View from the hill: Legislature closing in on 'turnaround'
We have almost reached the halfway point in the session known as “turnaround,” where bills must have passed at least one chamber in the 2021 session. So far COVID-19 has not shut down our work. Many committees are working diligently trying to get new bills through, as well as bills that died last year due to the pandemic.
We started the year passing Value Them Both, a constitutional amendment concerning abortion that will be voted on by you in August 2022. Since it is a constitutional amendment, everyone can vote, including unaffiliated voters. We also passed a tax transparency bill, SB13, that removes the tax lid for local units of government but puts provisions in place that local government must notify taxpayers and have hearings if they plan to use the increases in assessed valuations. There were some timeline concerns about software and notification that came up during the debate, it is my understanding that these issues will be worked out in the House and through the conference process, the bill passed 34-1 and was a bipartisan vote.
I have been spending most of my time the last few weeks on the Human Service Budgets. Many of the items we are looking at are priorities for the Legislature but were cut by the Governor early last summer due to revenue estimates. After November consensus revenue estimates were released, our budget is not in as bad of shape as first thought. The items we are looking to restore are funding for the intellectual development disability providers, safety net clinics such as Health Ministries and Grace Med, other services will be looked at this week.
I introduced a bill concerning the length of rail cars. What once was considered the max at 8,500 feet has now increased to around 18,480 feet for a 3.5-mile length train. The blockage of our intersections has interrupted our schedules, but more importantly, has cause grave safety concerns. There have been times where a train has blocked the intersections in town in extreme temperatures and children have opted to crawl under the box cars. State legislatures in Oklahoma, Illinois and Iowa have passed similar bills out of committee. The Kansas bill is SB 224 and I am hoping to have a hearing in the Transportation Committee in March.
While there are many issues being debated in Topeka, our state’s response to the pandemic remains a top priority. The Kansas economy will not recover without successful businesses, which is why I supported SB 15, a Kansas economic recovery loan deposit program to help small struggling businesses.
Like some of you, our household was one that experienced the rolling blackouts last week as energy companies worked to keep up with the unprecedent demand on the energy grid during the bitterly cold weather. Certainly, there were a number of issues that contributed to that situation, but this should serve as a reminder that we must always be planning and investing in our infrastructure to ensure it meets the demand of Kansans, regardless of the conditions. Difficult times are often are often a result of supply/demand issues. I am looking into other areas to ensure there is not any price gouging that may arise out of this situation.
Due to COVID-19, the Capitol be a little quieter this year. We certainly miss having Pages this year and hope have them back next year. It is my honor to serve as your Kansas Senator. If I can ever be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. My new office is 541-E and my phone number is the same 785-296-7377. For more information or helpful contact numbers, you may sign up for my e-newsletter at Carolyn.firstname.lastname@example.org . Stay safe, things are getting better.
— Carolyn McGinn is a Republican member of the Kansas Senate, representing the 31st district since 2005.