Legislature reaches turnaround week, considers high energy costs, state unemployment system – Osage County Online | Osage County News

Legislature reaches turnaround week, considers high energy costs, state unemployment system

By State Rep. Blaine Finch

Greetings from Topeka,

This past week was Turnaround Week in the Legislature. That means the bills in each chamber had to be out and on their way to the other chamber, or risk being lost. The House debated and passed 63 bills last week. Some were small and others large, but all were important to someone.

One of the most important measures this week was House Substitute for SB 88. This bill creates a low interest loan program to help Kansas cities struggling with bills for natural gas and electricity due to last month’s arctic weather. Big energy companies can borrow money to avoid hitting customers with those charges all at once. Cities cannot. This bill allowed them to borrow from state reserve funds at very low interest rates to protect municipal utility customers from the same huge price increases.

While I think the Attorney General and Federal Energy Regulatory Commission should investigate for price gouging, I do not believe Kansas communities, families and businesses should have to pay the price in the meantime. If there are federal funds received by any city for those price increases, they must first be used to repay the loan.

We also took up and passed Senate Bill 13, which increases transparency in property taxation. Property taxes are based on two independent factors; your appraisal and the mill levies set by various taxing entities. Most of us have at least three tax entities and sometimes as many as seven or eight. While each of them may keep the levy the same, increases in appraisals can still raise your tax bill. This bill requires that taxpayers receive notice whenever a property tax bill is scheduled to be higher than the last. The House removed some exemptions that would have allowed some taxing entities to avoid sending you that notice and now the differences in the bill will be worked out between the House and Senate.

I was proud to support House Bill 2196 this past week which attempts to modernize and improve our state’s unemployment system. One of the most frequent calls I receive is from folks who are having trouble even getting through to talk to someone at the Department of Labor about their benefits. That is not acceptable. This bill creates a new oversight committee made up of employers and employees to help provide guidance to the Secretary. It requires technology modernization, increases penalties for fraud, and should ensure that the present problems do not occur in the future.

We also took action to give immunity to nursing homes that have done their best to deal with the COVID pandemic while keeping liability for those that did not make good faith efforts to ensure the safety of their residents. In House Bill 2153, we increased penalties on those who attempt prey upon the vulnerable living in adult care homes. With House Bill 2188, we required that police, social workers or Department of Children & Families (DCF) workers meet with and observe a child when there is an allegation of abuse concerning that child.

Finally, we passed House Bill 2183 to make clear that no one can change our election laws during the midst of an election. That power is reserved to the Legislature.

As always, if you have questions or need help with any aspect of state government, I welcome your call or email to 785-291-3500 or blaine.finch@house.ks.gov. Thank you for the opportunity to serve you in our Statehouse.

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