It is great to be back home. I want to thank all the candidates who ran for our local elections last week. Our local elected officials have a huge impact on our lives, and we are fortunate to have had many great candidates to choose from. Local elections continue to be a controversial topic in Topeka. I expect a bill to come before the House in the Veto Session that would put a mandate on our local community to move city, county and school board elections to the Fall. I have several concerns about the proposed mandate. First, that it would likely inject more politics into what have historically been nonpartisan local elections. Second, I think local decisions are best made on the local level. Our local officials make critical decisions about the future of our community. I would hate to see our local elections get lost on the ballot and caught up in the rhetoric that often accompanies federal elections.
The legislature is adjourned until April 29th while we await updated revenue numbers for April. I can’t overstate what an honor it is to serve you in Topeka. I have gotten to speak with many of you already over the break. It is great to hear your thoughts and to hear what is important to you. I want to hear more and I’m always glad to answer any questions you might have. There is a lot of spin in the messages coming out of Topeka and in the media. Sometimes it is hard to tell truth from fiction. I will do my best to try and take the spin out of it.
One item I have been reading a lot about is Senate Substitute for HB 2258, which deals with welfare reform. The bill has made it onto all the major media outlets and talk shows, namely over the provision that bans the use of welfare payments for cruises, tattoos, gambling, strippers, liquor, piercings, lingerie, psychics, fortune tellers, nails, and tobacco among other things. I voted for this bill, which primarily puts into statute many items that were already in place in rules and regulations. I think all of us can agree that fortune tellers are not how we want welfare dollars spent and also that there are not many welfare dollars being spent on fortune tellers. The drafters of the bill probably should have considered some of their wording better as no one wants to see our state become the butt of jokes on Comedy Central. It’s not good for Kansas. There are procedures in place to allow the reporting of welfare fraud. If you suspect welfare fraud please call 1-800-432-3913. Other helpful state phone numbers for reporting other types of fraud can be found at https://www.da.ks.gov/phonebook/tollfree.asp.
To give you a glimpse of the legislative process we were first made aware that we would vote on the welfare reform bill (HB 2258) at 2:30 p.m. during a Republican Caucus meeting known as “Calendar.” As soon as the meeting ended, we took to the floor to vote at 3:30 p.m. Many other bills were discussed at that meeting including one that substantially changed city annexation law. At Calendar, we were made aware that the annexation bill would come up for a vote and began discussion of the bill at 3:20 p.m., 10 minutes before we had to be on the floor to vote on it. The bill is one that had been amended by the Senate and, in that process, they drastically changed the intent of the original bill. Because of the many changes that were made, the bill was full of unintended consequences that would have impacted both city officials and local property owners. Fortunately, the House voted to non-concur and referred it back to conference committee for further consideration. When legislation like this is rushed through without proper vetting and input from those with firsthand knowledge of the issue the Legislature runs the risk of creating laws that may appear to handle an isolated incident in one community, but that instead have a domino effect of unintended consequences for other communities around the state. I am hopeful the conference committee appointed to work on this particular bill will give this more consideration before moving forward.
Arthur Capper (July 14, 1865 – December 19, 1951) was an American Republican politician from Kansas. He was the 20th Governor of Kansas from 1915 to 1919 and a United States Senator from 1919 to 1949. In running across some of Capper’s quotes, I’m reminded how the more things change, the more they remain the same:
“Several amendments should be made to the primary and general election laws to improve them, but such changes must in no way interfere with a full and free expression of the people's choice in naming the candidates to be voted on at general elections.”
“For the 95 percent whose only means of schooling is the district or the city school, we must provide what we are not now providing, an education that will better fit them for the struggle of life.”
Thank you for the opportunity to serve during these challenging times. Our rural communities are the backbone of a strong Kansas. During the session please contact me any time. My email is Shannon.firstname.lastname@example.org and my phone number is 785-296-7655.