My First Two Weeks in Topeka
Dear Friends,

Welcome to the first of what I hope is many newsletters in the coming years from the State Senate! I wanted to give you an update on how things have shaped up so far, and a "forecast" of what to expect in the coming weeks. I hope this gives you a bit of insight into the daily life of a legislator in Topeka, and my impressions from the first few days of being your Senator. I hope you'll find it informative.

Mike Thompson
Week One: Listening and Learning
I arrived in Topeka on Monday, January 13th. It is important to note that though the Precinct Committeemen and Committeewomen had already elected me, it wasn't official until the governor made the appointment. She had seven days to do so from the point she received the certificate of my election from the Johnson County Republican Party.

Senator Mary Pilcher-Cook had previously announced that she would serve until 5:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 16th. Fridays are typically "pro-forma" days when the legislators are not in session. So, for that first week, Mary was still the Senator; not me.

This turned out to be a blessing, since it allowed me to take care of all the "logistics" of becoming a Senator, such as getting passes to enter the building, learning the rules of the Senate, and meeting various people around the Capitol, from my soon-to-be Senate colleagues, to the people in Legislative Research and the Revisor's office, which helps legislators draft legislation. I was also able to sit in on the Senate and the committees Mary serves on, and observe the process first. I very much valued this unique opportunity that typical incoming freshmen don't have.

At this point, I should mention that President Susan Wagle opted to appoint me to the same committees Mary served on, so it was just a clean swap with no broader re-shuffling of the committees. Those are:

  • Commerce
  • Judiciary
  • Education
  • Public Health and Welfare

It was also announced I would move into Mary's office in 234E.

As I noted before, Mary's last day as Senator was Thursday, January 16th. And it was a busy day, with four pages of appointments to confirm. After those votes were cast, Mary gave a moving farewell speech, and received a well-deserved bi-partisan standing ovation.

In closing, I want to express how grateful I am to Senator Pilcher-Cook for her 15 years of dedicated service to the people of Kansas, her devotion to conservative principles, and her willingness to stand firm on her convictions.
Week Two: Jumping Right In
After a long four-day holiday weekend, the Kansas Legislature returned on Tuesday, January 21st. It was an interesting day, as that morning (prior to being sworn-in that afternoon), I was still not the Senator, so I was unable to participate in a couple of morning committee hearings.

Judiciary Committee / Value Them Both Amendment

However, that day I still attended the Senate Judiciary Committee, as it was a joint committee with the House Federal & State Affairs Committee to receive testimony on the Value Them Both Amendment, the proposed constitutional amendment which would have the practical effect of overturning the Hodes ruling last spring by the Kansas Supreme Court. That ruling declared there is a right to abortion contained within the Kansas Constitution, written in 1859. The testimony conveyed the dire consequences of that ruling, which has placed all of the lifesaving limits the legislature has adopted under serious jeopardy. This includes protections such as parental notification and limits on late-term abortion.

For a complete list of all the common-sense pro-life protections adopted by the Kansas Legislature over the past two decades, KFL has put together a helpful timeline .

Because the Kansas Supreme Court declared an independent right to abortion in the Kansas Constitution, that means even laws which have been upheld by federal courts as constitutional under Roe vs. Wade are subject to being overturned. The reason is because the standard the Kansas Supreme Court adopted is much stricter than that of the United States Supreme Court.

Therefore, an amendment to the Kansas Constitution is necessary. A number of groups - such as Kansans for Life and the Family Policy Alliance of Kansas, have come together to support and introduce the Value Them Both Amendment, which would simply restore the power of abortion regulation back to the people of Kansas through their elected representatives.

I am pleased to report that the amendment was reported out favorably and will soon receive votes in both chambers. I look forward to casting my vote in favor of the amendment. You can learn more about the amendment by visiting or by visiting . The Kansas Truth Caucus has also set up a nice "resource center" which you can access by clicking here .

Swearing-In Ceremony

At 2:30 p.m. that afternoon, I was officially sworn-in. I was blessed to have many members of my family present, including my wife and my mother. It was a tremendous honor and a moment I will not forget. Here are a couple photographs from the swearing-in:
My First Vote

My general approach in my first session is going to be mostly listening and learning. Some statehouse veterans advise that new legislators rarely speak at all. While being wise about when to speak is important, I do believe it's important to speak up when there is an issue to which I can provide insight or feel strongly.

I did not anticipate that happening with the very first bill before me, but that is exactly what happened.

The bill was Senate Bill 45, which would raise the criminal severity level for involuntary manslaughter to a level 2 penalty when the victim is a public safety sector employee. It would also raise the criminal severity level for aggravated battery to a level 3 penalty when the victim is a public safety sector employee. The severity levels were also increased for knowingly and purposely causing great bodily harm or disfigurement via the following: by driving under the influence, by use of a deadly weapon, or by committing a DUI offense where the bodily harm can result in disfigurement or death.

The bill defines “Public Safety Sector Employee” as any individual employed by or volunteering for any law enforcement office, sheriff’s department, municipal fire department, volunteer and non-volunteer fire protection association, emergency management, EMS, or public works department while engaged in official duties.

The bill is a good bill, but the original wording had some overly broad wording that I was concerned about. I talked to the Judiciary Committee Chair about an amendment to strike the phrase which I thought went beyond what was appropriate in the bill. He agreed and offered to carry the amendment on my behalf, and then I spoke in favor of it. It passed on a voice vote and was added to the bill. The bill passed 36-1 and I believe the amendment that passed improved it significantly.

This bill is a good example of the type of legislation that gets passed everyday in Topeka. While it did not grab headlines, it was nonetheless important to be considered carefully.

Medicaid Expansion

As I noted, one of the four committees to which I have been appointed is the Public Health and Welfare Committee. This is the committee tasked with considering Medicaid Expansion, and on Thursday and Friday, we heard from proponents of SB 252, the bill crafted by Governor Kelly in conjunction with Majority Leader Jim Denning. Next week, we will hear from opponents.

This is one of those issues where it is very easy for misinformation to spread and for the topic to be misunderstood by those not paying close attention. For instance, the most important thing to remember regarding Medicaid Expansion is that it does nothing to help those currently on Medicaid, which the program was originally intended to help. Rather, the expansion of the program would only be available to able-bodied adults between 18 and 69, pushing tens of thousands of them off of private insurance, thereby creating a culture of dependency.

In my next newsletter, I will provide further details about Medicaid Expansion, as I believe this week's testimony will be quite illuminating.
Forecasting the Future
Over the next week or two, I believe the first issue to be decided will be the Value Them Both Amendment. Medicaid Expansion will be a hot topic throughout the session until it passes or the session ends. I will say one thing that I have learned in my first two weeks in Topeka; those claiming anything is inevitable are usually giving you a line in order to exert pressure on their colleagues to cave. As such, it is at those very moments we must remain strong.

Finally, I do want to mention that I expect my campaign website to be live within the next few days. It will be located at . You can also view my legislative portal by clicking here - there you can find my committee times, bills I'm sponsoring, and how to contact me at my Topeka office.

See you soon,
Mike Thompson