Dear , 

The Legislature just convened a few short weeks ago, but everything is already full steam ahead.  There is an intense desire to keep the session short to make up for last session being so long.  I have learned not to predict the number of days in a session or the length of time it takes to get something passed.  It is whenever the majority of 40 Senate members and the majority of 125 House members agree it is.
 
During this period, many bills are being drafted and getting introduced.  It is not uncommon to have ten or more bills introduced in one day.  To look at a calendar so you can see what is happening each day, this is the place to go.
 
The Kansas Legislative Research Department announced the publication of the 2016 Legislator Briefing Book. The Briefing Book is the Department's third publication to feature an EPUB edition. The articles have information about issues before the Legislature, recent laws and legislation, and other topics of interest. It can be accessed on the KLRD website under the Publications tab as either an EPUB edition or as a PDF.


Committee Work
 
I serve on Commerce, Tax and Judiciary committees and I am the chairman of the Senate Public Health and Welfare committee.  Oftentimes, if we don't serve on a committee, we may not find out what is happening with particular legislation until it is passed out for action on the Senate floor.
 
In the Commerce committee, we received an update from Kansas Department of Labor Secretary Lana Gordon and Justin McFarland.  There was continued improvement in 2015.  From December 2014 to December 2015, 6,928 individuals were added to the labor force. There were 1,451,271 people employed in December 2015.  This is the highest employment Kansas has ever had. The unemployment rate fell to the lowest level in more than 14 years.
 
Kansas gained 2,000 total nonfarm jobs in December of 2015.  While private sector hours have decreased, earnings have increased.
 
The Labor Department provided a breakdown of the industries in Kansas over the past 20 years.  It shows a decline in manufacturing and trade, transportation and utilities.  It shows an increase in education, health, professional and business services. 
 
The Kansas labor participation rate is 68.2 percent compared to the national rate of 62.4 percent, and it is the highest rate in the Midwest.


KDOL was one of the state agencies that joined with the Attorney General's office in drawing attention to the disturbing problem of human trafficking, the criminal activity of holding another person for the purpose of exploitation. It is hard to believe that even in Kansas, men, women and children are forced to work for long hours under abysmal conditions for little or no pay and without the freedom to leave. KDOL developed a website dedicated to explaining and assisting with the reporting of exploitation (http://www.dol.ks.gov/HumanTrafficking.aspx) and joined the governor in proclaiming January 2015 and January 2016, as Human Trafficking Awareness Month in Kansas.
 
 
In the Judiciary Committee this week, members received information on the separation of powers. One conferee was University of Kansas Law Professor Lumen Mulligan.  He stated, "Ours is a system of checks and balances. While our Kansas courts have always insisted that core judicial power be preserved to the judiciary, even our Kansas supreme court cases that most strongly support this high-wall view recognize that 'The line of division between the three powers is not marked distinctly, and it is not always easy to lay down an abstract rule defining each of the separate powers of sovereignty. Because we have a system of checks and balances our courts have always noted, often in the same breath as they espouse a strict separation of powers, that they are subject to legislative checks."

Mulligan also stated, "The independence of the judiciary is not maintained for the benefit of the judges.  It is for us - free citizens of a democratic republic governed under the rule of law - for whom the courts stand open as fair and impartial tribunals."
 
The committee requested this hearing for clarification on the separation of powers after the Solomon v. State decision. This information is a helpful reminder on what each branch is allowed and not allowed to do. It is very possible that the Solomon decision will have a major impact on pending school finance litigation.
 

HB 2449 - Non-Severability Provision
 
In 2014, the Legislature passed HB 2338 which gave more local control, allowing chief judges to be picked by local judges instead of the Supreme Court.  However, in Solomon v. State a district judge sued the state saying the bill violated the Kansas Constitution.  The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in the judge's favor under the separation of powers doctrine.  The Legislature had included a non-severability clause in the bill that would remove funding from the judiciary system if the selection reforms were struck down by the courts. To clean it up, the Senate voted on HB 2449 this week to remove the non-severability clause, which will allow the judiciary budget to go through the regular budget process.
 
The bill passed with a vote of 39-1. I voted in favor.

The Senate health committee was very busy this week.  Members received an update on KanCare and the proposed integration system which will allow many Medicaid patients to receive services quicker and without the significant hurdles and bureaucracy they must struggle through today. 
 
Last week there was a hearing about Osawatomie hospital and this week there was a hearing about Larned hospital, where there is serious concern about the growing sexual offender population.  These offenders have served their sentences, but are still deemed dangerous to society and now serve civil commitments.  Since we passed Jessica's Law, the population is not growing as rapidly.  However, there is still a concern the admission rate could exceed the release rate.  Several options are being considered.


KansasMoney.gov

The Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee had an informational hearing from Security Commissioner Josh Ney this week. He introduced a new state website for Kansans who would like to receive a financial education. Seven state agencies worked together to create the website - the Attorney General' office, the Securities Commission, the State Bank Commissioner, the Department of Credit Unions, the Department of Revenue, and the Insurance Department. The site is interactive and has investor education seminars, scholarship contests for high school students, and miscellaneous tools, such as a mortgage calculator. The goal of the website is to help Kansas citizens manage and protect their money.
 
The website launched in early January, for more information visit: https://kansasmoney.gov/

Republican Events

There two major upcoming Republican Events:
 
1.  KS Republican Party Convention:  Friday-Saturday, February 19-20
  • Marriott Hotel, Overland Park (Johnson County) - location rotates each year and this year is the 3rd District's turn
  • Basic schedule:  Full schedule available on Convention Site.
    • Friday: 4:30-6:30:  multiple receptions
    • Friday: 7:00:  Ticketed banquet- 10th Anniversary of the Eisenhower Series
    • Saturday: 7:00-noon:  KFL breakfast, multiple receptions, district party committee meetings
    • Saturday:  Noon: Ticketed Lunch
    • Saturday:  2:00 State Party Committee Meeting
    • Saturday: 5:00-7:00:  Sen Moran Sunflower Showdown reception (KU v KSU B-ball)
    • Saturday: 7:30:  Ticketed dinner
  • early bird special on tickets for Friday Dinner, Saturday Lunch & Dinner.  Click here  to purchase your tickets!  Discounted pricing is available for a limited time only! 
  • Speakers to be announced soon.  
 
2.  Kansas Republican Presidential Caucus:  Saturday, March 5
  • every county will have at least one caucus location or will team up with a neighboring county  (cite list is being finalized)
  • all registered republicans can vote, there is no fee
  • voting is by secret ballot
  • Caucus runs from 10am to 2pm
  • good chance to meet active Republicans 
  • Caucus results determine the number of our 40 national convention delegates allocated to each presidential candidate 



In Conclusion

Thank you for reading this week's newsletter.  I appreciate all who have written so far with your opinions on legislation before us.

In honor of your liberty,

 
Mary Pilcher-Cook



Mary Pilcher Cook
913-396-9306
mary@pilchercook.com

Facebook:
http://www.facebook.com/imwithmary

Working in honor of your liberty.
Contact me today!

State Senator Mary Pilcher Cook | Sheila Wodtke, Treasurer | Shawnee | KS | 66216