Week 2: Listening & Learning
Thank you to those of you who replied to my first newsletter. I appreciate your feedback.

The first week was filled with the ceremonial trappings of the inauguration and the beginning of Session. This week was shorter, due to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day and the weather, but we adopted rules and began the important work in committees, where the bulk of our legislative time is spent. 

If I were to label the early part of the Session, I would call it the “listening and learning” stage . Through the various presentations and testimony, legislators must do exactly that. In fact, I approach my job as a legislator in a manner similar to the way I do as an attorney – learn the facts, listen to all sides and particularly my constituents, and then work towards a resolution that is consistent with those facts and in accordance with our principles. 

Even early in the session, though, votes come to the House floor. Our first major floor vote was on the House Rules. They were adopted on an overwhelming, bipartisan basis, and will govern our activities for the 2019-20 sessions.

This is also the period of time when bills are still being introduced. After their formal introduction, the Speaker then refers them to the appropriate committee(s), where the chair decides whether to hold a hearing and ultimately, whether to “work” the bill.  I plan to introduce a bill in my Judiciary Committee regarding uniform rules for family law mediation.

In this newsletter, we have links to the legislative portal for each of my committees, which includes a list of bills that are currently before that committee. You can click on the specific bill to view its history and read its contents.

With that all in mind, here is a rundown of this week!
March for Life

Tuesday this week, hundreds of Kansans, young and old, came to the Capitol for the yearly March for Life, to provide a voice for those who cannot speak. 

Legislative leaders joined with pro-life champions to lead a rally in the rotunda, just before the bad weather hit. I am thankful that previous legislatures have enacted common-sense legislation that embrace a culture of life.

However, we have reason to be concerned. As Mary Kay Culp with Kansans for Life and other speakers mentioned, those laws are currently under threat due to a pending court case before our Kansas Supreme Court dealing with live dismemberment abortions. Some feel that the justices may rule that there is an independent right in the Kansas Constitution separate and distinct from any federal right. If they follow this track, all pro-life laws in Kansas could be in jeopardy, even those that federal courts years ago found were in accordance with the United States Constitution.

This would include laws – such as parental notification– that have widespread support. That could open a Pandora’s Box of lawsuits, and the Legislature would be forced to act. If we get to that point, I will address it in a future newsletter.
House Rules

The House adopted the House Rules this week, which will govern our activities for the next two years. 

I am pleased to report that the rules were adopted by a wide margin, 104-17, with strong bipartisan support. My vote was a yes, as shown in the photo of the vote from my desk on the House floor. The Rules are a positive step forward for transparency and open government, making it easier for you to follow what happens at the Capitol.

We also adopted the Joint Rules, which govern how the House interacts with the Senate.  Those were adopted by an even bigger margin, with only 7 votes in opposition.

While perhaps not the most exciting thing, Rules serve an important purpose. How they are constructed matters. The Legislature only meets for 90 days (sometimes a few more) and as such, legislation must be processed through the system in a timely manner, so the rules must provide for efficiency while still providing a fair hearing of bills and adequate debate. They also should include provisions that ensure the public can reasonably follow what is going on. That’s the essence of open government.

A couple of important notes regarding the Rules:

  • They provide transparency into the “gut and go” legislative maneuver, which is when a bill’s contents are taken out and replaced by wholly different concepts. Our Rules ensure that this process can be easily followed by the public.

  • They make it easier to identify who is asking for bills to be drafted. Previously, the true authors of bills could be hidden via committee bills. This process has been reformed.         

  • They provide a consistent super majority requirement for motions that go beyond regular order. For instance, I previously referred to the importance of the committee process, and if that’s not respected, then it is rendered useless. To that end, if a bill is not voted out of committee, it requires 24-hours notice, and 70 votes (rather than 63), to pull it out of committee and on to General Orders. 

Some may remark that the Legislature does not yet require recorded votes in committee. I think that’s something that’s worth examining, and my hope is we can get there in the future and do so in a way that doesn’t slow down the process. In the meantime, the Rules already allow for any Legislator to have their vote recorded in the minutes.
Committee Work

As mentioned previously, the bulk of our work right now is taking place in committee.

Committees are where we interact with various stakeholders involved in an issue, receive exceptionally detailed information on topics before us, and an opportunity to hear testimony from those on all sides of an issue.

Sometimes, committee chairs will elect not to conduct hearings on a bill, and sometimes to conduct hearings on an issue, even without a specific piece of legislation. 

Whenever a chair does elect to “hear” a bill, we have an opportunity to hear testimony on both the pro and con side, as well as “neutral” testimony. Ultimately, it is up to the chair whether to “work” the bill, which is when it is open to amendment. Eventually, the committee can report the bill favorably for passage, unfavorably, or without recommendation. The committee then forwards the bill to the full House for consideration.

I encourage you to visit the Capitol and come to one of my committees . It’s the best way to learn about the process, and you will likely learn a lot about the issue(s) in front of our committee that day!

As a reference point, I have included my committees below. You can click on the committee to visit its legislative portal at www.kslegislature.org . On each portal, you can see what bills are in that specific committee. You can then click on the bill to see its individual history, read the bill, and at times, an accompanying supplemental note and/or fiscal note. 

You will notice that the committees almost always have an available audio stream when they are meeting. 

Briefly, here’s a rundown of the work we did in each of my regular committees:
Judiciary – This week we heard information briefings from the Kansas Judicial Council and our Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt (pictured above) on the work these offices perform for Kansas. We also heard testimony on two bills, one regarding automatic revoking spousal inheritance rights upon divorce ( HB2038 ), and the other on extending recognition of tribal court judgments pursuant to supreme court rules ( HB2039 ).
HHS – Our committee heard an informational primer about Medicaid in Kansas, and the state of mental health services in Kansas. 

Energy, Utilities, & Telecommunications – Thursday the committee was invited to the Westar headquarters (Westar is merging with KCP&L and will be called Evergy starting in October) to see first-hand how energy is bought, sold, and traded.

If you have any questions about the committee process, please contact me.
Above: On the energies trading floor in Topeka where the House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunication Committee were invited for a tour.
Governor Kelly's Budget

As we dig deeper into the Governor’s proposed budget that was released last week, the more concerns arise.  The biggest is that the Governor’s budget relies on refinancing KPERS in order to balance the budget.  It’s akin to getting a home equity loan today by refinancing your home by extending your mortgage another 15 years, and increasing your debt, when you are only 5 years away from paying off your mortgage. 

This scheme in the Kansas budget would extend the time KPERS is not fully funded by 15 years, and leave our children and their children to pay another $7.4 billion more to fund the Governor’s increased spending today. 

I campaigned on a platform that includes fiscal responsibility. Increasing debt and failing to fund our pension system to increase spending is anything but fiscally responsible.

In sum, the Governor’s proposed budget is NOT possible without all of the following:

  • Re-amortization of KPERS, costing Kansas taxpayers over $7 billion in the next 30 years, with a short term “savings” of $145 million;
  • Continuing to transfer KDOT funds to the State General Fund, causing further delay of maintenance and improvement projects;
  • Sales tax rate on food remains at 6.5%, one of the highest in the nation;
  • Failure to return the federal tax windfall dollars to citizens, raising taxes on all Kansans who itemizes on April 15th; and
  • Requires the economy to remain healthy, despite the possibility of a coming recession.

It remains to be seen if any of these requirements are adjusted or changed as we go through the budget process.
At Home

Our kids enjoyed the Blue Valley School District snow day Wednesday, and we were glad that the high school was still able to have its scheduled Activities and Registration Night for the incoming freshmen. Thank you to all the staff, students, and parents who put on the informative event where our 8 th grader and I learned more about activities and classes that might be different than what our senior has done in high school.

That same snow day unfortunately meant that our 4 th grader’s choir concert was canceled. I guess we’ll have to wait to hear the full choir perform all the new songs he’s been singing around the house.

And the snow prevented me from getting home from the Capitol that evening, but I was able to make arrangements to stay so that I could be on the House floor on time the next day.

Our 7 th grader is working in her Math and English Language Arts classes on planning a trip for two “clients” on a budget. A good exercise in requiring fiscal restraint.

We joined our senior to watch her friends and others on the Blue Valley HS Winter Guard put on an exhibition, demonstrating how they learn the skills for their shows. Great information and performance. Our senior continues to work hard playing the percussion part in the pit orchestra for the up-coming Blue Valley HS performances of “The Music Man”. Performances are Jan. 31-Feb. 2. Can’t wait!

Finally, I was honored to be the invited guest speaker at the Worthington HOA Annual Meeting Saturday. The neighborhood is in District 28 and was a great opportunity for me to listen to and learn from constituents about pending legislation and issues, and answer questions about the nuts and bolts of being our legislator. Let me know if you’d like me to speak with your HOA. I think we all found the meeting to be an informal and helpful opportunity to speak directly with those who live right here in our District. Thank you so much, Worthington HOA and neighbors, for inviting me, and for your questions.
Coming Next

In my Judiciary Committee, on Monday, Jan. 28 th , we are hearing testimony on HB 2020 , changing the supreme court clerk’s information requirements for licensed attorneys and changing procedures related to the supreme court nominating commission and the judicial district nominating commissions We are also hearing continued testimony on HB 2039 extending recognition of tribal court judgments pursuant to supreme court rules. 

On Tuesday, Jan. 29 th , Judiciary Committee is hearing testimony on HB 2064 , clarifying that a law enforcement officer taking a person before a judge for violating the uniform act regulating traffic does not make charging decisions. 

Judiciary Committee on Tuesday and Wednesday, Jan. 29 th and 30 th , is hearing testimony on HB 2065 , removing the duty of the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle to drive with due regard for the safety of all others.

In my Energy, Utilities and Telecommunication Committee, on Tuesday, Jan. 29 th , we will be briefed on the Westar/KCP&L Rate Study.

The Kansas Department of Education Teacher of the Year will be recognized on Jan. 29 th , at 1:30 p.m. in the Joint Education Committee. Congratulations to Wyandotte High School Teacher Whitney Morgan. Ms. Morgan is an English language arts and English for Speakers of Other Languages teacher. You can read more at www.ksde.org .

Kansas Day is January 29 th . Happy 158th Birthday, Kansas!


I will be a panelist at the Legislative Coffee hosted by the League of Women Voters on February 9 th , 10:00 – 11:30 a.m. , at the Blue Valley Neighborhood Library, 9000 w. 151 st Street, Overland Park, KS, and then at the Sunflower Club Meeting at Bass Pro Shops, 12051 W Bass Pro Drive, Olathe, KS, 12:00 – 1:30 p.m ., also on February 9 th

On February 16 th , I will be a panelist at the Johnson County Public Policy Council Legislative Breakfast, 7:30-9:00 a.m. , at the Doubletree Hotel (Highway 69/College Blvd), which requires registration with the OP Chamber of Commerce at emurray@opchamber.org or 913-491-3600.

I’m also looking into a location(s) to host opportunities to meet with constituents in District 28, to listen and learn what’s on your mind, and to share what’s happening in the Capitol. Suggestions are welcome, and I will share with you further information about this in my next legislative newsletter.

Until then, stay warm, and please, keep in touch!

In service,