KDOT TO ACT ON “KANSAS FIRST” PROPOSAL
In a Statehouse news conference Friday morning, Governor Sam Brownback directed the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) to take action on a T-Works initiative introduced by Democratic legislators last month as part of our job-creating package, “Kansas Jobs First”.
The Accelerated T-Works Act will accelerate late 2012 and 2013 projects, by putting those projects in which the engineering work has already been completed out for bid by February 2012. The T-Works program is slated to spend about $440 million in 2012 and $237 million in 2013 on various road projects throughout Kansas.
Even though the Kansas economy is recovering, more than 51,000 Kansas workers remain unemployed. By accelerating the bidding process on dozens of transportation projects throughout the state, we can create thousands of jobs earlier than expected and save money by taking advantage of low material prices.
A full list of “Kansas Jobs First” proposals can be found at www.kansasfirst.net.
HEARING HELD ON GOVERNOR’S EDUCATION PLAN
Members of the Senate Education Committee were formally presented the governor’s education plan Wednesday afternoon. The Brownback Education Plan would overhaul the state’s current finance formula and set base state aid per pupil at $4,492 – regardless of a district’s needs. That means weightings for at-risk and bi-lingual students, and for transportation needs in rural areas, would all be eliminated.
The plan would uncap the local property tax, allowing wealthier school districts to increase their budgets at a much lower tax rate than poorer districts. And because districts with more than 2,550 enrolled students won’t receive additional funding, 75% of Kansas school kids will be left out in the cold.
Cuts to Kansas schools have gone too far in the last few years. But the problem has not been the formula, it has been the lack of funding. The Legislature needs to hold up its end of the bargain and fund the formula properly.
BUSINESS DEVELOPMENT ACT WOULD LEVEL PLAYING FIELD
This session, I have been working diligently on an act to help level the playing field for a Kansas small businesses owner.
The Kansas Small and Disadvantaged Business Development Act would create a business program within the Kansas Department of Commerce that reaches out to small-, women- and minority-owned businesses. A business owner would then be given an opportunity to participate in state and post-secondary education institution contracts for goods and services.
The bill has already been introduced in both the House and Senate, and should have a hearing in either the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development or the Senate Commerce Committee in the next two weeks.
Numerous studies have shown that small businesses, women and minorities have been deeply affected by the economic recession. While women make up more than 50 percent of the Kansas population, there are currently fewer than 60,000 female-owned businesses in our state. Even fewer have a person of color at the helm – of the 237,000 small businesses in Kansas, just 14,000 are owned by a minority.
This program would make it easier for women, minorities and small business owners to find new business ventures that will result in more employment opportunities.
SENATE BILL WOULD ALLOW IN-STORE LIQUOR SAMPLINGS
A bill making its way through the legislature would allow liquor stores to offer samples of certain products to customers before purchase. Currently, state law prohibits the consumption of alcoholic beverages inside stores. As a result, proprietors hold tasting events nearby, but not inside their establishments.
If passed, SB277 would allow customers to sample one individual portion, limited to one-half ounce for distilled spirits, one ounce for wine, and two ounces for beer or malt beverage.
ABC Director Doug Jorgensen said the agency was neutral on the legislation. Liquor stores are already subject to state inspections, so no extra work is anticipated. A Senate committee hearing is expected in the next couple of weeks.
LEGISLATORS BRIEFED ON HUMAN TRAFFICKING
Legislators were briefed on an issue that has garnered statewide attention recently: human trafficking. The crime was pulled into the spotlight after Kansas received poor grades last year from organizations who monitor human trafficking around the country.
Presenters from the Sedgwick County District Attorney’s office and victim services organizations suggested that current laws should be strengthened to include criminal penalties for “facilitators” of trafficking (those who assist in trafficking, but do not engage in sexual activity or monetarily benefit from the crime). Lawmakers were also encouraged to increase penalties for patronizing prostitutes, which would reduce demand for human traffickers.
I’m sure that this issue will continue to receive attention from legislators in both chambers. I will keep you posted if any legislation is introduced to help deter the perpetrators of this terrible crime.
JOBS DATABASE FOR VETERANS
Soldiers and veterans looking for employment opportunities now have access to more than 2,500 employers from across the country, thanks to a web site developed by the Employer Partnership of the Armed Forces. More than 10,000 soldiers, their families and veterans currently participate in the program, which has more than 500,000 job posts.
To access more information, visit https://www.employerpartnership.org/.