As we finish the fifth week of the 2013 legislative session, the time to introduce bills has come to an end. We still have another week to work bills in committees before turn-around.
Turn-around is the half-way point in the session when the House and Senate exchange bills. House committees will primarily work Senate bills from this point until the end of session.
We are having some interesting and unusual bills introduced. Bills creating term limits, protecting Second Amendment rights, addressing abortion and bills restricting the use of public funds for lobbying efforts are now in the hopper for possible consideration. While it is improbable that all of these will have a committee hearing, some are already on the committee schedule.
The abortion bill getting the most attention is called heartbeat legislation. It basically says that if a heartbeat is detectable in a fetus, an abortion cannot be performed. I don’t know if this will have a hearing, but odds are good that it will.
A bill that would not allow an agency from lobbying the legislature if they receive tax funds is written very broadly and may not be workable. This one appears to be so broad that state agencies may not be able to talk to legislative members about their budgets and programs.
While some ideas sound good initially, the reality is that working with these organizations is necessary for budget and policy discussion.
Our telecom bill that deregulates and begins the process of eliminating the Kansas Universal Service Fund was worked and passed on the House floor Friday. The chair and vice-chair spent many hours with industry representatives working out the details, so the end product was agreed to by nearly everyone.
It certainly is not a perfect bill, but seems to protect rural areas from rate increases and sets the stage for changing technology and improving broadband speeds.
The Taxation Committee has held hearings on the governor’s proposal, but has not taken any action. Passing a budget and tax package that balance will be the main event this year as the governor’s budget package does not balance without keeping the sales tax higher and eliminating the mortgage tax deduction, or some other combination of tax adjustments or budget cuts.
Of all the issues before us, the budget and taxes are the most challenging.
Agriculture Committee continues to attract some attention with the ongoing water and reservoir issues. There are also many other drought-related issues that range from emergency feed hauling to stream and reservoir cleaning and restoration. The absolute best thing to remedy these issues would be some generous spring rain to replenish the dry ground. What a blessing that would be!
As everyone begins to realize how quickly the session is passing, the pace is picking up dramatically. It is always interesting to watch the process as a sense of urgency enters. The bottom line is that the Legislature is only required to pass a balanced budget before the session ends, and doing that takes most of the session to put the budget together.
Once again I have coffees scheduled for Feb. 23. Sen. Carolyn McGinn and I will be at the Halstead Golden Harvest Cafe at 9 a.m. and Sen. Jay Emler expects to join me at the Goessel City Building at 10:30 a.m.
As always, it is an honor to serve as your representative in Topeka. Please call or e-mail with concerns.
Don Schroeder, R-Hesston, represents the 74th District, which includes Hillsboro and roughly the southern half of Marion County, the southeast corner of McPherson County and all but the southeast corner of Harvey County.