While waiting on a budget we can vote on, we’ve passed several other bills:
• HB 2312 would regulate scrap-metal dealers. Kansas has a problem with thieves stealing copper tubing out of air conditioning units, and electrical and telephone wire even when in use, as well as other items.
Some thieves have even climbed on the roofs of multi-story buildings, stripped out the tubing from air conditioning units, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage to the building.
In an effort to slow down the number of thefts, we hope to empower counties and cities to register scrap-metal dealers and require them to keep records of their purchases. The bill talks of “regulated scrap metal”—those items I have mentioned above—and it steps-up the monitoring of regulated scrap metal.
The bill also would stiffen the penalties for these thefts; we’d really like to drive those crooks out of Kansas by making it harder to hawk their stolen metal, or to put them in prison longer if caught.
• SB37 impacts the Kansas Offender Registration Act. Sex offenders and violent offenders currently must report to the sheriff and verify address and activities three times per year and within 10 days of moving to a new address.
To comply with the federal Adam Walsh Act, we will now require reporting four times a year and within three days of moving. The bill also modifies the consequences of a first-time failure to report to the sheriff. It had been a Level 5 felony, typically landing the offender in prison for about two years; it was moved to a Level 6, which likely will shorten that prison stay for the first offense, thereby keeping prison bed space more available for repeat offenders and other more serious offenders, as well as keeping us from having to open yet another prison—at state expense.
We still want offenders to report in, but between shortening the time to report in considering the requirement of quarterly reports, we believed the modified punishment more accurately fits the crime.
• After proposing to cut state employee pay and increasing state employees’ share of the health-insurance premiums, the House Appropriations Committee brought House Bill 2392 to the full House for our consideration. It would eliminate the longevity pay program, which pays extra to employees who are viewed by their bosses as valuable and have served the state with 10 to 25 years.
It seems like punishment for hanging around here and working for us to cut them once and then take the recognition bonus away. The full House would have none of it, and the bill failed.
The general consensus of those voting down the bill was: We already pay state employees less than 47 other states do, and we’re already lowering their salaries. Further, around 2007, the state began raising employee pay to a level more consistent with the Kansas labor market, but Kansas hasn’t completed that because of this recession.
In that context, it just seemed too much to quit the longevity program—a rather harsh slap in the face. When we leave other wages alone, perhaps we ought to consider the longevity program, but not now.
• We hope to pass comprehensive changes to the DUI law (driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs). Many of the “tough” measures meted out in the past don’t seem to have made much difference, so we’re trying another track. However, until we are assured the budget negotiators from the House and Senate agree to fund the community corrections officers who would have to monitor those drivers, we simply can’t pass these changes.
Those officers can’t handle about 700 more people to their caseload unless we give them the money to hire extra workers. I hope to report fully to you next week about this matter.
Oh, we also hope to pass a full budget for me to report on, as well.
Please contact me at: Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at Kansas State Capitol Building, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612; or call 620-382-2133. Please don’t call my Topeka number; we have no one answering phones.