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Past the halfway point in Topeka

A real snowstorm and a blizzard of bills made the time the past two weeks very busy for the Senate. Approximately 32 pieces of legislation had been debated and voted on by Thursday evening, twice the usual amount. Monday and Tuesday were devoted to clerical staff shifting legislation from one chamber to the other.

Beginning Wednesday, the Senate focused primarily on legislation that has passed the House. The focus also will continue to be on no income tax and balancing the budget.

SB199 established the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center. Here are some of the highlights of the bill: research on cord blood, stem cell and non-embryonic cell research; production of clinical grade stem cells; conduct clinical trials; facilitate delivery of therapies; education training for physicians; keeping public informed of therapeutic options regarding stem cell advances; new funding for ensuring federal grants, private funding, gifts and other dollars covering the cost of the new facility.

The center would be governed by a 13-member board advised by the director of the facility who will report to the executive vice chancellor of the University of Kansas Medical Center. I supported this bill.

SB149 would require testing of welfare and unemployment recipients if there is reasonable suspicion. Individuals who fail a drug test will have to have completed treatment and job skills training before their benefits will be reinstated. There are various steps in place for success, and TANF money will be utilized.

Children will be provided for through drug-free third parties. With reasonable suspicion, through the department of administration and personnel services, members of the Kansas Senate and the House of Representatives also can be required to submit to drug testing. I supported this bill.

The major parts of Sub for SB 57 involve a new law regarding penalties and tests for chronic wasting disease; amends existing law on the National Poultry Improvement Plan; and makes it illegal for any person to "possess" domesticated deer without a permit. The official state agency for chronic wasting disease testing would be the Kansas Department of Agriculture, not the National Poultry Improvement Plan Association. I supported this bill.

SB 82 would amend the state's renewable energy portfolio standard. Designated years could be used to meet a certain percentage of renewable energy as part of the RPS requirement. Through an amendment, the Kansas Corporation Commission is instructed to initiate a study to determine the impact of projected retail rates for utility companies, and to examine electric rates of neighboring states, and the impact federal regulations and taxes have on utility rates. I voted against this bill.

Recent town hall meetings canceled due to weather will be rescheduled.

Ralph Ostmeyer represents the 40th Senate District. ralph.ostmeyer@senate.ks.gov