Injuries reported in K-7 crash

Two injuries were reported in a crash March 12 at K-7 and 130th Street, according to a Kansas Turnpike Authority trooper’s report.

The crash, at 8:39 p.m. Monday, happened when a Toyota car failed to stop for a red light and struck a Buick sport utility vehicle in the intersection, according to the trooper’s report.

The driver of the Toyota, a 75-year-old Leavenworth, Kansas, man, was injured and taken to a hospital, according to the trooper’s report.

The driver of the Buick SUV, a 51-year-old Edwardsville, Kansas, woman, also was injured and was taken to a hospital, the trooper’s report stated.


Legislative update from Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-5th Dist.

Opinion column

Sen. Steve Fitzgerald

by Sen. Steve Fitzgerald

Thumbs down on property taxes

Small businesses rank property taxes among the most despised taxes because they pay the tax whether they are producing income or not. NFIB’s most recent Small Business Problems and Priorities, a publication with extensive research on the problems facing small businesses, property taxes were the 8th most concerning issue, which was just ahead of state income tax rates at 9th.

I was privileged to have supper with former Congressman Barry Goldwater again this year during his visit to the Kansas Capitol. He represented California in better times and now lives in Arizona.

The big item in the Senate this week was the Convention of States resolution that ultimately failed to gain the constitutionally necessary two-thirds vote. Opposition to the resolution included very liberal Democrats and Republicans and a few very conservative Republicans. Two conservative senators made excellent statements about the potential problems with the resolution And, I hope those problems are adequately addressed before this resolution comes back, as I think it will.

The states’ rising demand for a convention to amend the Constitution is a healthy expression of the frustration of the people concerning the national debt and other issues. That concern should cause the election of candidates that will address the issues and address the frustrations. Who we elect is the most important part of self-government.

Quick facts
• 34 percent decrease in the total juvenile out-of-home population between July 2016 and July 2017 in Kansas, including reductions in detention facilities, group homes, and secure state-run juvenile correctional facilities (Pew Trusts)

• Mediware Health Care growing and moving to a new location in Johnson County; it is expected to grow the local workforce by 368 jobs within the next 10 years (Kansas City Star)

• Corporate tax receipts down $9.66 million below expectations for this fiscal year, but are $14.92 million over this time last year (Department of Revenue)

• Jobs spiked 313,000 in February. The Trump economy continues to boom, adding 313,000 jobs in February, easily beating expectations. The unemployment rate remained at 4.1 percent. (Source:

• Midwest Business Conditions Index rose in February, pointing to continued improvement in regional economic conditions. The survey covers Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma and South Dakota. (Source:

• The 2018 National Right to Life Convention will be in Overland Park, Kansas, from June 28 to 30. For more information, visit

Floor action

Microbrewery contracting (HB 2470): House Bill 2470 allows Kansas microbreweries to contract with other microbreweries to sell and package beer and hard cider. The legislation regulates the amount of beer and hard cider that can be transported between facilities. This bill passed the Senate 39-0.

Cereal malt beverage sale regulations (HB 2502): House Bill 2502 allows cereal malt beverage (no more than 6.0 percent alcohol volume) licenses to be subject to state and local taxes instead of the state liquor tax. This bill passed the Senate 39-0.

Convention of States (SCR 1611): Senate Concurrent Resolution 1611 makes the application to the Congress of the United States to call a convention for the purpose of proposing amendments to the Constitution of the United States that impose limits on the federal government. This bill failed 22-16 (The resolution needed 27 votes or two-thirds in favor to pass). I voted for this bill.

Republican senator goes independent

Sen. John Doll (I- Garden City) changed his party affiliation from Republican to independent to join Greg Orman’s independent ticket for governor. In 2006, Doll ran as a Democrat for U.S. Congress against Jerry Moran in District 1. From 2010 to 2011 Doll served as the mayor of Garden City and then in the Kansas House of Representatives as a Republican from 2013 to 2016. Doll has been in the Kansas Senate since 2016.

In accordance to Senate Rule 22, the following senators have replaced Sen. Doll in his committees:
• Education Committee: Sen. Larry Alley – Vice Chair
Sen. Bruce Givens
• Ethics, Elections, and Local Government Committee: Sen. Susan Wagle
• Transportation Committee: Sen. Dan Goddard – Vice Chair
Sen. Ty Masterson
• Ways and Means Committee: Sen. Susan Wagle

Qualifications for certain statewide offices

On Wednesday, the Senate Committee on Ethics, Elections and Local Government held a hearing on HB 2539 concerning qualifications for candidates seeking certain statewide offices. The bill provides for a minimum age to run for governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, state treasurer, and insurance commissioner. Currently, there is no age requirement.

Listen in and look it up

Below are links to make it easy to follow the Kansas Legislature:

Website –
Great for looking up bills, calendars, journals, as well as the Roster in each Chamber. And – you can check rosters, bills, etc. in previous years as well.
YouTube of Legislature – The YouTube page has an archive of the sessions thus far – including the State of the State and the State of the Judiciary.
Committee Streaming –
The Kansas Legislature is also streaming committees, with every committee room equipped with audio streaming technology.

This week

• Hearing on: SCR 1612, urging the state corporation commission to lower retail electric rates to regionally competitive levels – [Senate Commerce Committee, March 12 at 8:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: HB 2441, audits of state agencies; financial-compliance audits; Kansas lottery security audit; selection of auditors, contracts with – [Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, March 12 at 10:30 a.m.]
• Hearing and staff briefing on (written testimony only): HB 2579, providing compensation for a person who was wrongfully convicted and imprisoned – [Senate Judiciary Committee, March 12 at 10:30 a.m.]
• Hearing and staff briefing on (written testimony only): HB 2571, regulating access to certain law enforcement audio and video recordings – [Senate Judiciary Committee, March 12 at 10:30 a.m.]
• Discussion on: Higher education budget – [Senate Ways and Means Committee, March 12 at 10:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: SB 423, amending the Kansas school equity and enhancement act by eliminating the 10% at-risk floor and expanded uses of capital outlay – [Senate Select Committee on Education Finance, March 12 at 3:30 p.m.]

Tuesday –
• Hearing on: HB 2691, modifying notification requirements for the division of water resources regarding multi-year flex accounts and water right applications – [Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, March 13 at 8:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: Sub HB 2040, increasing the penalties for subsequent violations of traffic regulations prohibiting improper passing of school buses – [Senate Transportation Committee, March 13 at 8:30 a.m.]
• Pending referral, hearing on: SB 437, concerning sales and compensating use tax; relating to exemptions, sales of currency, certain coins or bullion -[Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee, March 13 at 9:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: (proponents) HB 2506, rehabilitation of abandoned property by cities – [Senate Ethics, Elections and Local Government Committee, March 13 at 9:30am]
• Hearing on: HB 2639, allowing KDHE to collect a fee for fingerprinting individuals maintain or residing, working or regularly volunteering at a child care facility – [Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, March 13 at 9:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: SB 436, providing Medicaid coverage for cessation treatments – [Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee, March 13 at 9:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: HB 2581, increasing criminal penalties for the crime of giving a false alarm in certain circumstance – [Senate Judiciary Committee, March 13 at 10:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: Sub HB 2359, enacting the Kansas cybersecurity act for executive branch agencies – [Senate Ways and Means Committee, March 13 at 10:30 a.m.]

Wednesday –
• Hearing on: SB 362, exempting labor from depreciation in certain property and casualty insurance claims – [Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee, March 14 at 9:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: HB 2465, designating Kansas commission on veteran’s affairs office employees as safety sensate positions subject to drug screening – [Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee, March 14 at 10:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: HB 2459, amending the Kansas standard asset seizure and forfeiture act and establishing the Kansas asset seizure and forfeiture repository – [Senate Judiciary Committee, March 14 at 10:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: HB 2419, state finances; transfers to and expenditures from the budget stabilization fund; transfers to the Kansas public employees retirement fund – [Senate Ways and Means Committee, March 14 at 10:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: HB 2602, creating the legislative task force on dyslexia – [Senate Education Committee, March 14 at 1:30 p.m.]

Thursday –
• Hearing on: Sub HB 2147, providing an income tax refund for certain Native American veterans – [Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee, March 15 at 9:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: HB 2505, cities; when mayor is considered part of the governing body for voting purposes – [Senate Ethics, Elections and Local Government Committee, March 15 at 9:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: HB 2597, Sedgwick county designated an urban area – [Senate Ethics, Elections and Local Government Committee, March 15 at 9:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: HB 2481, updating the Kansas adoption and relinquishment act – [Senate Judiciary Committee, March 15 at 10:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: SB 424, establishing the office of education inspector general – [Senate Education Committee, March 15 at 1:30 p.m.]

Friday –
• Hearing on: SB 435, permitting real estate brokers and salespersons to give clients or customers rebates if disclosed in the purchase contract or listing agreement – [Senate Commerce Committee, March 16 at 8:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: HB 2524, allowing petitions for a protection from abuse order to include a request for transfer of rights to a wireless telephone number –[Senate Utilities Committee, March 16 at 1:30 p.m.]
• Presentation on: Joint Senate Select Committee on Education Finance & House K-12 Education Budget Committee – [Senate Select Committee on Education and Finance, March 16 at 1 p.m.]

Session dates and deadlines

Friday, March 23 Last day for non-exempt committee consideration
March 26-28 On floor all day
Thursday, March 29 On floor all day; Last day to consider non-exempt bills not in originating chamber
Friday, March 30 No Session
Friday, April 6 Drop dead day; first adjournment
Thursday, April 26 Veto Session begins
Thursday, May 4 Day 90

The other house

On Tuesday, March 6, the House Taxation Committee held a hearing on HB 2740, a bill which increases the statewide property tax levy for K-12 education. Under the bill, the statewide mill levy, currently at 20.00 mills, increases in stages – to 26.76 mills in school year 2018-19, to 32.82 mills in school year 2019-20, and eventually increase to 38.43 mills in school year 2020-21.

Last year, Kansans were forced to accept a massive $1.2 billion retroactive tax increase, even affecting those with low incomes. On top of that, many Kansans are facing higher property taxes because of a controversial valuation process. To further burden hard-working taxpayers of Kansas by sharply hiking the statewide mill levy is unacceptable. If the House passes this bill I will speak and vote against it in the Senate. We are taxed enough already!

On Thursday, March 8, the Kansas House adopted HB 2757, repealing common sense reforms enacted in 2014 that enhanced local control by providing local school boards the authority to negotiate due process for teachers. HB 2757 reverses that, usurping local control and creating a statewide mandate on an issue best left up to school districts.

In the interest of transparency the House passed Sub for HB 2572, requiring the Department of Commerce to establish a database with information on economic development incentive programs, including certain income tax credits and locally-granted property tax exemptions in addition to various programs administered directly by the Department. The bill passed 114-7.

The House also passed HB 2416, which provides tax credits for companies that hire blind and disabled workers, or both. To qualify under the bill’s provisions, businesses must primarily do business in Kansas and have a workforce where 30 percent possess a disability. This would be certified by the Department of Commerce. The bill passed unanimously.

House leadership releases Kansas Safe and Secure Schools Act
HB 2773, the Kansas Safe and Secure Schools Act, was introduced in the House last week. It creates the school safety and security grant fund, requires the State Board of Education to develop statewide requirements for public school buildings and requires public school districts to adopt a comprehensive school safety plan, based on the SBOE requirements.

The act also allows school districts to provide firearm safety programs and adds an additional 2 FTE to the Department of Education for the management of the Safe and Secure Schools Act.
Details of HB 2773
• Creates the School Safety and Security Grand Fund, which the State Board of Education will administer.
• Allows for $5.0 million to be used for infrastructure improvements and training.
• State Board of Education will develop statewide requirements for public school buildings, which shall include, but are not limited to; building infrastructure, technology and communication systems.
• School district will be required to adopt a comprehensive school safety plan based on the SBOE requirements, which should include:
o Staff training
o Emergency drills
o Communication procedures
o Lockdown procedures
o Evacuation procedures
o Evaluation of building infrastructure
o Review of existing emergency procedures
o Recovery procedures and distribution of safety plan

• HB 2773 authorizes school districts to provide firearm safety education programs, such as the Eddie Eagle program or any other evidence-based program.
• HB 2773 also adds 2 FTE to the Department of Education to manage the School Safety and Security Act, with a cost of $300,000 annually.

School safety and the protection of our children are of the utmost importance to us all. HB 2773 is a good first step in looking at ways to harden and protect our schools from those intent on doing evil.
Crime research statistics show us the 96.2 percent of school shootings from 1998 to 2015 have occurred in “gun-free zones.” “Gun-free zones” are soft targets, which allow those intent on doing harm the guarantee that they will not be met with armed resistance.
Nine states, including Kansas, already allow teachers the ability to carry a firearm to protect students. Kansas, Wyoming, Texas, Oregon, Utah, New Hampshire, Arizona, Alaska and Rhode Island have laws in place that allow teachers and other school district employees to carry concealed firearms. In Texas alone, over 170 school districts have implemented policies that allow for the increased protection of their students by teachers and district employees.
Florida, Kentucky, Colorado, North Carolina and Alabama are currently looking at joining Kansas as states that will allow teachers and school employees the ability to provide a last-line of defense to protect students.

Adoption protection bills await committee action

HB 2687 and SB 401 ensure that faith-based adoption providers are allowed to continue to operate in accordance to their sincerely held religious beliefs. Seven states have passed similar laws to protect faith-based adoption providers. The legislation is modeled after the Virginia law passed in 2012.
Neither HB 2687 nor SB 401 have been heard yet in committee.
From Kansas Catholic Conference: Protect Adoption Choice
Thousands of children in the U.S foster system are in desperate need of a safe place to call home, particularly minority children, older children, and those with disabilities. Faith-based adoption agencies in Kansas have been giving these children forever homes for over 60 years.

Sadly, other states have implemented policy changes that prevent faith-based providers from serving in accordance with their sincerely held religious beliefs. Catholic Charities’ adoption ministry was forced to shut down after 100 years of serving in Boston. Agencies in San Francisco, Illinois, and DC have also been forced to close because of their policy of only placing children in homes where they will have the lifetime benefit of a married mom and a dad.

Legislation being considered by the Kansas Legislature will ensure that faith-based agencies are free to serve the common good as they have for decades This bill does not change existing policy related to foster care or adoption, rather it protects against any future policies that might target faith-based providers for their religious beliefs.

* Groups like the ACLU want to use the full force of the U.S. Government to shut down agencies they disagree with.

* Faith-based adoption services are particularly effective in placing special needs and hard to place children.

* More providers means more children placed in forever homes.

* When a birth mother’s desire for her child is a faith-filled home with a forever mom and dad, hostile political activists should not be allowed to stand in her way.

* Shutting faith-based agencies down only limits birth mother choices and does not increase access for anyone.

* LGBT couples have the legal right to adopt in all 50 states. Nothing in this bill changes that.

* This bill simply allows faith-based providers to continue serving the common good by recruiting, training, and retaining families for children.

Find more information at

Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-5th Dist, represents part of Leavenworth County and part of western Wyandotte County.


Legislative update from Sen. Steve Fitzgerald

Sen. Steve Fitzgerald

Guest column

by Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-5th Dist.

The Senate is trying to be more transparent. Besides this newsletter, here are some other tools.

Great for looking up bills, calendars, journals, as well as the roster in each chamber.

YouTube of Legislature:
The YouTube page has an archive of the sessions thus far – including the State of the State and the State of the Judiciary.

Committee streaming:
The Kansas Legislature is also streaming committees, with every committee room equipped with audio streaming technology.

Quick facts
• The Kansas economy grew 2.1 percent in the third quarter of 2017, missing the expectation of 2.8 percent growth (BEA).

• Since December 2016, Kansas gained 6,300 seasonally adjusted total nonfarm jobs and 8,000 private sector jobs (Kansas Department of Labor)

• Legislative post audit reveals misallocated $400 million. A Legislative Post Audit study revealed a possible misallocation of $405 million to schools in transportation funding in violation of state law, which prompted a letter from legislative leaders and potential involvement by the Kansas Attorney General. (Source:

• Kansas Joins in School Choice Week. This week is School Choice week and Kansas joined in the festivities, with over 281 events throughout Kansas to “raise awareness about opportunity in education and spark conversations about what options are available – and what options parents want.” A School Choice Rally was held in the State Capitol on Wednesday. (Source:

• Unemployment is down again in Kansas. In December, unemployment in Kansas went down another tick to 3.4 percent. One year ago, the rate was 4.3 percent. Kansas gained 5,000 jobs in the last two months. (Source:

• Editorial: Pro-dependency advocates miss the mark in attacking Kansas welfare reform

Jonathan Ingram, vice president of research at the Foundation for Government Accountability, wrote the above piece regarding welfare reform in Kansas. Here is a key excerpt:

“The Kansas results show a clear trend: higher earnings and less dependency after leaving welfare. In fact, higher earnings more than offset lost welfare benefits, leaving these families financially better off. While there remains more work to be done to ensure as many families as possible move back onto the path of self-sufficiency through employment, Kansas has made incredible progress in just a few short years.”

Gov. Brownback finally confirmed
Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer to be sworn In Jan. 31
After many months of delay by Democrats in the U.S. Senate, Gov. Brownback was confirmed on Wednesday as the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.

He was confirmed on a 50-49 vote, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie. Gov. Brownback will officially resign on Wednesday, Jan. 31, at 3 p.m. At that time, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer will be sworn in as the 47th governor of Kansas.

Rally for Life
It was cold and wet, but that did not stop hundreds of pro-life Kansans from braving the weather and participating in the March for Life and Rally for Life this past Monday afternoon, which marked the 45th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.

Many elected officials, including many members of the Kansas Truth Caucus, were present for the rally to support the cause of life.
The march began at the Topeka Performing Arts Center and ended with a rally on the statehouse steps where marchers heard from speakers such as Gov. Sam Brownback, Kansans for Life executive director, Mary Kay Culp, and abortion survivor Melissa Ohden.

“Now, I didn’t do this. You did this. The legislators did this,” Brownback said. “But here’s the actual number – 17,000 fewer abortions over the prior six years than the six years before that. You’ve made a difference. We have 17,000 fewer abortions in Kansas because of what you have done. Keep doing it. This is important.”

During the past seven years, Kansas has taken remarkable steps and has transitioned to become one of the most pro-life states in the country. Thanks to the efforts of a pro-life governor, pro-life legislature, and allies at Kansans for Life, Kansas is leading the way in protecting the innocent among us.

That historic progress is now under threat by the Kansas Supreme Court and the possibility of overturning the ban on dismemberment abortions, a second-trimester abortion procedure. The ban on dismemberment abortions was a first-in-the-nation law signed by Gov. Brownback in 2015.

2018 Kansas Teacher of the Year
On Tuesday, the Senate adopted a resolution congratulating and commending the regional finalists of the 2018 Kansas Teacher of the Year selections. Among the finalists welcomed to the Senate chambers was high school English language arts teacher from Buhler Unified School District 313, Samantha “Sam” Neill. With more than 100 candidates nominated, Neill was selected as the 2018 Teacher of the Year.

Each district is eligible to nominate one elementary-school educator and one secondary-school educator. Within the field of more than 100 nominations this year, eight regional finalists were chosen. The Kansas Teacher of the Year Award recognizes the demonstration of excellent teaching in the elementary and secondary classrooms of the state. The recognized teachers are leaders in the development of schools, student performance, and the teaching profession.

Also welcomed to the Senate chambers were seven other regional finalists: Jennifer L. Donovan, De Soto USD 232; Jamie D. Manhart, Silver Lake USD 372; Megan E. Nagel, Newton USD 373; Angela “Angie” R. Powers, Olathe USD 233; Gilbert “Gil” R. Still, Jr., Dodge City USD 443; Sarah C. VenJohn, Winfield USD 465; and Bradley “Brad” W. Weaver, Atchison USD 409

Transparency bill
Senate President Wagle, R-Wichita, offered a proposal last Friday aimed at bringing more transparency to state contracts.

Sen. Wagle’s bill would require lobbyist registration to anyone attempting to influence officials in the governor’s office over a state contract. Currently, state law only requires the registration to anyone lobbying legislators.

Lansing Correctional Facility
On Wednesday the State Finance Council approved the 2-year, $363 million contract for the construction of a new Lansing prison. State finance members voted 6-3 for the project.

Those in favor of the contract were Gov. Brownback, Senate President Susan Wagle, House Speaker Ron Ryckman, Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, House Majority Leader Don Hineman, and House Budget Chairman Troy Waymaster. Voting against the deal were Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, House Minority Leader Jim Ward, and Senate Budget Chairwoman Carolyn McGinn.

Sen. Denning was influential in adding language to the contract that would discourage privatization. He promised a bill to be introduced sometime this legislative session to prohibit privatization operations at any state prison in Kansas.

The vote was originally scheduled for Jan. 4 but was delayed to allow legislators time to gather more information on the plan. Under the approved plan developed by KDOC and CoreCivic, the new facility will have 1,920 maximum and minimum-security beds and 512 medium security beds. Technology and design upgrades will allow for KDOC to reduce staffing from 682 to 371.

KanCare 2.0
Gov. Brownback’s administration announced this week that they would halt their plan to move forward with KanCare 2.0.

Brownback and Colyer explained this week that they want to address the concerns raised by legislators in regards to increased costs and the state’s ability to absorb those costs in future budgets. The administration plans to work with the Kansas legislature to determine the best path forward with KanCare.

Legislators hear from leaders on mental-behavioral health
On Monday evening, legislators heard from hospital representatives, district attorneys, county sheriffs, and leaders from community health centers about the growing mental health crisis in Kansas. A brief background was explained on how both the state and federal governments have cut funding to mental health over the past 60 years. This has resulted in Kansas emergency rooms and local jails being filled with people needing treatment.

A few goals were outlined to address this growing issue. One goal was to change Medicaid policy to allow recipients of KanCare who are incarcerated to have their Medicaid eligibility suspended rather than terminated. This would provide a safety net for treatment to people who are continuously arrested and would also help alleviate some costs that the hospitals are absorbing.
– SB195 addresses this goal.
– SB195 was heard this week in the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee and is expected to be passed out on Tuesday. There were no opponents to changing the policy.

Another recommendation was to look at the needs of the state on a regional basis and to begin the creation of regional acute behavior health facilities. Acute care facilities would provide care for patients needing care for less than two weeks.

Last, it was acknowledged that the state needs a long-term care facility. It was expressed that Osawatomie Hospital is not meeting the long-term and acute care needs of behavior health for patients needing more than two-weeks of care. Advocates hope with more funding and attention to mental health, Kansans can get the care they need to live stable and productive lives.

Dental care expansion
On Tuesday, Senator Vicki Schmidt, R-Topeka, proposed a bill to expand dental care in Kansas. This legislation would allow the creation of dental therapists working under the direct supervision of licensed dentists.

The dental therapists are licensed dental hygienists required to complete additional training in an accredited course of study. Once dental therapists complete the required 500 hours of training they would then be allowed to perform an additional 35 dental procedures.

Misallocated education funds spur calls for investigation
The big news late in the past week was the news that the revelation, via a Legislative Post Audit report, that said the Department of Education may have violated state law by exceeding its authority by improperly allocating $405 million in transportation funds over for over 30 years. That prompted a letter from legislative leaders in both chambers to Jim Porter, chairman of the Kansas State Board of Education, asking for an independent forensic audit.

A report in the Garden City Telegram indicated that the Kansas Attorney General believes the matter warranted further investigation by law enforcement. As of now, the Attorney General’s office has stated it supports a deeper independent audit and is monitoring the situation, but has not yet opened an investigation.
Only legislators are constitutionally responsible as appropriators of the peoples’ money-not staff members and not judges.

There needs to be an independent, forensic to determine what happened and why. That process should be free of politics, with a focus on the rule of law as determined by Kansas statutes. Such and audit will help to fix blame appropriately and exonerate the innocent that are now under suspicion.

However, the real issue is the complexity of the school finance formula, which created an environment for to occur. No transparency with no internal audits left the door wide open to mistakes and possible corruption.

“In the end, these are taxpayer dollars and the public deserves no less than a complete accounting of what happened and why, and assurances that errors like these will not happen in the future.

“Misuses such as these call into question the rationale for higher taxes when literally hundreds of millions in tax dollars have potentially been misappropriated in direct violation of legislative intent.”

Burdensome regulation behind historic meat market’s decision to close

According to the Wichita Eagle, a one-of-a-kind Kansas meat market – Brant’s Meat Market – is closing after 96 years. One of the reasons? Crippling federal regulations and a 22-page compliance form delivered by a state meat inspector.

See this excerpt:
“Stephanie Svaty said the decision to close the store came recently, largely because of federal regulations now being enforced.

“The store was not cited for any violation, Svaty said. A state meat inspector visited the store on Jan. 10 and reported that it needed to keep more documentation and paperwork in the future.

“It is just mainly the paperwork they brought in and told us we needed to start following,” Svaty said. “They gave us a 22-page document, which would be fine if we had 10 to 15 employees, we could understand. It wasn’t feasible hiring an extra person to keep track and check things. We have always had inspections, everything has always been checked and been fine. Maybe if they would have given it to us in chunks, it might not have been so overwhelming.

“We don’t freeze any of our meat, it is made fresh,” she said “We’ve done this 96 years and to our knowledge we did not have anybody die from it or were hospitalized because of our products.”

“But my dad, he is 72 years old. This burst his bubble. The fire left him when he got that 22-page document and read it from front to back and made notes in the margins. We made our decision just this past week.”

As Svaty indicated, burdensome regulations – and complicated and expensive means to comply with those regulations – impact small businesses more than any other. They are part of a regulatory environment created by federal, state, and sometimes local regulations. If a business can’t stay open due to the costs of compliance, there is a problem.

This was highlighted in a quote from the article by Marci Penner, director of the Kansas Sampler Foundation:
“If anybody gets involved, it won’t be to save Brant’s but to address a bigger problem with legislation being oppressive to many small businesses,” she said. “Maybe the sadness of Brant’s will lead to some effort to change things so other small businesses may not have to struggle as hard.”

Speaking of compliance costs, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) – Kansas this week raised concerns with legislation that would give the Kansas Director of Revenue subpoena power, potentially increasing legal and compliance costs for small businesses.

From Dan Murray, NFIB-Kansas State director:
“Tax and legal compliance costs are a major problem for small business owners who rarely have in-house professional staff to meet the demands of government regulations,” Murray says. “Further, tax compliance costs are 67% higher for small businesses than for big businesses.

“Compliance costs small business owners $18-$19 billion per year. Paperwork costs come to $74.24 per hour. The last thing small business needs is for the Department of Revenue to have another intimidating, costly compliance mechanism.”

School Choice Week
Jan. 21-27 was National School Choice Week and that included activities right here in Kansas. The main activities took place on Wednesday for “School Choice Day,” which included a rally inside the Capitol where many families who had been positive impacted by school choice were present.

In fact, there were 281 events throughout Kansas to “raise awareness about opportunity in education and spark conversations about what options are available – and what options parents want.”

The cause of school choice is not going away, no matter how many in government try to act like it doesn’t exist. From state to state, it has been proven to work. Examples of success:
The Kansas Legislature enacted the Kansas Tax Credit for Low Income Students Scholarship program in 2014. According to EdChoice, there are 292 students currently enrolled in the program, but up to 7 percent of Kansas students are eligible. You can learn more about the program by clicking here.

Many students across the country, including here in Kansas, are trapped in schools where they are underperforming. In fact, it is in the very Gannon case ping-ponging between the Kansas Legislature and the Kansas Supreme Court that the core issue is the 25 percent of kids in Kansas who are not performing up to standards.

Members of the Kansas Truth Caucus believe parents have a right to other options, whether that is another public school, private or parochial schools, or homeschooling. A child-focused, rather than system-focused, model of education would foremost care that the child receives a first-class education that prepares them for life, not which system produced it.

This week

Final action on: SB 263, creating a program to research the use of industrial hemp – [Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee; Jan. 30 at 8:30 a.m.]

Final action on: SB 195, creating a suspended eligibility status for recipients of state Medicaid – [Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee; Jan. 30 at 9:30 a.m.]

Hearing on: SB 323, termination of retail electric service territory within city boundaries – [Senate Utilities Committee; Jan. 30 at 1:30 p.m.]

Presentation on: Western Kansas Rural Economic Development Alliance Program Impacts by Christy Hopkins – [Senate Commerce Committee; January 31 at 8:30 am]

Presentation on: Evaluating the Statewide Impact of Economic Development Programs by Ken Kriz, Wichita State University – [Senate Commerce Committee; Feb. 1 at 8:30 a.m.]

Hearing on: SB 312, licensure of dental therapists – [Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee; Feb. 1 at 9:30 a.m.]

Hearing on: SB 204, Enacting the Kansas cybersecurity act – [Senate Ways and Means Committee; Feb. 1 at 10:30 a.m.]

2018 session dates and deadlines
Please be aware of the following dates and deadlines for the 2018 legislative session. As always, each is subject to modification and leadership will keep you updated on any changes which might occur.
Monday, Jan. 29, Last day for members to request bill drafts
Monday, Feb. 5, Last day for non-exempt committees to request bill drafts
Wednesday, Feb. 7, Last day for bill introductions by members
Friday, Feb. 9, Last day for non-exempt committee bill introduction
Friday, Feb. 16, Pro forma
Monday, Feb. 19, Last day for AM/PM committees to meet
Tuesday, Feb. 20, On floor all day
Wednesday, Feb. 21, On floor all day
Thursday, Feb. 22, Last day for non-exempt bills in house of origin
Feb. 23-27, No session
Friday, March 2, Pro forma
Friday, March 23, Last day for non-exempt committee consideration
March 26-28, On floor all day
Thursday, March 29, On floor all day; Last day to consider non-exempt bills not in originating chamber
Friday, March 30, No session
Friday, April 6, Drop dead day; first adjournment
Thursday, April 26, Veto session begins
Thursday, May 4, Day 90

Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-5th Dist., represents western Wyandotte County and part of Leavenworth County.