Capitol Update: Transportation reorg becomes law, but source of ‘efficiencies’ unclear

In an effort to keep our readers better informed about the state government actions that impact our communities, we are featuring regular update columns from northeast Johnson County’s elected officials in the legislature: Rep. Barbara Bollier, Rep. Stephanie Clayton, Rep. Emily Perry, Rep. Melissa Rooker and Sen. Kay Wolf. Check back on Mondays to find out what’s been happening the past week in Topeka. Rep. Perry submits this week’s update:

Greetings! I am honored to join my fellow northeast Johnson County elected officials in providing weekly legislative updates. I am a first term Democrat representing the 24th District, which consists of parts of Overland Park, parts of Mission, and Merriam. I graduated from the University of Kansas School of Law last May, and have thoroughly enjoyed the legislative process thus far.  I serve on three committees: Federal and State Affairs, Judiciary, and I am the Ranking Minority on Transportation.  

HB 2234, which was signed into law by the Governor this past week, names the Secretary of Transportation as the Director of Operations of the Kansas Turnpike Authority (KTA). The director of operations will be responsible for the daily administration of the toll roads, bridges, structures and facilities constructed, maintained, or operated by the Authority. The Governor proposed this merger during his State of the Sate Address, suggesting that the merger would produce efficiencies resulting in $15 million savings for FY 2014 and FY 2015. However, when pressed on where the savings would be coming from, neither the Secretary of Transportation nor the Governor could give specifics.

I have heard from many Kansans regarding HB 2234, and each of them was adamantly opposed to the bill. The Kansas Turnpike Authority has been a well-run, efficient business model for a number of years, and it is entirely self-supporting from toll revenues paid by those who choose to travel on the Turnpike. Many Kansans expressed concern that toll revenues would be pulled away from KTA and used for other purposes. Additionally, whatever efficiencies are to be had in Kansas, there is nothing to prevent KTA from offerings such services to the Secretary of Transportation and vice-versa now. This bill is not needed to achieve these kinds of cost savings.  

During conference committee, the bill was amended to ease some of these concerns. The bill now includes language that KTA toll or other revenue cannot be used in ways other than those established in current law. Additionally, a sunset provision was added, so unless the Legislature takes action, the provision naming the Secretary of Transportation as Director of Operations will expire on July 1, 2016.
   
It is a special honor to serve as your state representative. I value and need your input on the various issues facing state government. Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions. My office address is Room 43-S, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612. You can reach me at (785) 296-7669 or call the legislative hotline at 1-800-432-3924 to leave a message for me. Additionally, you can e-mail me at Emily.perry@house.ks.gov. You can also follow the legislative session online at kslegislature.org, or follow me at Facebook and Twitter.   

Also, Representative Nancy Lusk, District 22, and I will be hosting a public forum to review the actions of the 2013 legislative session on April 27th at 10 a.m. at the Matt Ross Community Center in Overland Park. All are welcome to attend! I enjoy hearing from constituents and non-constituents alike.