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First 2013 legislation passes House

POSTED: February 5, 2013 7:00 a.m.
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Rep. Steven Johnson

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Work in the third week of the 2013 legislative session continues largely in committee. After three weeks, almost two hundred bills have been introduced in the House. These are all referred to a committee where testimony for and against is heard and the bill is debated.

 

Bills that pass out of committee are received by the House in the form of a committee report. The bill can then be brought to the House for debate under the heading, “General Orders.” If a bill receives a majority approval following debate, it is moved to “Final Action”, where the bill receives a final vote of the House. Bills that pass are moved on to the Senate.

By visitingwww.kslegislature.org and clicking on the calendar tab at the top, you can view the schedule for the House each day that it is session. The votes for that day are listed under the heading: “Final Action and Concurrent Resolutions.”

 

Kansas Day

On Tuesday, we celebrated Kansas Day. Our state was founded on January 29, 1861 when President Buchannan signed the resolution establishing Kansas as the 34th state to join the Union. One House tradition is to sing “Home on the Range” in the chamber. While I wouldn’t try to sell the recording, the house members and visitors included some pretty good singers!

Paycheck Protection

On Thursday, January 31, the House passed its first piece of legislation of the 2013 legislative session, House Bill (HB) 2023, commonly referred to as the Paycheck Protection Act. This now moves on to the Senate.

HB 2023 would ban state or other units of government from making payroll deductions for employees for the purpose of contributing to a political action committee (PAC.) Currently, deductions can be made for both union dues and PAC contributions. HB2023 does not change the ability to pay union dues with a payroll deduction.

While the bill would eliminate the option for the payroll deduction for PAC contributions, members are not prohibited from contributing to their union’s PAC. The bill would make it necessary for a member to use another means of contributing, such as writing a check or establishing an electronic transfer from a bank account.

There was a perception that this would protect union members from any self-imposed or peer pressure to contribute. However, I believe these cases to be the exception rather than the rule, especially in our district. It does remove state and local governments from being involved, positively or negatively, in participating in the process of making PAC contributions.

Similar legislation to that of HB 2023 has been challenged in the Supreme Court as infringing on freedom of speech. In 2009, the Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of legislation enacted by Idaho inYsursa v. Pocatello Education Association. Like HB 2023, Idaho’s bill prohibited units of government from making payroll deductions for political activities. The unions involved in the case argued the law violated their First Amendment rights. The Supreme Court, however, disagreed stating that the state “is under no obligation to aid the unions in their political activities. And the state’s decision not to do so is not an abridgement of the unions’ speech; they are free to engage in such speech as they see fit. They simply are barred from enlisting the state in support of that endeavor.” Other states have enacted similar legislation.

These arguments contributed to my vote in favor of the bill. I appreciate the perspective shared by many who disagreed with my vote and hope you will continue to share your perspective with me.

 

KanCare Educational Meetings

The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has announced it will be hosting educational meetings for members in late February. The educational tour will take place in 16 cities across Kansas from February 18-21. Announcements about these meetings are being mailed to each KanCare household. The cities and dates are listed here. For more details, including locations and times, please visit http://www.kancare.ks.gov/events.htm.

 

Feb. 18 in Dodge City, Manhattan, Winfield and TopekaFeb. 19 in Garden City, Salina, Parsons and Kansas CityFeb. 20 in Colby, Great Bend, Fort Scott and OlatheFeb. 21 in Hays, Wichita, Emporia and Atchison

 

Visitors from Home

I enjoyed visiting with many groups in Topeka this last week. Representatives from the Public Accountants, Rural Electric Cooperatives, Community Foundations, Southwest Chamber of Commerce, Farm Bureau, Law Enforcement, and the Kansas Water Authority stopped by my office or shared lunch or dinner with me. Many of these visitors are excellent thinkers and policy makers. I greatly appreciate your thoughts, hospitality and your willingness to take time to come to Topeka to help us. The most common concern I heard was how proposed tax changes would affect the state. I will continue to watch what issues are brought forward on this topic.

 

Four 8th grade students from Christina Anderson’s class worked as pages in the Capitol on Monday, February 4th. I hope they enjoyed a good learning experience and are able to share it with their classmates and others while back at home. Student visitors are always a breath of fresh air. It should be more fun this year with the rotunda and north wing of the capitol open!

 

I appreciate your participation in the legislative process, and look forward to any chance to see you in Topeka.

steven.johnson@house.ks.gov

 

 

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