passed this bill unanimously.
Golf Cart Cruising
Current law restricts golf cart driving on certain streets and highways to only daylight hours. HB 2486 would allow golf carts to be driven on certain streets provided they are equipped with lights required by law for motorcycles. Testimony is available here. The legislation passed the House, 84-29.
We may not see it much as school busses move through subdivisions, but in rural areas, passing a school bus has become a huge issue and the fine is small enough to not be a deterrent. The current fine is $315. Sub HB 2040 would increase the fine for passing a school bus to $750 and then $1,000 for further violations. The House previously passed this unanimously. House hearing testimony is available here.
HB 2606 exempts individuals who renew their driver’s licenses online from taking a vision exam. However, individuals renewing online would be required to submit a vision test from a licensed eye doctor to certify that their vision meets the requirements for driving under Kansas law. Only drivers between the ages of 18-50 years old can renew online. The House approved this bill, 120-2. View House testimony here.
We also welcomed an update from the Kansas City Area Transportation Authority.
Ethics, Elections, and Local Government
HB 2506 would change the definition of abandoned property and blight for purposes of cities and nonprofit housing corporations taking possession of properties. Cities could file a petition with the district court seeking an order of temporary possession of abandoned property. The House previously approved this legislation, 90-32. View testimony here.
Mayors do not have voting rights in some forms of local government. HB 2505 would require the mayor to be considered part of the city governing body in all matters in cities with a commission or commission-manager form of government. In cities with a mayor-council, modified mayor-council or mayor-council-manager form of government, the mayor would be considered part of the city governing body for voting on charter ordinances. In addition, the mayor would be considered part of the governing body for voting on any other matter upon passage of an ordinance by a two-thirds majority of the council. You can read testimony here. The House passed this bill without opposition.
HB 2539, which passed the House 94-28, would change the qualifications to run for several statewide elected offices. The bill would require:
  • Every candidate for Governor, Lt. Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General, State Treasurer and State Insurance Commissioner to be a qualified elector of Kansas
  • Candidates for Attorney General to be licensed to practice law in Kansas
Ways & Means  - Live Stream
Sub HB 2359, which passed the House unanimously, would create the Kansas Cybersecurity Act. As part of the act, the bill would establish a Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), who would be appointed by the Governor and serve as the chief expert and authority on policy and other matters related to cybersecurity. In addition, the bill would establish the Kansas Information Security Office that would be managed by the CISO. Finally, the bill would clarify the duties of executive branch agency heads on cybersecurity issues and how agencies work with the CISO. This bill was originally introduced in 2017 to create the Kansas Information Technology Enterprise. Testimony for House hearings is available here.
Sub HB 2331 would create the Representative Jim Morrison Cybersecurity Act. It would also create the Kansas Information Security Office and establish the position of Chief Information Security Officer in statute. In addition, the bill would create the Kansas Information Technology Enterprise (KITE), which would consolidate the functions of the Office of Technology Services and transfer current employees to KITE. Finally, this bill incorporates the original provisions of HB 2359 which also was considered by the committee during the 2017 session and for which a substitute bill is currently being debated by committee members. The House passed HB 2331 in 2017 by a 90-28 vote. View 2017 hearing testimony here.
In addition to bill hearings, the committee discussed subcommittee budget reports on 13 departments, agencies, and programs. The real challenge in this committee is that with the way we’ve treated government employees over the past almost-decade, everyone wants (and needs) a pay increase if we expect to retain high-quality employees. The reality is, we just can’t afford that right now, but are making headway to restoring sanity to our fiscal house. There are some things where we simply cannot run government as a business (i.e. we don’t get to pick and choose our “customers”) and other ways that we should, especially when it comes to employee appreciation. We are far behind that curve. When we choose not to afford skilled employees, riots happen in our prison system due to understaffing and children die in foster care because we don’t pay a rate to hire qualified social workers, etc.
Utilities - Live Stream
We’ve been talking a lot about broadband issues, especially considering there are still 65 school districts in Kansas without a fiber connection for internet. This is a problem! I’m not sure a Broadband Task Force isn’t just more bureaucracy when we really should be acting on the problem, not just spending more time talking about it. More on that later…
We hosted bill hearings but have not acted on these bills:
  • SB 420 would allow the 911 Coordinating Council to adopt rules and regulations to establish training standards and programs that conform to the technology and operations of “Next Generation 911” standards promoted by the National Emergency Number Association.
  • HB 2524 would allow a court to issue an order directing wireless service providers to transfer the rights to cell phone numbers to certain court petitioners, if those petitioners are not the primary account holders, to ensure that the petitioners and minor children in their care can keep their existing numbers. The petitioners must file the request under the Protection from Abuse Act or the Protection from Stalking or Sexual Assault Act. The bill passed the House unanimously.
Finally, we hosted a presentation on the Southwest Power Pool, which oversees the bulk electric grid and wholesale power market in the central United States on behalf of utilities and transmission companies in 14 states. 

It is an honor to serve you in Topeka. Please do not hesitate to contact me about these or other legislative issues. 

Very truly yours,

John Skubal
Senator, 11th District
913-469-6641 (H)

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