On Jan. 11, the 86th legislative session kicked off the 2016 session. The week was busy from the start with a determination to finish within the 90 days allotted for a normal session — after last year’s record session.

Gov. Sam Brownback gave his fifth State of the State address Jan. 12, which was the 134th for the state. The governor’s address touched on some successes.

Kansas has set in motion an innovative process for welfare reform in an effort to help those on government assistance get back into the economy, taking care of their families without dependency on government. Part of the HOPE Act passed last year by the Legislature restored work requirements statewide for able-bodied adults on food stamps. Since the change, roughly half of the able-bodied adults subject to Kansas’ work requirements have found employment and have cycled off food stamps. The work participation rate among those who remained on food stamps has nearly tripled, and the average income has risen significantly. More than one-half of the people who were on welfare are now off welfare.

Last session, the Legislature authorized an efficiency study of state government to find savings and better practices. Since being retained by the state in early October, A & M has been reviewing the state’s spending and operations. During the past three months, they have been collaborating with state agencies to understand current operations and procedures to identify opportunities for cost savings in the next budget cycle. A & M presented their findings in a preliminary report to the Kansas Legislature this week, which included recommendations for the short and long term. The report included 105 recommendations totaling $2.04 billion in potential benefits to the state during the next five years.

KPERS is now out of the bankruptcy zone, with the changes and focus on funding KPERS since the 2011 elections. KPERS have moved from the second worst pension fund in the country to being funded in the mid-60-percent range.

?Technical education has continued to grow, and more than 3,000 high school students have participated in the Jobs for America’s Graduate Program and graduated at a rate of 93 percent. Participation in technical education has tripled since we began the program.

This year, my office has moved to 352-S on the third floor. My committees are the same as last session — Pensions and Benefits, Commerce and Economic Development and Financial Institutions and Insurance.

rick.billinger@house.ks.gov

?Rep. Rick Billinger, R-Goodland, represents the 120th District in the Kansas House.