Ed Trimmer Legislative report: March 2013

first_imgEd TrimmerThe following is the legislative report for Ed Trimmer, who is the state representative of the 79th District that encompasses the east end of Sumner County:by Ed Trimmer —  The Governor and his supporters in the legislature hope you are not paying attention:During the last campaign, the Governor and many conservative candidates were claiming that the Administration in Topeka had cut government spending more than any previous administration. It was recently noted that the figures they used had a $2 billion mistake and that spending had actually increased, although not for education or many programs for the elderly, veterans, and the poor.  Now that ultra-conservatives have control of both legislative chambers in Topeka, I believe they are following the Governor’s lead and using some very misleading and inconsistent rhetoric, hoping the public will not notice.They are also advancing legislation with clever titles hoping that the public will pay more attention to the name of the bill than the content. Gun Control In the area of gun control a bill was advanced in the Kansas House called the “Personal and Family Protection Act.”  The bill allows people to carry firearms on college campuses, in public schools (with permission of the school board), state-run mental institutions and nursing facilities, court houses, and sports arenas owned by postsecondary institutions.That is, unless expensive scanning equipment is placed at each entrance to each building, which public entities do not have the funds to provide.   I have heard from ultra conservatives and libertarians for years that the best government is the one closest to the people and that most issues should be decided at the local level.  I decided to go with that theory and I voted “No”.  This bill is a mandate from the state to local governments.I voted to allow conceal/carry in 2006, but I believe that where it is allowed, specifically in what buildings, should be a local issue.  I find it interesting that the very people who supported this bill are very much opposed to federal mandates for the states, but are very willing to have state mandates for local governments.Continuing on the topic of federal control, a bill was passed in the House that would require state law enforcement officers to arrest federal officers and charge them with a felony, if they tried to regulate firearms made, assembled, sold and possessed exclusively within the State.  The bill was titled “The Second Amendment Protection Act.”  I support the Second Amendment and agree that firearms made, assembled, sold and possessed exclusively within the state are not interstate commerce.I also believe that requiring state officials to charge federal officials with a felony would have a potentially disastrous unintended consequence.  Even Derek Schmidt, the Kansas Attorney General commented that this portion of the bill was not a good idea.  I supported an amendment, which would change the enforcement to a legal action undertaken by the Attorney General that would be settled through the court system without requiring the arrest of individual officers.That amendment failed on a 60 to 59 vote.  I voted “No” on the original bill, because as one legislator who is a former ABC agent pointed out, federal and state law enforcement officials frequently conduct joint law enforcement operations.  If domestic guns were confiscated, it would mean state officials would have to arrest the cooperating federal officials and charge them with a felony.This could very well be the end of federal cooperation with officials from Kansas in any kind of criminal investigation, including murder, drugs and terrorism.  I believe voting against this bill means I am willing to look beyond the title of the bill to the potential consequences.  I am not against the Second Amendment, but I try to be a thoughtful, pragmatic legislator. Jobs During last fall’s campaign, Kansans were told that the election was all about jobs, but to this point, we haven’t seen one piece of legislation related to jobs.  The administration has asserted that the tax plan will grow the economy, but rarely mentions that it will take 425,000 new jobs in the next 15 months to offset the loss of revenue.  The Department of Commerce did announce that about 15,000 new businesses filed applications for business status in 2012, but even between 2008 and 2011, there were always about 13,000 applications or more per year.These applications frequently do not result in an established business or employment beyond a sole proprietor.  The real question is, what is the net number of new jobs that have been created and do they pay as well as jobs previously lost?  That information doesn’t seem as readily available in Topeka. EducationIn education several bills have been advanced that proponents claim are all about children and providing a better education for them.  Ironically, most of these same individuals support a statewide tax policy that favors the wealthy and big business at the expense of early childhood programs, pre-school programs, and funding for public education.  Two of these initiatives were defeated in committee.The first would have allowed students who were a part of the special education program to go to private schools and be given a scholarship equal to public school funding.  The problem with the bill was that if the private school did not provide special education services, which most do not, the local public school would still have to provide the services, but the money for that student would remain with the private school.  I voted against this measure.The second initiative would have allowed city commissions, county commissions, postsecondary institutions and other entities to approve charter schools, which would not be under the governance of the local school board.  Currently we have charter schools in Kansas, but they are governed by the local board of education.  These new charter schools would not have had to follow State Board of Education guidelines, would not have had to hire certified teachers, and could have made their own assessments.  They would have been able to receive the same state funding as a public school.While proponents argued it was for the good of the children, no evidence was given that these charter schools provide for a better education.  In fact, one proponent, the Kansas Policy Institute, used a Stanford Study to support their claim that charter schools are better than public schools when the study actually concluded that charter schools created in the same way the bill did, performed at much lower levels than their neighboring public schools.The bill would also have allowed many already established private schools to become charter schools, which could cost the state an additional $300 million or reduce funding for public schools by that amount.  I voted against this bill because the net result would have been less money for public education and less accountability to taxpayers.A bill did pass that was titled “The Coalition of Innovative School Districts”.  The bill will allow ten school districts to apply to be a part of a coalition and will exempt them from any state regulation except for finance rules.  They will not have to follow State Board of Education guidelines, hire certified staff, use state assessments, provide due process for teachers, or allow for collective bargaining.  I voted against this bill, not because I am against innovation, but because we were never given any evidence that this coalition would in any way make these schools better.While members of the House Education Committee, of which I am the Ranking Minority Member, had to listen to much speculation that all of these new initiatives would greatly improve education and that they would be much better for children, no evidence was ever presented to document those claims.  It is my belief that all of the unsupported rhetoric is intended to take the public’s mind off of the reality that ultra-conservative members of the Legislature plan to cut funding for public education and would like to divert some of the existing public school funds to private schools. BudgetBecause of the Administration’s “race to zero” tax plan, which will create more than a $781 million deficit by 2018, it looks like the House and Senate budgets will be making significant cuts to transportation programs, programs for seniors, programs for veterans, programs for children, education programs and more.  These budget cuts are also evidence that the Governor’s tax cuts, which he promised would grow the economy, have not done what he promised they would do.I guess as long as we title the budget bill “The Happy, Sunny Kansas Act,” everything will be OK, that is…, unless Kansans are really paying attention.center_img Corporate Farms The Administration is promoting the idea that Kansas should allow investor owned corporate farms because they would be good for the economy.  On other occasions the Governor has stated that family farms are the backbone of rural communities.  I plan to go with the Administration’s second position and protect family farms. Kansas Turnpike AuthorityRecently the House passed a bill that would put the Kansas Turnpike Authority, which is a private corporation, under the control of the Kansas Department of Transportation.  We constantly hear from ultra-conservatives that privatizing government services is far better than having the government administer them.Yet, they could not seem to wait to do the opposite with this bill.  While proponents claimed this was an efficiency move, there was no evidence to prove that.  Proponents also said that the issue was not about diverting KTA money to the general fund to cover a projected deficit, but later indicated that they believe $85 million could be transferred from the KTA to the general fund.  I voted “No”, because I believe the Turnpike Authority is working well now and we should not raid its budget. Close Forgot password? Please put in your email: Send me my password! 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