November 26, 2014

Legislators in final push before bills sent to sister legislative houses

Kevin Jones
Guest Columnist
Your legislators have been working hard and fast over the last couple of weeks to get as many needed bills passed before turn-around.  Turn-around is when all of the bills passed by the House go to the Senate and all of the bills from the Senate come to be worked by the House.  I am writing this update during our “turn-around recess” which is a break to allow support staff to work through and process the bills passed this past week.  It has afforded a good “breather” before I go back to Topeka and begin work on the bills passed out by the Senate.
Here are a couple of bills that the house passed out last week:
One is HB 2221, referred to as the Equal Access Act, passed the House by a vote of 71 to 53 and modifies the Professional Negotiations Act. The bill requires all local school boards of education to give equal access for all professional employees’ physical or electronic mailboxes, and allows equal access for all professional employees’ associations to attend new teacher or employee school orientations and other meetings. Local school boards would also not be allowed to designate any day or breaks in a school year by naming or referring to the name of any professional employees’ association.  Additionally, current law would be amended by the bill to expand the definition of “professional employees’ organizations” to include those existing for the purpose of professional development or liability protection.
Essentially, this bill serves to ensure that all organizations that offer services for teachers are afforded equal access to the teachers in Kansas. A school board would not be able to give exclusive access to its teachers to one organization or another. This will better provide that teachers are aware of all the resources available to them, particularly with regards to professional development and liability protection. This bill is now headed to the Senate for further consideration and action.
The second is HB 2025 which passed the House by a vote of 123 to 0 establishing the Robert G. (Bob) Bethell Joint Committee on Home and Community Based Services and KanCare Oversight.  The committee would be made up of eleven members of the legislature and would be required to meet at least three times when the legislature is in session and at least once during each of the second, third, and fourth calendar quarters. This committee would provide oversight of the administration of KanCare by those accountable to the people, elected members of the legislature.
According to this bill, state agencies would be required to provide to the committee data and information on KanCare programs, including pay for performance measures, quality measures and enrollment and disenrollment in specific plans, KanCare provider network date, and appeals and grievances made to the KanCare ombudsman. The committee would then be required to submit its own report to President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House, the House Committee on Health and Human Services, and the Senate Committee on Public Health and Welfare. It would also be able to introduce legislation as deemed necessary in performing its function.  The bill is now headed to the Senate for further consideration and action
A bill to be watching for is HB 2271.  Itwould move all city and school board elections from the spring of odd-numbered years to the fall of even-numbered years to coincide with national, state, and county elections and it would make school board elections all “at-large” rather than by member districts.  The intention of this bill is to get more voters out to the local and county elections.  The trouble is that it could be confusing, make all races partisan, and could actually cost more money rather than save.
I have to admit the last couple of weeks have been an “eye-opener.”  The House is working hard to keep this session within the allotted 90 days (80 if possible) by quickly putting out as much good work as possible, but we were not counting on snow days.  Things should slow down a little as the House begins working the bills that the Senate is sending over, but I would suspect it will not slow down much.
I will be available for “Listening Sessions” to visit with constituents on these dates at these locations:
23 March 13, Garnett, KS at the Coffee Loft from 730-830am. (Tentatively)
30 March 13, Ottawa, KS at City Hall from 1000-1100am.
6 April 13, Colony, KS at the Country Diner from 800-900am.
13 April 13, Parker, KS at the One Stop from 730-830am.
Please come and join me, and have a conversation on the issues!  If you have a concern, question, or just want to know your Kansas Legislature Representative better, my intention is to be available to you.
Jones represents Wellsville in the Kansas House.

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