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Week 7 Newsletter

The Kansas Legislature wrapped up week seven and arrived at Turn Around. So what is this “turn around” we hear about? Before we go there, let's learn a bit about the legislative process to see how we got to this point.

When a Representative introduces a bill, it is sent to a committee by the Speaker of the House. It is in his sole discretion which committee it gets assigned to. It is then the Chairman of that committees responsibility to determine which bills get hearings and which do not. Once a bill is set for a hearing, plenty of time is given to allow proponents and opponents to prepare their testimony and plan to attend the hearing. At the hearing, everyone who wishes to speak has the opportunity to do so and we have the opportunity to ask questions.

The Chairman then decides whether to “work” the bill or not. Working the bill basically means debating the bill amongst the committee members and then voting on the bill if a member of the committee wants to make a motion. A member of the committee can make a motion to move the bill out favorably for passage, move it out neutral (no recommendation) or to table the bill. If no one makes a motion or a motion passes to table it, the bill is effectively dead for the session. If it is passed out favorably or neutral, it then is moved to the full body of the House and put on General Orders. All bills begin “below the line” and it is up to House leadership whether to move a bill “above the line” for the bill to be worked and voted on by the full body of the house.

When a bill moves above the line, the committee member assigned to carry the bill presents it on the house floor the following day. They give a brief overview of the bill and stands for questions. It is at this time any Representative can ask the carrier a question or propose and amendment to the bill. I am generally not a fan of amendments as we have very little time to make a decision that could alter the bill with limited information presented. If there is an amendment, it must be “germane” to the subject matter of the bill. Germaneness challenges are determined by the rules chairman. If found to be germane, it is voted on by the body. Following any amendments and discussion, the bill is voted on by the body on a voice vote. If it appears to pass (or if someone calls “division” specific votes will be counted but not officially recorded) then it is put on the calendar for the following day for final action. Final action is the official, recorded vote.

So what is turn around? Turn around is when all of the bills that have been introduced into the House and assigned to non-exempt committees have been worked, voted on and sent to to the Senate if applicable. Bills in exempt committees (Appropriates, Tax & Fed / State,) can continue to be worked after turn around. The Senate completed the same process and beginning next week, we will begin working Senate bills that passed their floor debates.

This means we still have a ton of work to do. Not only do we have everything the Senate has passed and sent over, we still have to address the Budget, School Funding, Federal Tax Windfall Return and a host of other outstanding issues. Reconciling the budget is always the most daunting task. Allocating your money (also known as state funds) to various state agencies takes the most time as you the Governor, Senate and House all have different ideas on where that money should go. That’s always what takes the longest.

During the session last week, we spent two full days on the House floor finishing up our work. Here are a few bills we worked on and how I voted:

HB 2006 requires the department of commerce to create a database of economic development incentive program information. When the State gives grants, incentives or tax breaks to business or agencies with the promise of new jobs or other growth, we have historically not tracked the progress of the promises made. This will change under this bill. I voted Yes.
HB 2144 concerns community colleges; relating to publication of financial information; identification of transferable credits. Another great win for transparency. This will require community colleges to publish financial information, tuition costs, which credits transfer, how much are fees, and various other items to ensure students are informed before making decisions. I voted Yes
HB 2211 allows judges to waive or reduce driver's license reinstatement fees. Often times, money is the only thing that stands in the way of someone being able to get their license reinstated after an issue and they simply can’t afford it. This bill will allow the Judge using their discretion to waive those fees to enable to person to begin legally driving again. I voted Yes

The House begins meeting again on Wednesday for a short week that will be action packed. If your interested in more information throughout the week, follow me on:

Upcoming Events:

Legislative Updates:
Sat, March 9 - Hesston: Senior Center 9am
Sat, March 16 - Hillsboro: City Offices 9am
Sat, March 23 - Moundrige: Pine Village 9am
Sat, March 30 - McPherson: The Well 9am

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Please let me know if you have any concerns or topics of interest. I would be happy to visit with you. It is truly an honor to be your Representative.

Until next week,
Rep. Stephen Owens
PH: (785) 296-7500

Committee to Elect Stephen Owens,
Gloria Arrellano, Treasurer
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