When the Kansas Legislature gathered in Topeka for the start of the 2013 Session, we saw 71 freshmen legislators take the Oath of Office. Among the 125 House members, 55 are freshmen; however six have previous legislative experience and in the Senate there are 16 freshmen, but 11 have previous legislative experience.
With the start of a new session, especially following an election year, there are always changes to adjust to. For me 2013 brought a new office location, a different desk assignment on the House floor, and a new committee assignment. With the many changes, we still don’t have all the phones ringing in the correct place, but we trust that will be corrected soon.
My new office is on the second floor directly below the House Chambers (274-W). I invite you to stop by anytime you’re in Topeka. My three “regular” committee assignments all deal directly with the budget. In addition to continuing to serve on the Appropriations Committee, and as Chairman of the Transportation and Public Safety Budget Committee, I am now a member of the General Government Budget Committee. Although there are other committees I would enjoy serving on, like insurance, agriculture, or taxation, I am pleased with my assignments because they place me in a position for strong input into how Kansas tax dollars are spent. I am also pleased to report I will continue serving on the Legislative Post Audit Committee and the Joint Corrections and Juvenile Justice Oversight Committee.
Meeting Someone Special: Many groups host welcome-back receptions for legislators, and one such reception invitation caught my eye; it said there would be a special guest in attendance. Anyone who has been a Kansas City Chiefs fan for any length of time has heard the name Len Dawson. Len Dawson was quarterback for the Chiefs when I first learned of football and he led them to their only (so far) Super Bowl victory. I had the privilege of meeting, visiting with, and having my picture taken with Mr. Dawson. Although it was an honor to meet and visit with him, I was reminded that every person is just a person. Len Dawson had no halo, wings or superpowers; he was a regular person just like you and me.
State of the State Address: On Tuesday Governor Brownback gave his State of the State address wherein he laid out his priorities for the session. His agenda is ambitious, proposing major reforms, such as a constitutional amendment to change the way judges are selected, a legislative definition of what constitutes a “suitable education”, and calling on the legislature to further reduce income taxes.
Some are criticizing the Governor for many of his proposals as being extreme and I personally am not sold on all of them, but we cannot afford another decade of lost jobs, as we endured prior to 2011. I recently saw a quote that I think applies, “Any dead fish can float downstream, it takes a live one to go against the current”.
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Tax Policy: Last session the largest tax cut in state history was signed into law, dropping the top rate from 6.45% to 4.9% and the bottom rate from 3.5% to 3.0%. Because of that bold step the tide is turning. The results from last year’s tax reduction are already beginning to show that growth can be achieved by leaving money in the private sector. Kansas saw 1,500 more business filings in 2012 than in 2011 and surrounding states are scrambling to lower rates to remain competitive with Kansas.
Budget: On Wednesday the House Appropriations Committee received a briefing on the governor’s budget proposal. One change the Governor is proposing is a two year budget, rather than the normal one year budget. His budget proposal protects education funding, essential services for the needy, fully funds T-Works (the transportation plan) and leaves the state with the required 7.5% ending balance.
Over the past two years republicans have worked to return fiscal discipline to Kansas, taking the state budget from only $876.10 in the bank, and facing a projected $550 million shortfall, to closing out the 2012 fiscal year with a positive ending balance of $502.9 million. I will continue working with other legislators to make state government more effective and efficient.
Combining KDOT and KTA: We currently have two agencies that deal with Kansas highways; the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) and the Kansas Turnpike Authority (KTA). It is estimated that having KDOT take over the daily operations of KTA would save about $15 million. This is something the Governor is urging and I will have my Budget Committee closely examine this proposal in our continued quest of reducing the size of government and making it more responsive to the citizens of Kansas.
I consider it an honor to represent House District 12 in the Kansas Legislature. Please feel free to contact me anytime you have thoughts on state level issues. My office number is: 785-296-7641, and my email is: firstname.lastname@example.org