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Rep. Keith Esau was one of several state representatives and senators who participated on a Town Hall Forum Saturday March 1 in the council chamber of the Olathe City Hall.

Governor signs bill on changing parties into law

TOPEKA | Political parties in Kansas worried for many years that a lot of voters of an opposite party have switched their registration prior to an August primary election in an effort to influence the outcome.

To counter the tactic, the Kansas House approved a bill last year prohibiting voters from changing parties on or after the candidate filing deadline, which is June 1 this year. That prohibition would be in effect until the results of a primary election are certified. The House vote was 72-49.

The bill's author was Rep. Keith Esau of Olathe.

After the House passed the measure, HB 2210, was considered by the Senate and passed this year. Gov. Brownback signed the bill into law Tuesday March 25.

The previous law allowed voters to change parties up to 20 days prior to the August primary.

Esau said he has three basic reasons for authoring the bill.
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A Press-a-palozza

Guest Commentary by
Rep. Marc Rhoades

I need to speak to a topic media and others have found more interesting -- a proposal from a Democrat legislator that never made it out of committee, one which few had heard of until the press decided it was newsworthy, a bill with zero chance of going anywhere, but so rife with rumor it needs to be addressed.

Here's the low-down: Rep. Finney (D-Wichita) was asked by a Deputy County Attorney to propose a bill regarding corporal punishment. Why she did, I can't speculate, but she submitted it in the Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee where it wasn't given a hearing by the committee Chair.

Let me put this in perspective for you. Hundreds of bills are submitted by 125 representatives and 40 senators in a given session, all taking place in a short amount of time. A bill begins as a proposal in one of dozens of committees on either the House or Senate side. Committee meetings go on all day, all around the Capitol, so not much is heard about most of them outside a committee unless it makes it through a very long labyrinth.

For example, committee Chairs may or may not put a proposal up for a hearing, after which it can be tabled, amended or voted on. Even then, it may or may not pass out of committee. If it does, it may or may not be taken up by leadership for a vote. This is called moving the bill "above the line." If it is moved above the line, it may or may not pass. If it does pass, it's sent to the other chamber -- House or Senate -- where the process repeats.

The religious freedom bill explained

By Rep. Keith Esau

HB 2453 creates no right for anyone to deny general services, or otherwise discriminate against, anyone based upon sexual orientation or identity.

Rather, the bill is tightly drafted to advance a simple principle that should unite all of us as Kansans, that “The state should never force anyone to perform an action he or she believes to be wrong as a matter of sincerely held religious belief, unless it has a good reason, not merely to have the action performed, but to insist that the even those who find it wrong perform it.”

The bill covers a narrow range of conduct such as:

  1. Upholding the principle that a Church that rents out its sanctuary for weddings should not be punished by the state if it declines to host weddings that violate the Church’s beliefs;
  2. Upholding the principle that a small business owner, like a wedding photographer, should not be punished by the state if she declines to attend and provide services at a wedding that is contrary to her beliefs;
  3. Upholding the principle that an entity like Catholic Charities should not be restricted by the state from helping families with adoption services simply because of the Catholic Church’s beliefs regarding marriage.

The bill ensures only those legal rights already provided in Title VII of the federal civil rights act with respect to an employer’s duty to accommodate the religious beliefs of its employees.

In fact, the section of the bill dealing with such accommodations provides, for the first time in Kansas law, a clear obligation for those employers covered by the act to ensure that the requested service is in fact provided. This is just one example of the many ways in which the bill is carefully structured to respect the rights of Kansans on both sides of the marriage debate.
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Cellphones added to No-Call list

In 2002, the Legislature enacted the Kansas No-Call Act but it only pertained to land-line phones and not cellphones.

Senate Bill 308, however, will add cellphones to the act and allow the Office of the Attorney General to enforce the Kansas law against telemarketers who call a consumer’s listed cellphone number in violation of the law.

In addition, the bill contains other provisions that would bring Kansas law into compliance with federal law and provide uniformity between the state and federal Do Not Call laws.

The Senate approved the bill on Feb. 20 on a 38-0 vote and the House adopted it last week on a 117-0 vote. The measure now goes to the governor’s desk to be signed into law.

For more information on adding your phone number to the Kansas and federal no call list please visit http://ag.ks.gov or call 785.296.2215.

Raffles will go to statewide vote

     A constitutional amendment is headed for a public vote at this year’s November election.

The Kansas Senate and House have approved a constitutional amendment allowing many churches and charities to legally hold raffles.

While these groups routinely do so under current law, the practice is actually illegal. The constitutional measure would simply install a legal process and allow the legislature to authorize licensing, conduct and regulation of any charitable raffles by a nonprofit, religious, charitable, fraternal, education and veteran’s organizations.

Rep. Esau was one of 19 House members to vote against the bill. He joined Rep. Lance Kinzer in a formal "explanation of vote" in the House Journal.

signing ceremony for autism bill

Keith attended the bill signing ceremony Wednesday for the autism insurance bill. With Keith was Gov. Sam Brownback (right), Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer (left) and Anne Hodgdon, a legislation advocate. (Photo by Jim Sullinger Strategies LLC)

Governor signs autism insurance legislation

A compromise bill to provide health insurance coverage to Kansas children with autism was signed into law Wednesday April 16 by Gov. Sam Brownback.

The signing ceremony was held at the KU Edwards Campus in Overand Park. Lawmakers who back the bill along with many parents of autistic children attended the event. Rep. Sutton was a strong supporter of the legislation.

House debate was led by Rep. John Rubin of Shawnee, who was the bill's author.

“I have championed this cause since I have been in the Legislature,” he said. “I co-sponsored and carried similar legislation in 2012, and took the lead in 2013 and this year to draft this legislation, serve as lead co-sponsor, and work with the Kansas health insurers on a compromise acceptable to all parties to get this passed this year, so that 250 additional Kansas kids with autism will be covered as of 2015, and 750 in 2016.”
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Obamacare graphic

The facts about the Kansas economy

Here are just some highlights showing growth in our economy:

For the third consecutive month, the Kansas unemployment rate was below 5 percent. This is the first time since 2008 the state has enjoyed three months in a row with an unemployment rate that low.

Building permits in Kansas have increased 22.5 percent from December 2012 to December 2013. Building equals buying.

Kansas has had back-to-back years of creating more than 10,000 jobs. This continues the job growth trend with 45,000 jobs created from January 2011 to December 2013.

Record new business formation for 2013, with 15,469 new domestic entity filings in the state.

ks revenue chart

Revenue Receipts Growing

The Kansas Department of Revenue has released its March figures:

Corporate income tax receipts were $17.8 million, or 59 percent more than expected

Sales tax receipts were $7.3 million more than estimates.

Tax revenue receipts for fiscal year to date are $130.7 million more than estimates, or 3.4 percent.

Investment in education continues, with more than 600 new teachers in Kansas classrooms since I took office.

We are building momentum in 2014 as income taxes on all working Kansas have once again decreased. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Kansas House of Representatives voted 120 to 0 to uphold the tax cuts.

State officials respond to court decision on schools

TOPEKA | Gov. Sam Brownback and legislative leaders responded Friday to the Kansas Supreme Court ruling on the Gannon vs Kansas case.

"We have an opportunity for progress," Brownback said. "My commitment is to work with legislative leadership to address the allocation issue identified by the court. We will fix this."

The court has set out steps for the legislature to end the lawsuit by July 1, 2014. It affirms the Constitutional requirement for education to be "adequate" and "equitable."

"Our task is to come to resolution on capital outlay funding and local option budgets before July 1," said Senate President Susan Wagle. "We now have some clarity as we work toward resolution of issues that began years ago under prior administrations."

To read a detailed summary by the Kansas Legislative Research Department, CLICK ON THIS LINK to a pdf file.

House Speaker Ray Merrick said, "I was pleased the court also recognized that total dollars spent is not the touchstone for adequacy in education. Our focus is on supporting teachers and improving student outcomes so that all Kansas children continue to receive a quality education."
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House backs religious liberty bill

TOPEKA | The Kansas House voted 72 to 49 Wednesday (Feb. 12) for a bill concerned with the free exercise of religious freedom under the First Amendment.

The bill, which now goes the state’s Senate, protects individuals and private business owners from being required by the government to provide services, goods, or accommodations that would conflict with their sincerely held religious beliefs.

If HB 2453 eventually becomes law, government entities and non-religious entities (big business) still must accommodate customers, regardless of their position on the marriage issue.

But privately held business owners and religious organizations cannot be punished by government or civil action if they decline to participate in a marriage ceremony that conflicts with their religious convictions.
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Senate approves health care transparency bill

TOPEKA | Undergoing a medical procedure can be tough, especially when patients receive huge bills in the mail that they have to pay but were not expecting.

Sen. Jim Denning, an Overland Park Republican, wants to help. He’s introduced a bill (HB 2668) in the Kansas Senate allowing hospitals and doctors, in non-emergency situations, to have their computers query the insurance companies’ computers to determine the patients total out of pocket expenses for a procedure before they have it done.

On April 2 the Senate approved the bill 38-2 and sent it to six-member House and Senate conference committee for consideration.

“This will stop the surprise bill arriving 30 days after the procedure was performed,” Denning said.

You can view a video of Denning’s testimony by clicking on the following link: http://youtu.be/bbBaej0WaNU

If passed by the House and signed by the governor, Denning’s bill would take effect July 1, 2017.

Here’s how patients will benefit:

1. This will facilitate informed decisions on how to spend the health care dollar and helps prevent patient “sticker shock.”

2. The patients have the right to know what kind of financial obligation they will incur as well as have time to prepare to satisfy it.

3. Knowing what out of pocket expenses will be due is important in the changing health care environment. Patients may be purchasing health care for the first time through the Exchange and will be unfamiliar with their co-payment, deductible, and co-insurance responsibilities.

4. Patients are being asked to manage a larger part of their health care expenses yet they are unable to find out the cost until after the fact. This will enable patients to have an estimate of the cost of the service they are purchasing.

5. The costs of healthcare are difficult enough for patients to understand, and patients deserve complete information as soon as possible.

6. This is a step in right direction of simplifying the complex business side of health care transactions. Many reports show is one of the leading causes of bankruptcy filings.

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