Legislative Update: Rep. TerriLois Gregory
FRANKLIN CO. LEGISLATIVE COFFEE
Saturday morning 1/8/2011, I attended the forum hosted by Farm Bureau, AT&T, Ottawa Chamber of Commerce, American Legion and the Franklin County Central Committee. Almeda Edwards moderated over Rep. Willie Prescott, new Sen. Jeff King, who replaced Attorney General Derek Schmidt, Sen. Pat Apple, Rep. Bill Fuerborn, Rep. Bill Otto, and myself. It was hard to say much other than we are waiting for the governor’s budget.
LET THE FESTIVITIES BEGIN
The Inaugural Ball Saturday evening was filled to capacity, with some poor souls in an overflow room who watched by relay the proceedings. I was reminded again of why I wear orthopedic shoes and shed my fancy looking sandals by the time dessert was served! It was there I learned I was front page news with the Topeka Capital Journal.
The governor-elect’s prayer service Sunday afternoon was moving and had beautiful music by the Salem Baptist Choir and Tabor College Choir. Speakers were Rabbi Daniel Rockoff, Pastor Tony Carter, Jr., Archbishop Joseph Naumann, as well as Sam Brownback, who gave a meaningful speech.
EXPECTATIONS FAR SURPASSED
A beautiful blanket of snow enveloped the grounds of our state capitol for our prayer walk on inauguration day. The snow created the necessity to move the proceedings into the House Chamber. The cozy confines provided the perfect setting for a warm transition for the new administration.
Following the inaugural ceremonies, our new governor and his team hit the ground running. By the end of the day, fresh cabinet secretaries and department heads were in place, the 2012 budget was prepared, and the principal policy decisions were well defined and ready for implementation.
This governor is a man of action who provides a bright transparency to his office. I have confidence, through his leadership, that he will make the changes needed to bring the Kansas economy back.
As I get to know Sam Brownback better, I am very optimistic that the legislature will now be much more effective working with the Governor’s office and meeting the challenges facing our state.
In his State-of-the-State Address, Gov. Brownback clearly emphasized economic issues as a first priority. He proposed reform of several economic development initiatives in order to create a level playing field for Kansas businesses. Education, both K-12 and Higher Ed. is also a priority with a call for action to the Legislature to define "suitable education" as a first step in funding reform and to stop the endless cycle of litigation. He also called for major reforms stating, "The days of expanding government is over and will not return." Finally, he addressed the need to protect the most vulnerable of Kansas citizens; the disabled, elderly, children and families in poverty, and the unborn. For a complete text of his speech go to: http://app.expressemailmarketing.com/get.link?linkid=2581591&subscriberid=90349227&campaignid=689026&linkurl=https%3a%2f%2fgovernor.ks.gov%2fmedia-room%2fmedia-releases%2f2011%2f01%2f10%2f01-10-2011-governor-brownback-delivers-2011-inaugural-speechState-of-the-State Speech.
GREAT NEW SECRETARY
It is fantastic to be working with so many of my colleagues in the Legislature and in the Governor's Cabinet and agencies! There is a clear "open door" policy on the part of the Governor and the entire Administration. This will make a profound difference in the way we work and what we produce at the end of the session. I am very impressed by our new Secretary of SRS, Rob Siedlecki and am pleased that he has already begun investigating my constituent’s complaints. I had three meetings with him in his first week, and commiserated with him about the challenges he inherited. He is the right person serving in a department that needs to consolidate positions in order to function more effectively.
Secretary Siedlicki wasted no time in making positive changes in employees, and I have confidence that he will continue to fix numerous problems that have plagued the agency for many years.
THE WIND IS BEHIND US
The recent election is historical and unprecedented. The people of Kansas elected the largest Republican freshman class in decades. New members occupy roughly 1/4 of the seats in the House and 93 of 125 are Republican. In addition, Republicans control the Senate and Governor’s office.
But this is not the time or place to gloat for Republicans. As the majority party, we must demonstrate to our citizens that we will govern wisely and fairly for all people in our state regardless of political affiliations. It is important to me that all constituents in my district have a voice in their statehouse.
THE ECONOMIC REALITY
Our state faces the most serious economic challenge since the great depression of the 1930’s. There is a $550 million shortfall in revenues, and more than 100,000 Kansans are out of work. It is therefore, imperative that our prepotent task is to strengthen the economy.
At first glance, I believe the Governor’s budget is austere, but fair. To review the Governor's budget memo go to: http://app.expressemailmarketing.com/get.link?linkid=2581592&subscriberid=90349227&campaignid=689026&linkurl=https%3a%2f%2fgovernor.ks.gov%2fdocs%2fdocuments%2f2011%2f01%2f13%2fGovernor_Budget_Summary.pdf%3fStatus%3dMasterBudget Summary. (Remember these are proposals at this stage and subject to change. All measures will have to be approved by both the House and Senate).
THE GOVERNOR’S BUDGET FOR 2012 State General Fund (SGF –roughly 1/3 of the total budget) increases $346 million or 6%; the all-funds budget declines $876 million and is the first true budget cut since 1972. This budget includes not only taxes, but fees, federal funds and money from all sources, which flow into the state. The SGF spending increases will come from Casino revenue and the DOT.
K-12 base aid for students goes up from $4,549 to $4,743 Higher education will go up $10 million No cut in prison funding No change in KDOT highway programs Medicaid cost will increase $239 million because of reduced federal funding and higher enrollment. (Should Federally mandated health care remain unaltered, future increases in cost will bankrupt us.)
CONSOLIDATION AND ELIMINATION OF STATE PROGRAMS - THE LIST - Kansas, Inc. abolished - KTECH absorbed into the Department of Commerce - Human Rights Commission and 911 program merged into Attorney General’s office - The Kansas Arts Commission becomes a 501c3 operation - KPHPA merged into Dept. of Health and Environment - Abolish the Parole Board, functions move to the Dept. of Corrections - Merge Animal Health, State Conservation Commission and Ag Marketing into the Dept. of Agriculture - Move Travel and Tourism into Wildlife and Parks. - Move the Experimental Program EPSCOR to the Board of Regents
ADDITIONAL COST CUTTING MEASURES - THE GOVERNOR WANTS: - Immediate $35 million spending freeze on his desk by January 31. - Support for public broadcasting eliminated, saving $1.6 million (At KCPT, cuts are less than 3% of the station’s budget) - Sunset 8 state agencies, saving $9.2 million - Elimination of currently open public employee jobs, more than 2,000 unfilled positions. - No raises for state employees.
I do not like the proposed cuts to mental health care and will actively look to restore money to that area. In hard economic times, the demand for mental health services has increased, stressing an already pressured area.
THE PAY AS YOU GO REQUIREMENT
The House Leadership has formulated a very good policy that requires that any bill, which increases spending, must have identified where the money is coming from and remain revenue neutral. This is an especially onerous burden for me and my committee on Children and Families, as elimination of the wait list for disabled kids is costly. I expect cooperation to shift funds for the children concerned from other budget areas. I’m pleased that the Governor allocated $11 million towards reducing the number of those on this shameful list. It is a good start, but not enough. We simply must take care of the most needy and helpless amongst us.
The Children and Family Issues Committee had its initial organizational meeting and we are working on the agenda for the session. We will start working on the DD, ED and Autism wait lists first. Then, we’ll attend to education of special needs kids including a hearing on seclusion and restraint policies and practices. In addition, we will address problems in the current foster care program. Interested parties are encouraged to contact my committee secretary should they wish to testify. Time permitting, other issues will be added to our agenda. Note: bill introductions close February 11, so if you want legislation considered, you must contact my office as soon as possible.
The Elections Committee heard from Secretary of State Kris Kobach on Voter Identification and voter fraud. Very soon the State website will have a place to report voter fraud. Secretary Kobach will present a fraud protection bill, for consideration next week. Briefly stated, this bill will reinstate and expand provisions of the voter fraud bill which was passed by the Legislature but vetoed by Governor Sebelius in 2008, to: require presentation of a photo ID (driver's license or state issued ID card) every time a person votes in Kansas (with exceptions for the disabled, the elderly, and the military, and provisions for free IDs for those who can't afford them); require proof of citizenship at the time of voter registration; and expand prosecutorial authority for criminal voter fraud.
On 01-14-11 I attended the State Sovereignty Rally at the Capitol in Topeka where Sec. Kobach spoke on Immigration/State Sovereignty. Immigration has become a 10th Amendment issue as the federal government is denying States their Sovereign right to defend their borders and is refusing to enforce immigration laws already on the books. Sec. Kobach gave an excellent talk after a little clowning by Richard Fry. You can watch it all here: http://vimeo.com/18818408http://vimeo.com/18818408
READY-SET-GO--- BILLS UNDER CONSIDERATION FOR EARLY VOTES
The Health Care Freedom Amendment, which gives Kansans the choice to opt out of federally mandated health care. This is a constitutional amendment requiring 2/3 majority (84 votes) to be put on the ballot. Seventy-Five votes were received last session.
I will vote for the Health Care Freedom Amendment, and it has a high probability of passing this year. Then, it is up to the people of Kansas to decide for themselves. In the meantime, Attorney General Schmidt has joined Kansas along with other state Attorney Generals in the Florida lawsuit against the Federal government.
HB 2006 is a bill to rescind in-state tuition for illegal aliens, which I co-sponsored. Often misunderstood, the right to go to college is not denied; this bill just requires the aliens to pay the same out-of-state tuition rate required from American citizens whose residency is in the other 49 states. I believe giving a preferential benefit to illegal aliens that isn’t available to American citizens is unjust.
HB 2007 is a bill dealing with late term abortion, which passed both chambers multiple times then were vetoed by former Governor Sebelius. I co-sponsored this bill and we’ll likely pass them, and forward them onto the Governor for his signature. Note: these bills are dealing with the late term destruction of viable babies. As long as Roe v Wade remains the law of the land, first trimester abortions will continue to be available in Kansas.
HB 2008 and 2010: two bills increasing penalties for identity theft and home improvement fraud. I’m eager to vote these bills into law.
AMERICAN ASSOC. OF UNIVERSITY WOMEN LEGISLATIVE FORUM
Thursday evening 1/13/2011, I attended a forum at the Dole Center on KU’s west campus with Ann Gardner, editorial page editor at the Journal World, as moderator over 7 legislators. During opening remarks Sen. Holland said, “It is a new dawn. There was a moderate Republican and Democrat coalition last year.” When it was my turn, I quipped, “I am one of those rays of sunshine in the new dawn!” As the only conservative on the panel, I did my best to tell, “the rest of the story.” It was very cordial and lasted about an hour and a half.
I must compliment the Douglas County legislators for their warm welcome. Although we disagree on our approach to solutions, we all care very deeply for Douglas County and the challenges we face this year. Rep. Ballard has gone out of her way to take extra time explaining the history or background on issues to me during meetings. I am thankful for their grace with a freshman.
Please remember that as of now, I am not answering Facebook messages with any frequency. I get up to 200 e-mails a day, and simply have no time to Facebook; I’ve never had, and won’t start Twitter. My policy is to acknowledge inquiries from constituents only within 48 hours. Be sure to include your full name, address, and phone number when you contact me to receive a priority response.
MY ONLINE INTERVIEW WITH LAWRENCE JOURNAL-WORLD
LOCAL BALDWIN RESIDENT WILL HAVE WORLDWIDE IMPACT
In early December 2010, a chance meeting with Dr. Ann Rosenthal led to her sharing an idea that would promote Kansas worldwide on the sesquicentennial birthday of Kansas. And what I liked best: it won’t cost anything!
Ann said, “Contact all the foreign heads of State that have descendants living in Kansas and ask them to designate January 29th as ‘Kansas Day’ in their country (in recognition of that country’s contribution to the great state we are today).”
After research, I found there are well over 100 countries that are represented in Kansas, so I mentioned the idea to Landon Fulmer, Director of Policy for Gov. Brownback, as well as other staff members, and they all loved the idea. Let’s hope it happens. Way to go Dr. Ann!
WORLD’S LARGEST ARMY
I don't spend my fall weekends tramping around the woods in pursuit of a buck, but a lot of my friends and neighbors do. Here is an interesting conclusion one blogger found: The state of Wisconsin has gone an entire deer hunting season without someone getting killed. That's great. There were over 600,000 hunters. Allow me to restate that number. Over the last two months, the eighth largest army in the world - more men under arms than Iran; more than France and Germany combined - deployed to the woods of a single American state to help keep the deer menace at bay. But that pales in comparison to the 750,000 who are in the woods of Pennsylvania this week. Michigan's 700,000 hunters have now returned. Toss in a quarter million hunters in West Virginia, and it is literally the case that the hunters of those four states alone would comprise the largest army in the world. His point? America will forever be safe from foreign invasion with that kind of home-grown firepower. Hunting -- it's not just a way to fill the freezer. It's a matter of national security.
PAGES AND VISITORS
My first page date of Jan. 26 is full. There are still dates available in February, March, and April. For consideration during the later dates, please contact my secretary Georgana at 785-296-7646.
Visitors are always welcome! Give us a day or two, we’ll gladly arrange a tour of the capital and I’ll make sure I’m available when you come. A photo-op with the Governor might also be arranged. Please call my secretary.
My new office is L5 on the 7th floor of the Docking Office Building, Topeka KS 66612 Tel # 785-296-7646 E-mail TerriLois.Gregory@house.ks.govTerriLois.Gregory@house.ks.gov.
My district mailing address is PO Box 105, Baldwin City KS 66006 Tel # is 785-222-0445 E-mail RepTLG@gmail.comRepTLG@gmail.com.
As usual, I welcome your comments as I work through this session. Please forward this newsletter to your neighbors in District 10.
THE LAST WORD
“I destroy my enemy when I make him my friend.” Abraham Lincoln
State Rep. TerriLois Gregory, R-Baldwin City, is serving her first term in the Kansas Legislature.