At the half-way point of the 2011 Session, the House has made tremendous progress on top priorities spanning a wide array of issues. This week alone, the House has voted to repeal in-state tuition for illegal immigrants, institute union member paycheck protection, strengthen late-term abortion reporting, require parental consent for a minor to have an abortion and ensure that voters show photo identification. Although the Senate is refusing to move toward the common ground shared by the House and Governor on the rescission bill, the House is standing firm on a responsible ending balance for FY 2011. In the second half of the session, the House will focus on the budget, tax issues and the Governor’s call for school finance litigation reform.
Below is an overview of This Week at the Statehouse, Words to Watch, a preview of upcoming events and this week’s Kansas Trivia Questions.
This Week at the Statehouse
Conference Committee on the Governor’s Rescission Bill
The largest difference between the House and Senate proposals is the method of addressing maintenance of effort funding for special education to avoid loss of federal funds.
Because the final calculation of maintenance of effort has not been determined, the House offered to fully fund the maintenance of effort once the necessary dollar amount is determined and certified by the Commissioner of Education, Director of Legislative Research, and the Director of Budget. According to the House plan, funding for maintenance of effort would come from 2011 KPERS funds which would be immediately repaid in 2012.
The Senate rejected the House proposal and countered with an offer to withdraw $69 million from KPERS with $21 million going to a reduced maintenance of effort and the reminder adding to the SGF balance. Although the Senate plan would increase the ending balance for FY 2011, it does not address repayment of the millions withdrawn from KPERS. The House rejected this recklessness with KPERS funding and reiterated its willingness to meet again when the Senate was ready to make a responsible offer.
In-State Tuition for Illegal Immigrants
The House voted 72 to 50 to repeal the 2004 law that requires public universities and colleges to give in-state tuition to illegal immigrants who have attended at least three years of high school in Kansas. The change would require students of families in the United States illegally to pay the same tuition rate as citizens from other states.
According to the Board of Regents, four-hundred and thirteen such students enrolled at Regent institutions last fall.
Paycheck Protection Passes Despite Union Efforts to Intimidate
On Thursday, the House voted 76 to 45 to prohibit unions from automatically withdrawing dues from members’ paychecks to be used for political action committees. This legislation protects workers from forced and coerced political contributions.
Seven other states have passed similar legislation. The United States Supreme Court has unanimously upheld the constitutionality of paycheck protection provisions.
Approximately fifty union members and their registered lobbyists were present in the House gallery for the vote but had to be escorted out of the visitors’ area by security personnel after an organized effort to influence the final action vote by shouting at House members. The event was unprecedented, inappropriate and ineffective. The measure passed overwhelmingly.
Increased Reporting for Late-Term Abortion and Recognition of Fetal Pain
Also on Thursday, the House passed two key pieces of pro-life legislation with a strong margin. HB 2035, which strengthens late-term abortion reporting requirements and includes parental consent provisions, passed 95 to 26. The second bill, HB 2218, greatly restricts abortions after twenty-one weeks when medical research indicates a baby can feel pain. HB 2218 passed 90 to 31.
A majority of the provisions are late-term abortion reporting and disclosure reforms that have passed the legislature multiple times only to be vetoed by governors who were not pro-life. However, Governor Brownback has promised to sign this legislation when it reaches his desk.
Voter Identification or the Secure and Fair Elections (SAFE) Act
This legislation ensures the votes of Kansans are protected from being canceled out by ballots cast illegally. It requires voters to show photo identification at the polls. Documentation that qualifies includes college ID cards and expired drivers’ licenses for voters over sixty-five years of age. The SAFE Act enhances the integrity of the election process by requiring new voters to show documentation rather than simply marking a checkbox to confirm citizenship.
By mirroring the federal law, HB 2135 defines misclassification of employees as independent contractors in order to evade tax withholding, contribution requirements. This legislation was important to the business community and passed 85 to 34.
Words to Watch
Final Action – A day after a bill passes the Committee of the Whole (COW) which allows amendments by the full House, the House Rules require the bill to lay over for a day before the Final Action vote that will pass the legislation to the Senate. Final Action votes are normally taken at the beginning of the daily session. During Final Action, members must be in their seats and staff, guests and visitors are not allowed on the floor at that time.
Emergency Final Action (EFA) – Most often seen on Fridays, Emergency Final Action allows legislators to leave for home rather than having to vote on a Saturday. If a majority of the House votes to suspend the rules that require bills to lay over a day between being worked in the COW and a Final Action vote, bills can go to Final Action on the same day they pass the COW.
Call of the House – If a legislator is not present for a Final Action vote, members can request a call of the House to hold the vote until the absent legislator arrives to cast his or her vote. If ten members raise their hands during Final Action, a call of the House is in order. During a call of the House, the doors are shut and members cannot leave unless excused by the Speaker. A close vote on a contentious issue can cause a call of the House that lasts hours.
Exempt Committees – There are three exempt House committees: The Appropriations, Taxation and Federal and State Affairs Committees. Bills introduced into, or ever touching, these committees are exempt from session deadlines; they have been “blessed.”
Since Saturday is the official “Turn Around” day, the Legislature will not meet on Monday and Tuesday of next week to allow staff an opportunity to catch up on the flood of legislation switching chambers. When the Legislature meets on Wednesday, committees will begin holding hearings on exempt bills or legislation that has passed from the opposite chamber. On General Orders, the House will focus on exempt bills until committees have had an opportunity to pass out Senate bills.
Kansas Trivia Questions
Question: What World War II pilot took part in tests of the first atomic bomb and was killed during a test flight in 1948?
Answer: Daniel H. Forbes, Jr. Forbes Airport in Topeka is named after him.
Question: In 1911, Ella Wilson, mayor of Hunnelwell, caused a stir by nominating Rosie Osbourn as chief of police. The conflict was finally settled when what entity fined the men on the city council for “having made life miserable” for the mayor?
Answer: The Kansas Supreme Court.
Question: The Kansas Capital has been located in what five locations?
Answer: Fort Riley, the Shawnee Mission, Lecompton, Lawrence and Topeka.
Question: The Kansas flag has not been changed since its adoption in 1927, with one exception. During the state’s centennial, what was added to the flag?
Answer: The word “Kansas.”
Question: Julius Wayland moved to Girard in 1896, bringing his national newspaper with him. Between 1900 and 1910, the circulation reached a half-million, making Girard one of the busiest post offices in Kansas. What was the name of Wayland’s paper?
Answer: Appeal to Reason.