Snow slows legislative work in Topeka
Last week, the Legislature -- along with state departments -- was postponed due to substantial snowfall and frigid temperatures. The Legislature canceled all orders of business to ensure the safety of legislators on two days. However, the day before the snowstorm, the Senate had the official swearing-in ceremony for Sen. Clark Shultz.
The Senate and guests watched as Kansas Supreme Court Justice Lawton Nuss conducted his official oath of office. Shultz replaced former Sen. Jay Emler, who was appointed to the Kansas Corporation Commission the first week of session.
In his remarks, Shultz expressed his gratitude to colleagues for their support and the honor of serving his district in the state Senate. With the addition of the new senator, we now will spend time on the floor debating bills. We also will consider the nine gubernatorial appointments passed during the week, including two Cabinet nominees -- Ag Secretary Jackie McClaskey and Terry Presta, Kansas Lottery.
There are approximately two dozen bills sitting "below the line" on General Orders which are waiting to move up to be discussed on the Senate floor and voted on in the chamber. As the first big deadline of the session quickly is approaching, or what we refer to under the dome as turnaround, the Senate will shift its focus from committee work to discussing bills passed by standing committees. Once we meet the turnaround deadline, each chamber will consider only the opposite chamber's proposals with a few exceptions.
I think it is important to mention as we churn through the bills we discuss here in the Capitol that legislative bills are simply someone's idea. It could be a legislator, a state agency, Kansas citizen or even a constituent from home. This idea (written in bill form) might receive a hearing in a committee or a vote on the House or the Senate floor. If it does receive a hearing, both sides are debated, which will bring out more facts and discussion. I have learned in my eight years here, a bill almost never comes out of committee or one of the chambers in its original form -- and many times does not become law. I must add oftentimes a bill will fail to even receive enough votes to make it out of committee. It simply dies due to lack of support. And as you read and hear about bills during session, just remember everyone has the opportunity to weigh-in. I encourage you to testify on any bill that intrigues or even offends you. This is your right, and I am able and happy to assist you getting on the hearing schedule in the committee.
Rural Opportunity Zones
We know there's something special about life in rural Kansas. We like to call it quality of life, and more people are becoming aware of this through our unique ROZ program in Kansas. Seventy-three counties have been authorized to offer new residents an income tax waiver for up to five years and student loan repayments up to $15,000 with a match by participating counties.
To date, there have been 1,342 applications, with 372 from out of state. The number of applicants has doubled from last year at the same time, according to the program manager. Fifty percent of the approved applicants are in accounting and finance, manufacturing, engineering and agriculture. Twenty-five percent new residents are in health care, with the remaining 25 percent in education. If you would like to share this program with someone who might have an interest in making Kansas their home and need more detailed facts, call Chris Harris at the Kansas Department of Commerce (785) 296-6815.
With the brutal cold and continued forecast of snow, Gov. Sam Brownback issued a host of temporary measures, such as increasing hours of service for propane delivery drivers, to help combat the propane shortage. In addition to this, last week the Kansas Department for Children and Families opened a program that provides up to $511 for propane purchases for families who rely on it as a primary source of heat. The one-time benefit will run through March 4.
If you or someone you know is in danger as a result of this crisis, make me aware and I will be happy to assist in seeking relief. Call my office at (785) 296-7339 or the governor's hotline at (785) 368-8500.
Sen. Elaine Bowers,
R-Concordia, represents the 36th District.