As we get settled into the first and second week of the 2023 legislative session, most of our work is concentrated in committees where bills are being prioritized and vetted. The Senate has 19 standing committees which cover many different topics, including education, agriculture, judiciary, budget, and utilities—to name a few. Once a committee completes hearings and votes on a bill, if passed, it will then make its way to the Senate floor and the full body will begin to debate and vote on the measure. Floor debates and votes will begin in the coming weeks. At the end of the 2nd week, over 170 bills have been introduced.
If you’re interested in tracking our work, you can follow us at our website at http://www.kslegislature.org. A daily calendar is available as well as directions on how to view committee work live-time and view archive past committee and floor action.
My committees remain the same as last year - the Ethics, Elections and Local Government committee is two committees renamed Transparency and Ethics and Local Government. I will Chair Transparency and Ethics and will serve as the Vice-Chair of Local Government. I continue to serve on the Transportation, Judiciary, and Utilities committees and remain on the Historical Preservation Committee, the Joint Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice Oversight, and most recently selected to serve on the Kansas Commission for the United States Semiquincentennial committee established last year with HB2712.
On Monday, January 9th, Governor Laura Kelly was sworn into office for her second term. Her speech reflected on the past four years, the impact of COVID-19 on the state of Kansas, and the plan for her final term. In addition, the new Attorney General Kris Kobach and State Treasurer Steven Johnson, as well as re-elected Insurance Commissioner Vicki Schmidt and the Secretary of State Scott Schwab were sworn in. The 2023 Senate legislative session began on Monday, January 9thth, at 2:00 p.m. with the swearing in of Senator Ron Ryckman, Sr. and new Senator Chase Blasi. Senator Blasi is familiar with the Senate, having served on staff for both Presidents Wagle and Masterson the past few sessions. On Tuesday, Senator Tom Hawk (D-Manhattan) gave his retirement speech and his replacement, Senator Usha Reddi, was sworn into office on Wednesday.
STATE OF THE JUDICIARY
On Wednesday afternoon, Chief Justice Marla Luckert delivered the state of the Judiciary address in a joint session of the legislature. Luckert highlighted the specialty courts across the state, raising judicial pay, and the need for attorneys in rural Kansas. Near the end of 2022, Chief Justice Luckert signed an order to create the Kansas Rural Justice Initiative. The goal of the committee is to examine the legal needs of rural Kansans related to a lower ratio of attorneys to population in contrast to urban areas. According to statistics given in their news release, 43% of Kansans live in rural areas, but only 20% of Kansas attorneys live in rural communities. This leaves an attorneys to population ratio of one active attorney for every 808 residents. In contrast, Kansans in urban areas have two active attorneys for every 535 residents. This is a select committee I was assigned to. I am looking forward to working with the Judicial branch and others in our 18-month time frame to offer solutions for this problem which exists in other states across the nation as well.
State law in Kansas requires that certain appointments by the Governor or other state officials be confirmed by the Senate prior to the appointee exercising any power, duty, or function of the office.
Judge Rachel Pickering had her confirmation hearing in the Judiciary Committee and was confirmed in the Senate on Thursday to the Kansas Court of Appeals. In addition to Judge Pickering, fifteen additional appointments to boards and commissions were also confirmed by the Senate on Thursday, January 19th. Among these confirmations, Ray C. Walling was confirmed as the 18th Kansas State Librarian since 1870.
SB3 – AN ACT designating Silvisaurus condrayi as the official state land fossil
Senate District #36 – Ottawa County
In 1955, Warren Condray, a farmer and rancher in Ottawa County, discovered this fossil in his pasture. His son, Jettie Condray who was the Ottawa County Historical Museum director, and his son Joel now a teacher in Goddard School district, promoted this fossil to be named a state fossil. Joel’s 6th grade class worked on this bill as a project to learn about the process of a bill (an idea) turning into a Kansas statute. The fossil was a one-ton armored ankylosaur approximately 13-feet long that walked across Kansas during the late cretaceous period of the mesozoic era. SB3 was heard in Senate Federal and State affairs on Wednesday, January 18th, and will be on the Senate Calendar next week. It will pass over to the House of Representatives, the students again will testify in committee (41 students and a few administrators attended the hearing), then a full House vote, and to Governor for her signature. With an early start on their project, there is a very good chance it will be signed in law before session and school ends. The fossil is currently on display in Lawrence at the KU Natural History Museum.
HELPFUL KANSAS INFORMATON
Kansas Insurance Department
Having problems with your insurance company? Contact the Kansas Insurance Department for assistance with your claim. File a complaint online at insurance.ks.gov, by phone at 785-296-3071, or by email at KID.webcomplaints.ks.gov.
Property Tax Relief
During the 2022 session, there were several changes to tax law. One change is a first step in a property tax freeze for low-income seniors and disabled veterans via a rebate program administered by the KS Department of Revenue. Applications for property tax relief must be submitted by April 18, 2023 and can be found here: https://www.ksrevenue.gov/pdf/k-40svr.pdf/
**Please note that to qualify for the “freeze” a household annual income must be $50,000 or below, a homeowner must be 65 years or older, and the value of the home cannot be above $350,000. A disabled veteran must be at least 50% disabled. Property taxes are still paid to the county and then a homeowner may apply to KDOR for a refund on their increase, resulting in a freeze.
Storefront business – property tax relief
To help small storefront businesses shutdown or negatively impacted by the shutdown during COVID, the legislature established a program to provide some property tax relief. Details can be found here: https://www.ksrevenue.gov/taxnotices/notice22-04.pdf
Applications can be found at: https://www.kdor.ks.gov/Apps/Misc/PropTaxAssistance/StoreFront
Following the Kansas Legislature
You can view video streaming of both chambers via the Kansas Legislature YouTube page. In addition, many committees are now audio streamed and can also be viewed on the Kansas Legislature YouTube page. The Kansas Legislature website is easy to use with Senate and House calendars and journals as well as the rosters of both chambers. Here are the relevant links:
YouTube Streaming: http://bit.ly/2CZj9O0
Committee Hearings: http://sg001-harmony.sliq.net/00287/Harmony/en/View/Calendar/
Each year we are assigned dates for students to page for the Senate. The students should be twelve and over and will spend the full day with us including running errands for all Senators and a tour and trip to the Capitol Dome top. I was a page myself for Representative Bill Fuller from Miltonvale in 1981! Our dates this year are - Wednesday, February 8; Wednesday, February 15; Wednesday, February 22; Wednesday, March 1; and Wednesday, March 15th.
My office remains in the same suite, 223E (East wing second floor) next to the cage elevator. Randi Walters who has worked in the Capitol for 20 years as an assistant and a committee assistant is in our office.
As session progresses, not every bill introduced will make it to the Governor’s desk, but that doesn’t mean opinions, facts and testimony wasn’t heard. Your participation in the state legislature is vital. As we continue to weed through the different bills, I hope to hear from you. I want to know how legislation will impact you and our district, or the ideas you have to improve a bill. A personal email with your thoughts is the best way to reach us as we sit in committees for most of the day and seldom get to stay at our desks for long periods.
Thank you for the honor of serving you!
Senator Elaine Bowers
Kansas State Capitol Building
300 SW 10th St.
Topeka, KS 66612
Elaine Bowers, R-Concordia, is senator of the 36th District in Kansas which includes:
* Cloud, Jewell, Lincoln, Mitchell, Osborne, Ottawa, Republic, Rooks, Russell, Smith and Washington counties
* Marshall County: Cities: Blue Rapids, Marysville, Oketo and Waterville; Townships: Blue Rapids, Blue Rapids City, Cottage Hill, Elm Creek, Herkimer and Logan
* Phillips County: Cities: Agra, Glade, Kirwin and Phillipsburg; Townships: Arcade, Bow Creek, Crystal Deer Creek, Freedom, Glenwood, Greenwood, Plum, Rushville, Solomon (part), Sumner, Valley and Walnut