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Dear Friend:

Please join Rep. Jan Kessinger and me for a town hall meeting this Saturday!
March 25, 9 am
Berkshire Subdivision Clubhouse
4313 W 124th St, Leawood, KS 66209
 
Even though I am not on the dais, I encourage you to attend the final Johnson County Public Policy Council Legislative Breakfast Series. This week features Sens. Barbara Bollier and Julia Lynn and Reps. Stephanie Clayton, Erin Davis, Nancy Lusk and Brett Parker. Technically, you could do both events!
Saturday, March 25, 7:30 am
DoubleTree Hotel in Overland Park
Save your seat here

Around the District
It was a pleasure to see Chuck and Jennifer Laue at the reception they hosted for the Kansas Humane Society: 

 

Senate District 11 Resources:

Map
Demographic Profile
Kansas Legislature
Kansas Cash (find your unclaimed property)
Register to Vote
Vote by Mail






The Kansas Interfaith Action hosted Muslim Neighbors Day at the Capitol. I was pleased to join fellow Kansans in welcoming the Kansas Muslim community to the Capitol. Guest Chaplain Dr. Moussa Elbayoumy, of the Islamic Center of Lawrence gave a prayer before the Kansas House. I’m pictured here with Mahnaz Mahnaz. It was great to meet her and hear about her four sons, brother, and two nephews who are all Eagle Scouts.
Thanks to Phoebe Neeld, Casey Whitworth, and Drew Bell from Leawood Middle School, and Maddy Pilarz from Indian Woods Middle School for serving as legislative pages in the Kansas Senate last week!
In The News
Last week, wildfires spread across much of central and western Kansas destroying homes, property, and livestock. Dry conditions combined with powerful, frequently-shifting winds turned these fires into the largest in Kansas history. By the numbers:
  • 711,950 acres have burned
  • 1148 square-miles, or
  • 1.4% of the total land in Kansas.
  • There are not yet estimates on the loss of livestock and property. Clark County and the city of Ashland, Kansas were hit the hardest, with 85% of the county’s land area burned. FEMA has approved Federal Fire Management Assistance Grants for the following counties: Clark, Comanche, Ellsworth, Ford, Lincoln, Ness, Rooks, and Russell Counties. Ashland native Tyler York used a drone to capture this breathtaking footage: 
If you can help, the Kansas Livestock Association Foundation and the Kansas Farm Bureau are accepting and coordinating donations here.
  • Governor Brownback signed Executive Order 17-01 to assist fire relief efforts.
  • HB 2387 would provide a sales tax exemption for certain property destroyed by this wildfire. The bill passed the House Taxation Committee and the House and Senate last week and is headed for the governor’s signature.
  • HB 2140 which enhances the ability of fire departments to assist each other across state lines, has passed the House and also was heard and passed the Senate Federal & State Affairs Committee this week.

On the Floor
The Kansas Senate formally killed Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax plan (SB 175) to raise around $200 million annually to close a projected budget gap for Fiscal Year 2018 and beyond. The Senate used a parliamentary procedure to formally kill the bill on a 37-1 vote. The bill would have raised fees for filing annual reports for businesses; increased cigarette and liquor taxes; and frozen individual income tax rates at their current levels. The rates for the lower tax bracket are scheduled to decrease in 2018. Read more about the Senate’s action in The Hutchinson News.
 
Our first late night session – we adjourned Thursday night about 9:45 pm after a long, complicated, and at times comical debate on the rescission budget (
S Sub Sub HB 2052). I say comical because some of the amendments were so clearly never intended to pass, but to provide postcard fodder for our next elections – 3.5 years from now.
 
Just two days after the November election last year, the
Consensus Revenue Estimating Group (CREG) determined the state would take in $350 million less revenue in the current fiscal year than it had budgeted for, requiring cuts be made to balance the budget. The governor has authority to make cuts, which would have had lesser impact across the board in November, because we weren’t yet halfway through the fiscal year. However, the governor refused to make cuts and waited for the legislature to return to do the heavy lifting. Something tells me he didn’t like the outcome of the election and wanted us to start off with major services cuts!
 
As a result, this bill is the least-bad of really bad options. However, since the House passed this bill in February, the revenue outlook for the state has improved. The shortfall for the current fiscal year is now around $280 million. Testimony from the House Appropriations Committee’s work can be
read here. Among my least favorite provisions are:
  • Delaying payments to schools (payments to be made by June 30 of this year and move the payment to after July 1 so it’s in the next fiscal year),
  • Further delays of payments into the KPERS fund, and
  • Millions diverted from the Home and Community Based Services waiver program which provides elderly services in their homes, allowing them to stay in their homes longer.
I didn’t have a hand in developing the current tax code or budget. But I DO have a say in how we fix it moving forward. If we can get out of this budget year in-the-black, we can start building a firmer foundation with restored taxes and a fairer system that requires all Kansans to pay for the services they use – which will adequately fund the actual costs of those services.
 

Committee Work
Transportation
The committee heard testimony on the following bills:
  • HB 2076 creates the Seat Belt Safety Fund by increasing seatbelt violation fines from $10 to $30. The fund would be used to promote the importance of seatbelts to children.
  • HB 2096 removes a little red tape by eliminating the requirement for Johnson County to provide an annual report to the legislature on the ability of buses to drive on the shoulders of interstates. The bill also allows the same authority for buses in Wyandotte County.
  • HB 2095 would increase the allowable combination of vehicle weights for truck-tractor semitrailer combination vehicles and similar vehicles. I have serious concerns about public safety as well as the cost of increased wear-and-tear on our roads – which are already crumbling due to neglect. Have you driven on 435 Eastbound lately?
  • HB 2257 would create an armed services occupation medal license plate decal, allowing people who were recipients of the Army Occupation Medal or the Navy Occupation Service Medal to apply the decal to their plates, as well as surviving spouses.
  • Currently veterans can only get such license plates if they are entitled to compensation for service-connected disabilities of at least 50%, for loss of use of one or both feet, for loss of use of one or both hands or visual impairment of both eyes. HB 2174 would allow eligibility for the disabled veteran license plate if the veteran submits proof to the director of vehicles that s/he has a permanent disability. Background on the bill.
Ethics, Elections, and Local Government
HB 2006 sets the process to fill a county commission vacancy by special election. This won’t be an issue in Johnson County but in other counties which expand their board from three to five members, for example, a process needed put into place to ensure voters had a say.
 

HB 2094 was introduced on behalf of Johnson County and had a hearing on Thursday.  The bill would make it easier for local units of government to contract with each other for services. For example, if the school district wants to contract with the city for snow removal from district parking lots and driveways, this bill streamlines that process.
 

HB 2137 clarifies that county commissioners and members of city governing bodies can serve as volunteers for emergency medical services or as volunteer fire fighters. Allows members who choose to do so to receive compensation for such services.
 

HB 2333 would give county election officials the option to move the date of a canvass to any business day not later than 13 days following an election. The bill would require the time and place of the canvass to be published in a general circulation newspaper in the county prior to the canvass. Finally, the bill would stop the county from purchasing, leasing or renting any voting system, unless that system can provide a paper record of the vote and can be tested before the election and the date of the canvass. I thought you would enjoy the testimony before the committee
 

Ways & Means
This committee has been very busy with various budget bills. We heard, worked, and forwarded Senate Substitute for Substitute for House Bill (S Sub Sub HB 2052) to the full Senate for consideration this week (see rescission bill discussion above).
  • Jargon Alert – Substitute Bills: When a LOT of work is done on a bill, sometimes it is less confusing to compile all the changes into one bill as a substitute for the original. For example, what we can tell from this bill’s name is that the House had a lot of changes to the original HB 2052 and passed Substitute for House Bill 2052. The Senate made further extensive changes and rewrote those changes as its own substitute for the House’s substitute, so you have the Senate Substitute for Substitute for House Bill 2052. Clear as mud?
Last week, the committee continued to hear subcommittee reports that deal with future budgets for various state agencies, boards and commissions. Some of the bigger reports included the Department of Children and Families, the Department of Aging and Disability Services, the Department of Agriculture, and the Department of Health and Environment.
 
Finally, we held a hearing on
SB 173, which would provide a 5% reimbursement rate increase for providers under the home and community based services Medicaid waivers. This is a popular bill, especially in rural areas where there is a shortage of health providers and those who still accept Medicaid patients are even more rare.
 

Utilities
The committee received presentations on a variety of energy topics:
  • Electric Transmission
  • Environmental Upgrades – Coal Plants
  • Nuclear Energy
Breaking news received Friday announced the Kansas Supreme Court rejected an effort to delay construction on an expansion of the Sunflower Electric Plant in Holcomb, just outside of Garden City, Kansas. The court will allow construction, which could provide much-needed jobs to western Kansas.

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)

Copyright © 2017, All rights reserved.


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