Week two in the state house was largely uneventful on the House side. The committees on which I serve (Utilities and Telecommunications, Local Government, and Transportation/Public Safety Budget) heard presentations from several different entities, and Local Government had hearings on two bills.
The House voted on one Conference Committee Report, CCR on HB 2303, which, among several things, would increase fees for breathalyzer test failures, and provide an increase in funding for the Judicial Branc’s Nonjudicial Salary Adjustment Fund. The bill passed the House on Wednesday with a vote of 109-11, and is now headed to the Governor’s desk to be signed into law. I voted yes.
With many other legislators, I heard the State of the Judiciary address, given by Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss. The overall takeaway from the address was that our courts are in great need of funding. Chief Justice Nuss also touted the Supreme Court’s new transparency policies: All court proceedings are now live-streamed on the Internet (both video and audio), and the proceedings are archived, so anyone who wishes to view court proceedings can easily do so.
The transparency practiced in the Supreme Court Chambers is of great interest to me, as last week, I introduced the Transparency and Accountability Act, HB 2438. This bill would require the Kansas Legislature to provide live-streaming audio and video of all committee proceedings in all committees, and in both the House and Senate chambers. Currently, only the House and Senate chambers have live-streaming audio of our proceedings. This bill has been referred to House appropriations, and Sen. Kay Wolf is anticipated to introduce a similar piece of legislation in the Senate. The House bill has bi-partisan and cross-factional support; regardless of ideology, many state legislators, including local co-sponsors Reps. Perry and Rooker, believe in a more open government.
Thursday, I attended an event at Roesland elementary school with Gov. Brownback, Sen. Wolf, and Rep. Rooker. We visited two kindergarten classes, and the Governor spoke in support of all-day kindergarten. Many of my fellow Shawnee Mission parents know that paying for this out-of-pocket can be quite difficult — and I am an ardent supporter of this policy change, as I believe all-day kindergarten to be helpful to our youngest students, and want it to be available to all. The Speaker of the House, who has less enthusiasm, has appointed a study committee for all-day kindergarten. There are no members of the Shawnee Mission delegation on the committee, but I would strongly urge those in favor of all-day kindergarten to contact the two Johnson County legislators who serve on this committee, Reps. Jerry Lunn and Charles Macheers.
Next week, the budget committee that I sit on is expected to work the Corrections budget and have our proposal ready for the appropriations committee by Jan. 30. Some of you may remember that Gov. Brownback did not support the Corrections budget, as he considered it underfunded, so this is one of the few budget committees that will have work this legislative session.
I strive to be accessible to my constituents. Please e-mail me at [email protected], call me at 913-205-4970, and for live updates from Topeka, follow me on twitter @sscjocoks. If you would like to receive my bi-weekly newsletter, please indicate that in your e-mail. I enjoy working for you!