Session marked by complex issues

The Kansas Legislature recently observed ?turnaround,? the half-way point in the 2012 session.

Turnaround is the deadline by which Senate bills must be approved by the Senate and sent to the House for consideration. Additionally, it is the deadline for House bills to be passed so they may be considered by the Senate. So far, about 183 Senate bills have been introduced in addition to the roughly 346 House bills.

Many tough issues are still before us in the second half of the session, though. We are working to build a more business-friendly environment in Kansas, one that is designed to attract and retain good paying jobs to Kansas.

Growing jobs in Kansas means listening to the workforce needs of employers and making sure Kansans have access to cutting-edge training to help them stay competitive in the workplace.

The Senate gave initial approval to a plan to strengthen the workforce in Kansas and address shortages in high-need areas, including welding, auto repair, aircraft manufacturing, nursing and technology.

The bill, Substitute for SB 383, would increase the focus on technical education by establishing a career technical incentive program and providing greater coordination between school districts regarding technical education availability.

A strong network of technical colleges and teachers will go a long way toward building up the manufacturing base in central and southeast Kansas as well as helping create a bioscience corridor in the northeast part of the state. Substitute for SB 393 passed the Senate unanimously in a 40-0 vote.

A set of water bills were passed that are intended to ease the impact of last year?s drought conditions on the state?s agricultural community and protect the state?s long-term water resources. As the agriculture industry suffers, so does the rest of the state.

The first bill, SB 272, amends water law to provide Kansas farmers and ranchers with additional flexibility to carefully manage their water resources and balance usage in dry years.

A second water bill, HB 2451, would amend the ?use it or lose it? practice. This change would allow farmers to conserve water in wet years without fear of losing water allotments.

While these water bills focus on the areas hardest hit by the drought, they are good for all of Kansas. Without these critical changes to existing water law, the state risks losing millions in economic output and jobs.

This session has been marked by a greater number of complex issues than any session in recent memory. My commitment to serving and representing you remains strong. There is much work yet to do. Please do not hesitate to contact me with your thoughts and concerns on any of the issues we have before us.

Sen. Jeff Longbine represents the 17th District, which currently includes most of Marion County, plus all of Chase, Morris and Lyon counties and parts of Greenwood Coffey and Ossawat?amie counties. New maps are being developed during this legislative session.

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