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Legislative Update from Brenda Dietrich

We are rapidly approaching "First Adjournment” and Drop Dead Day. Friday was the last day for committees to meet, so we are quickly moving to the final days of the Session. The legislature is now fully ten weeks into its session and has just two weeks remaining prior to “First Adjournment.” 

Last week, the Kansas Senate accomplished its two primary constitutional responsibilities – adopting a budget and passing a new map for the Kansas Senate to cover the next decade. This week, the legislature will meet for three days and debate several important bills that have been making their way through the committee process and now will be up for a vote.  Then, the legislature will adjourn briefly before returning to wrap up the regular part of the session.
 

In the Community

I attended the 2022 Wabaunsee County/Pottawatomie County Founders’ Day Spaghetti Lunch with several elected officials and candidates for state-wide office recently.  We met at the Wamego Senior Center and had a wonderful afternoon visiting with local residents.  Derek Schmidt (Gov. candidate), Scott Schwab (Sec. of State candidate), Kris Kobach, Tony Mattivi  (AG candidates), Caryn Tyson, Steven Johnson (State Treasurer candidates)….who are all running for state-wide office attended….and Senator Jerry Moran popped in at the end of the meeting on his way back to D.C.

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Junior Achievement had a huge turn-out for the Topeka Business Hall of Fame Tribute Dinner at Maner Conference Center on March 10th.  The new Laureates are Vince Frye, Marvin Spees, Matt Strathman, and Grant Cushinberry (posthumously). These men have added tremendous value to our community over the years and are true servant leaders.  I am proud to know them personally, and it was my honor to attend this event.
 
 

Visitors at the Capitol


On Tuesday, I had 4 Pages from 2 different schools!  It was my pleasure to host Jackson Svaty and Michael Wilson from Washburn Rural Middle School, and Taryn Clark and Grace Johnston from Mission Valley in WB County.  We had a ton of fun and did our best to not get lost among all the throngs of people who were at the Capitol for a rally!
 

On Wednesday, we were visited by Theatre in Our Schools students from all over Kansas.  I met with a group of Theatre students from Topeka West who were advocating for fine arts funding for their school and shared all of the wonderful productions they have performed in this year.  Love their passion for Theatre!
 

Wednesday was a busy day at the Capitol!  I had 3 Pages from Washburn Rural High School and Cair Paravel.  We did something I have never done before!  I took them up to the top of the Capitol Dome and we took pictures along the way.  It’s 296 steps to the top…and 296 steps down….but we did it!  Thank you to Zahra Lewis, Ariana Smith, and Addyson Kaberline for letting me host them for the day!
 
 
 
 

On the Floor

 



On Thursday, I gaveled in the Senate for the Committee of the Whole for the first time.  We debated 3 bills and my job was to manage the Chamber for the debate and to follow all protocols.  It is a very structured process, but I enjoyed it and was honored to be asked! I hope I get to do it again!   It was also St. Patrick’s Day and I wore my green suit….although the pictures make it look more blue than green….but I assure you it is bright green! 
 

Senate Passes Budget

 
The Senate adopted a budget that includes $22.8 billion in total spending for FY 2023, with a little over $9.0 billion coming from the state general fund.  This budget retires substantial amounts of debt including paying off the $253.9 million for the KPERS layering payments, provides state employees a 5% pay increase, saves $600.0 million in the rainy-day fund, and leaves the state general fund with a healthy ending balance of nearly $360.0 million at the end of FY 2023. As a reminder, the budget is a revenue document, not a tax document.  Many of you have asked about tax policy, such as reducing the sales tax on food.  Those decisions are not included in our budget document and are still being negotiated between the House and the Senate.  Even the budget will need to be negotiated.  This is not a final product.

The budget, contained within SB 444, passed by a vote of 23-14. It fully funded education and I voted YES.
 

Senate Map Approved in Bi-Partisan Vote

 
This week, the Senate approved Sub for SB 563, the bill containing the Kansas Senate map for the next decade. 

Senate Vice-President, Rick Wilborn, listed the following as the three primary considerations that were used in constructing the map, which is called “Liberty 3”:
  • Population. All 40 Senate districts fell well within 5% of the required population deviation, and only 2 of the districts went beyond 3% deviation.  There was a growth of 120,000 people within cities, requiring the collapsing of two districts.
     
  • Following the Redistricting Guidelines. This was accomplished by preserving communities of interests and using easy-to-understand boundaries, such as highways and rivers and traditional political boundaries. Of the 105 counties in Kansas, 92 counties were kept whole and almost all small cities are kept whole.  In addition, the core of districts was preserved wherever possible.
     
  • Political fairness.  Using the 2020 Kansas Senate results, the map would preserve the current partisan split within the Kansas Senate of 29 Republicans and 11 Democrats.
Sub for SB 563 passed the Senate by a bi-partisan vote of 28-8. I voted YES.  My 20th Senate District is still primarily in SW Topeka.  I lost 8 precincts to the redistricting process and those are neighborhoods that are several blocks east of Gage.  I gained all of Wabaunsee County.  The 20th had only 4 towns in WB county previously….Dover, Eskridge, Harveyville and Lake Wabaunsee.  Adding a 4th Senate District in the center of Topeka/SNCO was odd, but it was a negotiated option for the Democrats, according to leadership.
 

Other Bills of Interest

 
SB 389 would require all voting systems in Kansas to use a paper ballot with a distinctive watermark as established by the Secretary of State for elections on and after January 1, 2024. The bill would require a sample hand-counted audit of the paper ballots conducted for each precinct if the paper ballots are read by vote-tabulating equipment and would require the voting system to provide the voter an opportunity to correct any error on the paper ballot before it is secured and preserved. Finally, it would prohibit the use of poll books not requiring a hand-written signature.  SB 389 passed 27-11. I voted YES.

SB 390 would require the Secretary of State, in consultation with county election officers, to develop an affidavit system to be utilized for the handling of ballots. The bill would require each person who handles ballots to sign an affidavit listing, if applicable, the number of blank ballots, spoiled ballots, provisional ballots, counted ballots, the name of the person from whom such ballots were received, and the location of where the ballots were received. SB 390 passed 27-10. I voted YES.

HB 2540 would require the Capitol Preservation Committee to approve plans to place a permanent memorial honoring Kansas Gold Star families on the Statehouse grounds. “Gold Star families” are families who have lost a family member in the line of military duty. HB 2540 passed 38-0.

HB 2508 clarifies and codifies requirements for participation in and usage of the state and federal Rap Back programs. RAP (stands for Record of Arrest and Prosecutions) Back is an optional Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) service that will allow authorized government agencies to receive notification of subsequent activity on individuals who hold positions of trust, or who are under criminal justice supervision or investigation. HB 2508 passed 38-0.

SB 529 would require the Secretary of Revenue to permit electronic online renewal of non-driver’s identification cards under certain circumstances.  SB 529 passed 38-0.

HB 2478 would designate two portions of highway in honor of deceased military service members. The bill would designate a portion of United States highway 166 as the SGT Evan S Parker memorial highway and would designate a portion of U.S. highway 56 as the PFC Shane Austin memorial highway. HB 2478 passed 38-0.

SCR 1623 is a resolution urging the President of the United States to stop importing oil and gas from Russia and restore energy independence in the United States.  SCR 1623 passed 37-0.

SB 494 would prohibit the deployment, implementation, or use of a motor carrier safety improvement by, or as required by, a motor carrier from affecting, impacting, or changing the worker status of a driver.  SB 494 passed 39-0.

You can follow what is happening in Committee rooms and on the floor of the Senate Chamber on-line.  Here are the links:

Kansas Legislature YouTube – Here you can follow the legislature live as it happens, or access archives of past sessions and committee meetings.

Kansas Legislature Audio – Here you can listen in on session or committees when they are in session, or access prior committee meetings, as well.

Kansas Legislature website – www.kslegislature.org - has extensive information on legislators, committees, bills, and past sessions.
 

Contact Me

If you have any questions about the activities in my committees or want to share your views on any of the issues before the legislature, please feel free to email me or call my office.

          Brenda Dietrich
          Room 223-E, State Capitol Building
          300 SW 10th St.
          Topeka, KS 66612
          785-296-7648
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