Wednesday, July 30, 2014

JONES: Paying for their own mistakes

By KEVIN JONES, The Playground | 1/31/2014

The second week of the legislative session typically is when things really start to get busy, but this year it was cut short with Martin Luther King Jr. Day Jan. 20, the mid-week funeral of a colleague’s spouse (state Rep. Marvin Kleeb’s wife, Nancy), and the start of the state GOP convention in Wichita Jan. 24. Here is a quick rundown.

First House vote (HB 2303)

The second week of the legislative session typically is when things really start to get busy, but this year it was cut short with Martin Luther King Jr. Day Jan. 20, the mid-week funeral of a colleague’s spouse (state Rep. Marvin Kleeb’s wife, Nancy), and the start of the state GOP convention in Wichita Jan. 24. Here is a quick rundown.

First House vote (HB 2303)

House Bill 2303 increases the reinstatement fees for driving under the influence convictions. The fees for test failure convictions would double, maxing out at $800, while fees for test refusal convictions would be raised by 50 percent, to a maximum of $1,500.

A portion of the revenue generated by these fees goes to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, which provides breath alcohol testing equipment, frequently called “breathalyzers,” to most law enforcement agencies across the state.

Each machine costs about $6,000 and lasts 5 to 7 years. It is important for all law enforcement agencies in Kansas to have equipment that is properly working and is standardized. Some of the current machines are getting old and need to be replaced. As I mentioned during floor debate, the increased fees “allow” those who need to use the machines (persons who choose to consume alcohol and then get behind the wheel of a vehicle) to pay for them so other taxpayers don’t have to.

This was our first House vote in 2014. The first bill to be debated on the House floor this session was a carry-over Conference Committee Report from last session.

The bill, HB 2303, had passed both the House and Senate last year, but since it passed in slightly different forms, it was placed in a conference committee so the differences could be reconciled between the two chambers. The Senate passed the Conference Committee Report before the end of last session, but, because of the timing, the House didn’t take a vote on the Conference Committee Report until last week. It passed by a vote of 109-11. Now it goes to Gov. Sam Brownback for his consideration.

Additionally, the bill designates 33 percent of the revenue from the fees to provide raises for non-judicial court employees (clerks, stenographers, etc. — not judges). These employees are valuable to the judiciary and haven’t had a raise for several years. Again, since the revenue comes from fees, the state budget is not impacted and no additional appropriation is needed.

Notable statistic

The Kansas Department of Labor reported the December seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 4.9 percent, down from 5.1 percent in November and 5.5 percent in December 2012.

“The state’s unemployment rate continued its descent, dropping below 5 percent for the first time since 2008,” Lana Gordon, Secretary of Labor, said. “For the second consecutive year, Kansas saw over the year growth of more than 10,000 jobs. This is all good news for Kansans.”

District activities

I plan to participate in a legislative coffee 10 a.m. today at Ottawa City Hall, 101 S. Hickory St.

I expect to take part in a Miami County legislative breakfast 7 a.m. Feb. 8 at Holy Trinity Parish School, 601 E. Chippewa St., Paola.

Kevin Jones, R-Wellsville, represents Franklin County and the 5th District in the Kansas House. Email him at kevin.jones@house.ks.gov or call (785) 296-6287.

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