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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.
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:
- 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;
- 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;
- 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.
Bill would affect party switches
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.
After the House passed the measure, HB 2210, it went to the Senate Committee on Ethics and Election, which took no action last year. However, the measure is still alive and a hearing on the bill is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 13, in room 159s in the Capitol.
Current law allows voters to change parties up to 14 days prior to the August primary.
Rep. Keith Esau, an Olathe Republican, said he has three basic reasons for authoring the bill.
Tax receipts reveal an improving Kansas economy
TOPEKA | The Kansas treasury registered positive revenue growth through the final six months of last year, showing continued growth in the Kansas economy.
The six month period YTD tax receipts were $7 million or .2% above budget estimates. The Kansas fiscal year runs from July 1, through June 30.
The large Kansas personal income tax cuts effective January 1, 2013, are working to help grow the economy and jobs. Unemployment is down and job creation is up. With the headwinds coming out of Washington finally subsiding we have Kansas in a good spot to grow jobs and reinvest in business for growth.
Here are some indicators of a stronger Kansas economy. This is all a part of the Kansas turnaround and excellent indicators of economic progress for our state.
- Kansas tax revenues for 2014 were very strong in the first two months of the year.
- January beat estimates by $16.8 million, while February was $100.7 million above expectations.
- Most importantly, February withholding taxes were higher than collected during the same time last year. That is a large indicator that more people are working or have received raises since this time last year.
- The Kansas Department of Commerce reports companies grew by 6.46 percent in 2013.
- The state’s exports have rebounded in the past three years, nearing 2008 levels and recorded $12.45 billion in exports for 2013.
- Kansas is in the national spotlight as a leader in tax reform, as highlighted in this Daily Caller article.
- Our state was also named by Site Selection Magazine as one of the top five in the nation for economic development projects.
This is a strong positive direction for our state, and one that we expect to continue because of tax cuts and responsible fiscal spending.
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.
The 2-year state budget
During the 2013 session, the legislature passed a two year budget that makes appropriations for FY 2014 and FY 2015.
Rather than passing a one year budget as had been normally done, the legislature passed a two year budget in an effort to better address budget challenges up front. The budget passed last session makes state government more efficient and leaves the state fiscally sound by holding an ending balance of $515.6 million in FY 2014 and $331.5 million in FY 2015.
Last month, Governor Brownback submitted to the legislature his revised budget proposal for FY 2014 and FY 2015. The adjustments the governor has requested amount to $30.7 million over the approved appropriations for FY 2014 and $429.8 million over the approved appropriations in FY 2015.
The most notable of the governor’s budget adjustments is $362.9 million for the Department of Corrections for FY 2015. Last year, the governor vetoed, in its entirety, the corrections budget for FY 2015 because it contained $8 million less than his initial request. It is important to note that because the corrections budget was vetoed, there are currently no appropriations for corrections in FY 2015. Thus, the governor’s FY 2015 requested adjustment only equates to a 1.1 percent increase over FY 2014.
The other significant proposed adjustment to the FY 2015 budget was the additional $16.3 million to provide for the implementation of all-day Kindergarten statewide. The vast majority of Kansas school districts already offer all-day Kindergarten using local funding or at cost to the household. House leadership announced this week the formation of a special committee to examine both the budgetary and policy aspects of this proposal.
The governor’s proposed revised budget would leave the state with an ending balance of $530.5 million in FY 2014 and $247.6 million in FY 2015.
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