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My Two Cents of Common Sense
"Northwest Kansas holds some truly inspiring scenery, contains a wealth of Old West history, possesses some of the finest educational institutions, promotes an entrepreneurial spirit, and is home to some of the most hard-working, genuine people I've ever met!"    ~ Adam Smith
1970 RD 3 Weskan, KS 67762
785-821-2568 (Cell)
300 SW 10th St, Suite 512N Topeka, KS  66612
785-296-0715 (Office)
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Poppin' the clutch

In my whopping two years of experience in the legislature, the beginning of most sessions starts off in first gear and slowly lets out the clutch.

This year, it feels like we have popped the clutch with the pedal to the metal. Things are operating at full speed in the Capitol, and don't show much sign of slowing down.

Already, I have introduced a bill, testified at a hearing, and the bill was just passed out of committee yesterday and will be one of the first bills for consideration on the floor probably early next week.

I'm also working on several other important issues. One deals with the federal shutdown and how it is affecting Kansans that are impacted. Federal guidelines that deal with the Department of Labor contain some ambiguity, and since the federal Office of Management and Budget is shut down, Kansas can't get any clarification on how to properly handle these employees. Our legal staff is diligently pursuing all angles and options for the state, and I'll have more on that once we have some answers.

I'm also exploring some significant changes to our election system that will ensure that Kansans are electing the candidate supported by a majority of the state. In my opinion, we need to eliminate the impact spoiler candidates have on the outcome of a race. Anytime you have three or more candidates for one position, the lower candidates can take enough votes away from the top candidates to sometimes impact the final outcome of the race. Or, if you have multiple strong candidates, the winner could claim victory with a relatively low percentage of the vote. I began working on this issue when, at one point last year, we had over 20 people declaring to run for governor. Even one dog.

With all the speculation about Senator Pat Roberts' seat in congress, and the trickle-down effect on other positions, we could see a record number of candidates on the ballot this next primary election. If there is a way to make sure that votes for the last place candidates aren't wasted, we should do that. And we can. Other states are doing it, and we need to have a serious conversation about it in Kansas.

I was very honored to be elected chairman of the Rural Caucus group this week. A caucus is not an official committee, it is an informal group of like-minded legislators sharing common concerns that elects their own leadership. My former office-mate, Representative Brad Ralph from Dodge City, was elected vice-chair. We have about 55 members in the Rural Caucus this year. We will meet weekly to discuss legislation and issues that impact our rural communities. I look forward to serving with my colleagues in this leadership capacity for this legislative year.

The Rural Revitalization committee has been having some very good hearings. Most committee meetings last about an hour, but we have been using the maximum hour and a half time that the room is reserved for our committee nearly every day. The entire committee is very engaged and asking some very good questions. I'm very encouraged by the hard work and dedication shown so far, and I hope that continues as we begin looking at proposed legislation within that committee.
Seeing through the transparency issue

The trendy word around the Capitol the past few years has been "transparency". Plainly said, can the public see what their state government is doing? Do we have a "secret" government? We have had the Kansas Open Records / Open Meetings Act for years, but is that enough?

When I served as a county commissioner years ago and wanted to follow debate on certain bills in the statehouse, I could listen in to live audio streaming of the House and Senate chambers. When I started my service in the House of Representatives two years ago, the Capitol had added live streaming of several of the larger committee rooms. Due to cost, not all committee rooms (13 total) were set up that way at that time. More importantly, in my opinion, was the fact that no data was archived. If you missed the live stream, you were just out of luck. I wanted a way I could still get all the information from important committee meetings that I couldn't attend because I was serving on another concurrent committee. So my first year, I was literally rigging my computer up to play the live stream and using software to record the audio manually to save and playback. Reminded me of when I was a kid using a cassette tape to record the top 40 countdown off the radio! I wanted to get ALL committees streamed online AND have that data archived for playback. Last year, that was accomplished. Now, the public is more "connected to the Capitol" than ever.

But that's not all...

Last year, efforts were made to eliminate "anonymous" bills. Prior to that, bills could be introduced with an unnamed author so it was difficult to track where the idea came from, who was behind it, and the ultimate intent. Plenty of questions arose and plenty of finger-pointing occurred. The Speaker of the House asked committee chairs to have names recorded in committee minutes of who introduced the bill, sponsoring organization (if any), and the bill draft number. The bill draft number is important because it eliminates conceptual bills - basically an "idea" that is officially introduced as legislation with no specific language yet. Yes, that really happened. Or at least it used to.

This year, all House committees officially adopted those same rules to govern each committee for the next two years and hopefully beyond.

But now there are calls for even more "transparency".

Specifically, requiring recording of all committee votes.

That may sound like a legitimate and honorable effort, and with technology these days it is certainly achievable... but is it practical?

There are 165 legislators in the Capitol, multiple committee meetings per day, multiple bills per committee, multiple amendments per bill. There are literally thousands of votes per day that would need recorded.

The technology exists, but it would not be cheap to outfit all committee rooms with a networked electronic voting system.

It could be done for free by simply counting Yea's and Nay's, but that would take up considerable time. (There are typically about 17-23 members per committee in the House.) The amount of voting record data created would be quite large. The actual yes/no vote wouldn't be the bulk of it, either. The exact and complete language of every amendment proposed in every committee would have to be officially documented and recorded, even if it failed, so the corresponding vote could be recorded.

Additionally, the rules already allow a legislator to request their vote be recorded in the minutes as necessary – quite often done when there is an important issue being considered. And if the measure makes it all the way through to the chamber floor, your final vote on the bill is ALWAYS recorded. That data is also archived and public record, available on the legislature's website.

What are your thoughts? Would it be beneficial to you to be able to see how each legislator voted on each item throughout the committee process?

If you want, take a quick one-question survey.
 
My opinion is that it might be interesting to be able to track that level of detail through the process, but not many realize how many times a bill gets voted on to get through the process. Would it really be worthwhile to see that I voted for or against something eight or more times from the introduction of the bill in committee to final action in the chamber? I rarely change my vote unless a significant amendment has altered my perception of the bill.

If you're counting calories, do you just put down that you ate one cheeseburger, or do you put down that you ate one top-half bun, one leaf of lettuce, one slice of onion, one slice tomato, four slices dill pickle, one tablespoon ketchup, two teaspoons mustard, six ounces ground beef, one slice American cheese, and one bottom-half bun?

Is it more accurate to know every detail of your burger? Yes. Is it more efficient? No. Is it worth it? That's for you to decide.

Maybe that's a bad analogy... if you're counting calories, you're probably not slamming down cheeseburgers.
 
But I’ll tell you what it IS worth… a postcard. Or two. Or ten.
 
Do you love getting those attack campaign postcards in the mail? The people that make those disparaging postcards, which are almost always the special interest groups, would LOVE to have a plethora of voting records to peruse for that one time someone voted that one way on that one issue and splatter it all over a postcard headed for a full-scale assault of your mailbox worthy of General Patton's Third Army.

There would be plenty of ammo, too, because that happens even more at the committee level. At times, I vote against concepts that I’m in favor of because maybe I’ve got a better idea in another amendment, and I want THAT one to pass. Quite often, I vote against legislation that contains one great thing because that same law contains a bunch of other horrible things. I rarely vote in favor of something I don't like, unless perhaps it’s the best compromise that could be reached and winning a little is better than losing everything.

For now, committee votes will remain recorded only on an as-needed and as-requested basis. I support this process, but if you feel otherwise I would love to visit with you and hear your reasoning about the pros and cons.
 
Kansas Day - January 29

On January 29, 1861, Kansas became the 34th state.  Explore the state’s early history with the Kansas History database from the State Library, which covers the Territorial period through the Civil War.  Find a wide variety of personal narratives, letters, maps, speeches, and photos. Use Browse to scroll through the topics, Search, or click on one of five broad categories for an overview of the early Kansas years.  Educators: each of the five categories includes an essay with corresponding primary source documents.
https://kslib.info/kshistory
 
If the page above asks for a Kansas Library eCard number, you may get one at any library in Kansas.  Most people will be automatically recognized as being in Kansas and will not need this step.   Questions: kslc@ks.gov or 785-296-3296.
Legislative Page Program

Do you know any young adults who may be interested in being a Legislative Page for a day? I am taking requests for the new session!

Here's some quick info:
  • You must apply - there are limited spots available.
  • Check in at 8:00 a.m. with the Page Coordinator.
  • Take a photo at 9:30 a.m. with the Governor (if available).
  • Observe the House Chamber as we gavel in and debate legislation.
  • Serve as an assistant to the Kansas House of Representatives, running small errands as necessary for myself and other legislators.Receive a $5.00 voucher for the snack bar.
  • Tour the Capitol, including the inspiring "Dome Tour", as your time allows.
You will receive a certificate of appreciation recognizing your service to the state!

Recommended for young adults at least 12 years of age through High School Seniors, the Legislative Page program offers a memorable experience in the Kansas Capitol. Learn how the state government process works by becoming a part of it for a day!

Each legislator is allowed a limited number of Page sponsorships per month on a first-come, first-serve basis. Be sure to get your requests in as soon as possible. If you have further questions, please contact me at 785-296-0715 or Adam.Smith@House.KS.Gov

 
I strive to create and maintain constituent relationships through good communication. Two-way communication is essential to my effectiveness as a legislator in promoting successful solutions for Northwest Kansas! Please consider subscribing to my contact list or send me an email and I will add you.
Copyright © 2019 Smith For Kansas, All rights reserved.


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