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The Proehl Perspective

Welcome to the 2016 legislative session! Each year at this time I spend my weeks in Topeka and return home to Parsons for the weekends. Being away from home is draining but I am grateful for the opportunity to speak on behalf of our community. Again this year, I am Chairman of the House Transportation Committee and also sit on the House Appropriations Committee and its Transportation & Public Safety Budget Committee. I am pictured below with House Speaker Ray Merrick with a decorative gavel as a gift from the Speaker. 
In The News
Legislative Pay Increase
Late last year, the legislative per diem was increased to account for cost of living increases and I heard concerns from many of you about this increase. It adds up to be about $900 per year, and I will be donating that increase to the Parsons Arboretum. I sit on the board for the Arboretum and it’s a peaceful, serene refuge when I’m not in Topeka and I would encourage you to pay a visit.

K-12 Student Success Committee
This committee was formed to determine how Kansas can best serve its students as we consider alternatives to the former funding formula and work to replace the temporary block grant formula currently in effect. The committee issued a report at the beginning of the legislative session, but House Appropriations Chairman Ron Ryckman asked for the report to be sent back for further consideration and a rewrite. 
  • The Kansas Association of School Boards, the Kansas School Superintendents Association, and the United School Administrators responded to the original report with a joint statement
  • Thanks to Rep. Ryckman’s request, the report was updated, but the gist did not change much. The education organizations issued a revised joint statement, which goes through the important points of the report. 
I do not anticipate another school finance formula to be passed this year, but I am in frequent communication with the USD 506 school board and superintendent to keep abreast of their concerns. They did add students, which is not accounted for under the block grant formula, but they are making do for now.

Contact Me:

January-May in Topeka:
State Capitol, Room 581-W
Phone: 785 296-7639

At home in Parsons:

510 Pine Ridge Road
Parsons, KS 67357
Phone: 620-421-1804
Email: rproehl@labettebank.com

Alvarez & Marsal Efficiency Study
Last year’s budget included $3 million to commission a study to find efficiencies in Kansas government. The consulting firm Alvarez & Marsal won the bid and issued their report earlier this month. The report includes 105 recommendations totaling $2 billion in potential efficiencies over five years. Key findings (it is important to remember the legislative and judicial branches were excluded from findings of efficiency):
  • Consolidate all state employees, including those currently administered under the Department of Education and the Kansas Board of Regents, into one health plan and offer only a high deductible plan (HDHP).
    • We have already heard from school districts on the deep impact this would have on their ability to recruit new teachers and be competitive against what nearby states are able to offer.
  • Spend down school district reserves to 10% - a very dangerous proposition for districts who frequently receive late payments from the state, but still have to make payroll and keep the lights and heat on.
Ultimately, the study shows we have shrunk government to the point that it cannot be efficient. Here are a few recommendations from the report:
  • Restore 68 jobs currently left unfilled at the Department of Revenue to improve collections,
  • Establish a Grants Office with five new employees to apply for federal and non-profit grants,
  • Four new positions in marketing and sales,
  • Two new positions in Audit Compliance, and
  • 20 engineers at KDOT.
I will keep you updated as the firm proposes implementation steps in the coming weeks.
 
In the House Chamber
You might remember that last year’s judicial funding bill included a non-severability clause which eliminated funding for the judicial branch if a controversial provision of the bill which changed the way chief judges were appointed at the county level was struck down. The Kansas Supreme Court did indeed deemed that provision unconstitutional, but the Attorney General was able to block the defunding of Kansas Courts until the legislature could convene and pass a remedy. HB 2449 is that remedy, and changes the law passed last year to allow for judicial funding to go through.
 
Appropriations:
Most committees begin the year with informational hearings and updates on the departments which report to the committee. Since this committee is where funding for the entire Kansas government is discussed, we have a lot of ground to cover. We started off the year very quickly with an effort to fix the judicial “non-severability” concern discussed in the bill above. The bill came through our committee first, where we quickly held a hearing, discussion, and passed the bill to the full House for consideration.
 
We also held hearings on a few Senate bills leftover from last year, most of which are bills to eliminate redundancies. These aren’t that interesting, but I thought you would get a kick out of some of the things we still have on the books:
  • If you’ve seen the movie “Office Space” then you’re likely familiar with a “TPS Report” and you probably have something similar if you work in a corporate environment. SB 241 is an effort to eliminate extra steps and paperwork that are obstacles to productivity by removing the requirement for a cover page.
  • Currently, if something happens to a state vehicle, the state must get bids for repairs exceeding $5,000, which doesn’t go very far these days if you’re fixing a car. SB 249  increases that threshold to $10,000 minimum.
  • Back when we used actual keys (instead of fobs, ID cards, etc.) to get into buildings and secure spaces, you might have to pay a key deposit, which would be returned when you returned the key. SB 248 eliminates these outdated key deposits. 
Transportation:
As you have seen in the news, the Kansas Department of Revenue’s budget has been reduced for the last six years to cover deficits in the state’s operating budget. This year’s Transportation Committee meetings began with an update from KDOT Secretary Mike King. As chair of this committee, I will continue to pursue efforts to restore transportation funding. It is true that future projects are still able to be funded but maintenance projects have dwindled from 1200 lane miles per year to just 200 miles.
 
Finally, the Department of Revenue’s Vehicle Division Director, Lisa Kaspar, shared about the KS Vehicles Connect App, which allows you to find DMV offices, check driver’s license status, practice written driving exams, renew tags online, and get in line remotely from the app. The app is available for both Apple and Android operation systems.

Transportation Budget:
This committee reviewed bills leftover from last year that could be considered over the coming weeks, but I don’t expect much activity from this committee as the bulk of the heavy lifting on budget cuts will be managed by the Appropriations Committee.
It is an honor to represent you in Topeka. Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or comments.

Sincerely,

Rep. Rich Proehl
Kansas House District 7
Serving Labette and Montgomery Counties
Copyright © 2016 Paid for by Rich Proehl for Kansas House, Sandy Manners, Treasurer, All rights reserved.


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