Legislative update from Rep. Pam Curtis, D-32nd Dist.

Rep. Pam Curtis

by Rep. Pam Curtis

It was a very busy week. We are quickly approaching bill deadlines and Turnaround Day, Feb. 28, after which the House takes up Senate bills that have passed and the Senate takes up House bills that have passed.

Former Rep. Kenny Wilk and Reagan Cussimanio provided information about the University of Kansas Health Systems at the Wyandotte-Leavenworth County Delegation Tuesday Lunch and Learn. It was good to have an opportunity to hear about the hospital’s new presence in downtown KCK, as well as support for an organ donor bill and Medicaid expansion.

Rep. Jerry Stogsdill and I have been working with the arts community to advocate for additional funding for the arts.

On Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee increased the funding for the arts from about $188,000 to $500,000. This is very encouraging and if the amount remains in the budget when it is approved by the House and Senate, it will put Kansas on a good pathway to show a commitment to the arts as well as leverage federal grant funding.

It was such a pleasure to hear from Secretary Delia Garcia, Kansas Department of Labor, at the House Dem’s Thursday Summit. Garcia served in the Kansas House of Representatives from 2005 to 2010 and is returning to Kansas with a wealth of experience from Washington, D.C., for this cabinet-level position.

HB 2279, a bill that Rep. Ponka-We Victors and I introduced, is scheduled for a hearing before the House Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice on Thursday, Feb. 21, at 1:30 p.m. in Room 152-S. This bill will enhance the notification process for domestic violence victims.

It is a special honor to serve as your state representative. I value and appreciate your input on issues facing state government. Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions. My office address at the Statehouse is: Room 452-S, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612. You can reach me at 785-296-7430 or call the legislative hotline at 1-800-432-3924 to leave a message for me. You can also email me at: pam.curtis@house.ks.gov.

Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence Advocacy Day at the Capitol
On Wednesday, Feb. 13, the Kansas State House was the host for KCASD for their 16th annual advocacy day at the Capitol. The Kansas Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence posted their display throughout the Statehouse. It honored 56 Kansans who lost their lives to domestic and sexual violence. Organizations and their members from across the state were at the Capitol to educate the Legislature on the breadth and depth of services they provide to victims and survivors every day in local communities.

In addition to HB 2279 that Rep Victors and I introduced, several Democratic members in the House and the Senate have spearheaded legislation that would aid in the prevention and elimination of sexual and domestic violence and to advocate and strengthen resources for survivors and their communities.

Kansas Department of Corrections declares state of emergency
On Tuesday, Feb. 12, Interim Secretary Roger Werholtz declared an emergency at El Dorado Correctional Facility effective immediately due to critical staffing shortages. In the last few years, prisons across the state, especially in El Dorado, have seen rioting, problematic prison conditions, overcrowding, and severe understaffing, which has posed a safety risk to prisoners, staff, and the public.

These issues, and the current state of emergency, are largely because of the Brownback administration’s failed tax plan which led to severely neglecting and underfunding state agencies. Gov. Kelly and legislative leadership are working together to address this issue. Several proposals to remedy this are being discussed such as: changes in sentencing laws that could lessen prison crowding, additional funding for the prison system, and increasing pay and improving working conditions to attract and retain employees.

Kansas Public Employees Retirement System re-amortization on the floor
This week, the governor’s KPERS Re-amortization bill (HB 2197) landed in the House Financial Institutions and Pensions Committee.

In an unusual move, two committee members were replaced, one of whom made a motion to suspend the rules. This motion bypassed the two-thirds majority rules of the committee, merely to kick it out of committee immediately. Once on the floor, Democrats raised the procedural concerns with the full legislative body, making a motion to return it to committee. The motion was denied.

Democrats attempted to add four amendments to the bill, including a cost of living adjustment for retirees. They did not pass. Ultimately, the underlying bill did not pass.

Rep. Curtis’ committees include:
Local Government Committee – Ranking Minority Member
Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee – Member
Judiciary Committee – Member
Joint Committee Information Technology – Member
Wyandotte County Delegation Chair

My Legislative Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/PamCurtisKCK.
My Twitter account, https://twitter.com/pcurtiskck
My website, https://www.curtisforkck.com/
Kansas Legislature website, http://kslegislature.org/

Legislative update from Rep. Pam Curtis, D-32nd Dist.

Rep. Pam Curtis

by Rep. Pam Curtis

It was great to see so many visitors this week who braved the weather to attend various activities, meetings, and events in Topeka and at the Capitol.

The Tuesday Lunch and Learn for the Wyandotte County and Leavenworth County Delegation included a very informative presentation from Goodwill. We appreciated the opportunity to learn more about Goodwill, the partnerships they are building and the work they are doing for the betterment of our communities particularly in the area of workforce development.

There was a great turnout for the annual AFL-CIO barbecue on Tuesday evening. It was my pleasure to join Gov. Laura Kelly, Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers and members of the Kansas Legislature for this annual gathering with members of organized labor. These events provide an opportunity for lawmakers to listen and discuss matters before the Kansas Legislature.

On Wednesday, Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss delivered the State of the Judiciary Address. In his address, the chief justice emphasized the importance to invest in judicial pay to maintain the quality our citizens deserve. An estimated 25 to 30 percent of our judicial employees work a second job and as Chief Justice Nuss stated: “For our 167 district court judges, in pay, they now rank dead last.” He also spoke about the efficiencies in the judicial branch that have been realized with electronic filing, 24-hour access to court information and job-sharing capabilities.

This week tourism professionals from around the state were in Topeka for the annual TIAK events. It was a lot of fun attending the Destination Statehouse Legislative Reception where various tourism organizations showcase attractions in Kansas as well as provide information about the economic impact of tourism in Kansas. Bridgette Jobe and her team from the KCK CVB participated in the event – it is always special to see people from home when we are in Topeka.

It is a special honor to serve as your state representative. I value and appreciate your input on issues facing state government. Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions. My office address at the Statehouse is: Room 452-S, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612. You can reach me at 785-296-7430 or call the legislative hotline at 1-800-432-3924 to leave a message for me. You can also email me at pam.curtis@house.ks.gov

Celebrating Native American Day at the Capitol

In honor of Native America Day at the Capitol on Wednesday, Feb. 7, Rep. Ponka-We Victors introduced guests from the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation to members of the Kansas Legislature.

Since 2013, the first Wednesday of every February is designated as Native American Legislative Day at the Capitol. The guests were able to hear two bills being worked pertaining to tribal issues – recognition of tribal court judgments, and a bill in House Federal and State Affairs committee to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples day.

They testified that because Columbus never made it to continental North America, or Kansas, that the day should be used as an opportunity to celebrate Indigenous peoples’ rich history and deep contributions to our state. It would also serve as an educational opportunity and strengthen the relationship between State and tribal governments.

Non-discrimination bill

On Monday, Feb. 4, a bipartisan coalition of lawmakers introduced a proposal to ban discrimination against LGBTQ individuals. Kansas employers would add sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class in state law- prohibiting on-the-job discrimination.

It also broadens the scope to include housing and public accommodations. Currently, the House bill has 36 sponsors and the Senate version has 17 co-sponsors. In addition to keeping with civil rights, it also will attract businesses as some have previously blacklisted Kansas because of our previous discriminatory laws.

Gov. Laura Kelly reinstated the executive order to protect LGBTQ Kansans on her first day in office. If the legislation passes, the protections would be established in Kansas law and not an order that can simply be rescinded.

The Brownback tax plan returns

On Thursday, Feb. 7, the Senate voted 26-14 to pass Senate Bill 22. This bill provides an estimated $154 million in tax breaks to giant multinational corporations.

At a minimum, this bill is estimated to cost Kansas $191 million, however, estimates could be much more. This would take more money out of our state, local economies, and Kansan’s pockets.

This is a repeat of the failed Brownback tax plan that was repealed less than two years ago. House Democrats reject any legislation that doesn’t put Kansas on a path to fiscal responsibility and that will harm hardworking Kansans. We’ve only just begun to stabilize our economy after the failed Brownback tax plan and cannot go backwards.

This week on the floor
This week, the House worked several bills on the floor. All of these bills passed through the chamber. They are as follows:
HB 2001: This bill extends the sunset date for remediation linked deposit loan program, the remediation reimbursement program, and the Kansas agricultural remediation fund. It also amends the annual assessment rates.
HB 2038: This bill revokes spousal inheritance rights upon divorce.
HB 2039: This bill extends recognition of tribal court judgments pursuant to supreme court rules.
HB 2033: This bill provides sales tax authority for Dickinson, Russell and Thomas counties.
HB 2034: This bill enacted the supported decision-making agreements act to provide a statutory framework for adults who want decision-making assistance.

My Legislative Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/PamCurtisKCK.
My Twitter account, https://twitter.com/pcurtiskck
My website, https://www.curtisforkck.com/
Kansas Legislature website, http://kslegislature.org/

Analysis: Kansas Republicans’ beef about Kelly’s political weakness about to be tested

by Jim McLean, Kansas News Service

Ty Masterson finally said it this week. He gave voice to what many Republicans had been thinking since November. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly’s election was a fluke.

“Her presence in the governor’s office is a tragic collision of timing,” Masterson, a state senator from Andover, told Associated Press Correspondent John Hanna.

As a result, Masterson said Kelly lacks a mandate from voters.

Masterson is one of the more outspoken GOP conservatives in the Legislature. He chairs the Kansas Truth Caucus, a coalition of legislators dedicated to championing “core conservative principles of limited government, individual liberty, free enterprise and traditional values.”

He’s not alone in his thinking. Senate President Susan Wagle, arguably the Legislature’s top Republican, is right there with him.

“Well, (Kelly) won her election with 48 percent of the vote,” Wagle told me in an interview. “So, no, she didn’t have a majority of Kansans supporting her.”

Anthony Hensley, the Senate’s top Democrat, said Republican leaders are misreading the election results.

“They are out of touch … with the people of Kansas,” Hensley said.

The discussion of Kelly’s legitimacy is an ominous sign for the majority of Kansas voters who said they wanted to see Republicans and Democrats work together to solve problems that festered under former Republican Gov. Sam Brownback.

An extensive survey of Kansas voters done by Fox News and the Associated Press-NORC Research Center at the University of Chicago revealed that 77 percent of Kansas voters thought that Brownback’s tax policies were bad for the state.

A majority of voters surveyed — 52 percent — viewed Kelly favorably, meaning she was the second choice for many who cast ballots for independent Greg Orman. Contrast that to the 52 percent of voters who viewed Republican nominee Kris Kobach unfavorably.

Kelly labeled Kobach “Brownback on steroids” and it seems clear that resonated with voters.

Republicans — and, to be fair, many other political observers — believe the party would have retained the governor’s office if Jeff Colyer had been its nominee. Remember, Colyer ran for the nomination as the sitting governor, having stepped up to fill the position when Brownback left for a mid-level ambassador’s job in President Trump’s administration.

It’s a reasonable assumption, but one that doesn’t invalidate the fact that Kansas voters were also seeking a break from the Brownback past. Colyer, after all, promised to “change the tone” when he took the reins from Brownback.

Yes, conservatives won back some of the legislative seats they lost to moderate Republicans in 2016. But Kelly’s winning margins in the state’s urban areas — Johnson and Sedgwick counties in particular — told us much more about the overall dynamics of Kansas politics than the outcome of those local races.

The Republican assumption that Kelly is a weak governor will be tested by their approaching confrontation with her on the tax relief. Spurred by the Kansas Chamber, the Senate this week passed a bill that would spare some individuals and a handful of big corporations from a state tax increase triggered by recent changes in federal tax rules.

The bill got 26 votes, a comfortable margin in the 40-member Senate. But not enough to override an expected veto should it clear the House and reach her desk.

Kelly doesn’t like the bill. She’s said its $190 million price tag would hinder efforts to tackle the problems that linger from the Brownback era. Problems that include an underfunded and overwhelmed foster care system. Dangerously understaffed prisons. Deteriorating highways. And a seemingly never-ending legal battle over school funding.

Kelly believes voters hired her to address those and other problems. Her anticipated veto of the tax-relief bill will put that belief — and Republican assumptions about what voters intended — to the test.

Jim McLean is the senior correspondent for the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach him on Twitter @jmcleanks.
Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

See more at https://www.kcur.org/post/jim-mclean-kansas-republicans-beef-about-kellys-political-weakness-about-be-tested.