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2014 session off to a quick start

The Kansas Legislature began the 2014 session Jan. 13 with the House of Representatives and the Senate gaveling in at 2 p.m. Many important issues will be addressed during this legislative session, namely budgeting. So far, there have been more than 40 bills introduced as possible legislation, and we will be conducting bill hearings shortly in our respective committees.

On Jan. 15, Gov. Sam Brownback presented his State of the State address to House and Senate members in the House of Representatives Chamber. The following day, his budget was introduced in the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee. Brownback submitted to the Legislature his revised budget for fiscal years 2014 and 2015. Last session, the Legislature passed a two-year budget rather than passing a one-year budget, which customarily was done in the past. The adjustments made by the governor to the budgets that were passed during the last session equates to $30.7 million more than the approved appropriations for FY 2014 and $331.5 million in FY 2015.

The request by the governor for these adjustments focuses on appropriating funds for the Department of Corrections. The amount the governor is requesting for the Department of Corrections is $362.9 million. Last year, the governor vetoed the Department of Corrections budget in its entirety due to the fact it was to appropriate $8 million less than his initial request at the beginning of the 2013 session. Since the Department of Corrections budget was completely vetoed, there are no appropriated dollars in the FY 2015 budget for the Department of Corrections.

The other notable proposal by the governor to FY 2015 is $16.3 million in additional funding to provide for the implementation of all-day kindergarten throughout the entire state of Kansas. Many of the school districts throughout the state already provide all-day kindergarten, using either local funds or by making additional costs to households in order to provide this education. The governor's proposal would allow all school districts in Kansas to provide all-day kindergarten for our youngest of Kansans. House leadership has formed a special committee to examine both the budgetary and policy aspects of the governor's proposal.

During the 2013 legislative session, many legislators, including myself, and the administration began to discuss a compromise to ensure the sustainability of the Oil and Gas Depletion Trust Fund. Due to some confusing language in the final budget, counties did not receive the total amount of payments they were supposed to receive. The governor has been working with counties and legislators to increase the payments this year by $7.5 million, which would make the payments to counties whole.

With the beginning of the 2014 session, we also began committee work. I am a member of the Federal and State Affairs, Agriculture and Natural Resources and Agriculture and Natural Resources Budget committees. This past week in the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee, we had informational hearings on Kansas State University Extension and Research and the value it provides to the state of Kansas, and also on unmanned aircraft systems and how they can be used for agricultural purposes. On Friday, the Senate Natural Resources committee invited the Senate Agriculture and House Agriculture and Natural Resources committee to attend an informational hearing on the lesser prairie chicken. I also serve as the vice chairman for the House Rural Caucus, where we have informational hearings on issues that greatly affect our rural areas.

I am proud to note the Kansas Capitol is complete after almost 13 years of renovation. The capitol looks remarkable, and I encourage all Kansans to come and visit it to see the historic building. The most notable changes to the capitol are the new north steps and the new visitor's center and museum visitors pass through when entering from the public entrance on the north side. The dedication will take place on Kansas Day, Jan. 29, with Brownback conducting the dedication at noon.

With the beginning of the 2014 session, I will be in Topeka through the week and then home in the district most weekends. If you have any questions or concerns, contact my office at (785) 296-7672 or email me at troy.waymaster@house.ks.gov. It is an honor to serve the 109th Kansas House District and the state of Kansas. I appreciate the perspectives from the residents of the 109th House District and the state of Kansas, as well.

Rep. Troy L. Waymaster, R-Luray, represents the 109th House District, which includes portions of Smith, Osborne, Russell and Rush counties.

troy.waymaster@house.ks.gov