The 2014 session of the Kansas Legislature begins Jan. 13 at the Statehouse in Topeka.
Meet the Senator
Steve and his wife, Francie, brought their family to Kansas twice. First, when Steve was a student at the Command and General Staff College, and later when he was getting ready to retire.
They have been Kansas residents for over almost thirty years and their children have attended local public, Lutheran, and Catholic schools.
While on active duty Steve served in Vietnam, Germany, and Grenada. He rose from a private to Lieutenant Colonel with tours in the 82d Airborne Division and the Third, Fifth, and Tenth Special Forces Groups. After the Army Steve started his own business but closed it when the 9/11/01 attacks happened. He went to work as a military analyst and trainer for Northrop Grumman supporting the Army. Two of the children joined the Army and are still serving on active duty and in the reserves.
Politics is an important part of Francie and Steve's life. They have been precinct captains and district and state party delegates as well as strong supporters of Republican candidates. Steve did not just run for the Kansas Senate, he helped other candidates, worked as a delegate to the state party, was elected treasurer of the state party, and served on the local school board as vice-president.
He co-founded and is co-chair of The Leadership Series, which has trained over one hundred men in community and political leadership. He has also been active in several church, civic, and veterans' organizations.
In the Senate, Steve serves on the prestigious Ways and Means Committee, which helps craft the state’s budget each year. He is chairman of two of that panel’s subcommittees: the Corrections and Juvenile Justice Subcommittee and the Judicial and Gaming Subcommittee.
He is also a member of the Senate Transportation Committee, the Ethics, Elections and Local Government Committee and the Joint Committee on Corrections and Juvenile Justice Oversight. He is vice chairman of the Legislative and Elected Officials subcommittee of Ways and Means.
More than 40 people joined Steve at a reception Nov. 1, 2013, at the Cider Hill Family Orchard in Kansas City, Kansas.
Leavenworth program gets state grant
TOPEKA | The Alliance Against Family Violence in Leavenworth has been awarded a $73,181 grant from the 2014 Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault program fund, according to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback.
The governor recently announced $4.1 million in state general fund grants to community-based programs that provide support services, outreach, and training for victims of sexual and domestic violence.
Special Session fixes “Hard 50” law
TOPEKA | A bill fixing problems with the Kansas “Hard 50” sentencing law passed both chambers of the Legislature this week, ending the two day special session that began Sept. 3.
The measure was originally contained in a preliminary report by the Special Committee on the Judiciary and would change the way the sentence is imposed.
The Kansas House approved the measure Tuesday by a vote of 122 to 0 and the Senate followed suit Wednesday Sept. 4 in a 40-0 vote.
A judge can hand down a Hard 50 sentence under current law. But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that method unconstitutional in June and stated that the sentence of 50 years without parole must be determined by a jury.
In cases where a defendant is convicted of premeditated first degree murder, Kansas’ “Hard 50” sentence allows a court to impose a life sentence without eligibility for parole for 50 years, rather than 25 years, when it finds one or more aggravating factors are present.
Rep. John Rubin of Shawnee, a committee member, said there are eight specifically enumerated aggravating factors set out in current law, including murder for hire, firing into a crowd and conviction of a previous felony in which the defendant inflicted bodily harm, disfigurement, dismemberment or death to another. It also includes first degree murder committed in an especially heinous, atrocious or cruel manner.
Program produces dividends
TOPEKA | More than 650 Kansans with disabilities are able to receive new access to Home and Community-Based Services (HCBS) because of the KanCare program.
Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer, M.D., and Secretary of Health and Environment Robert Moser, M.D., announced that savings from care coordination under the new KanCare Medicaid program will bring in-home services to hundreds of additional people with physical and intellectual/developmental disabilities.
“This commitment will allow an estimated 250 developmentally disabled and 400 physically disabled Kansans to begin living more independent and fulfilling lives in the community,” Brownback said. “It is something Kansans are proud to support.”
This savings will substantially reduce the time it takes for consumers to receive in-home services. The total amount of savings dedicated to the waiting list is $37 million in both state and federal funds during State Fiscal Years 2014 and 2015. Services will become available as the necessary community supports are in place to begin reducing waiting lists for eligible consumers.
Kansas offers HCBS through Medicaid waivers. These services, which are provided along with medical care, are designed to help people remain in their homes. Changes in the way Medicaid services are coordinated under the new KanCare program are allowing the state to reduce waiting lists which have existed since 2000.
Since July, approximately 70 people with physical disabilities have come off the waiting list with an expected total of 400 people by the end of FY 2014. The waiting list for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities is projected to see a slightly smaller reduction, removing approximately 250 people by the end of FY 2014.
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Special session successful
The Governor called the Legislature into special session for the purpose of passing a change to Kansas law to cure a problem caused by a US Supreme Court decision. The Court said that a jury must determine if extenuating circumstances warrant a minimum time before parole eligibility.
While the court decision concerned a case from another state, it could have caused problems with several Kansas cases. Kansas law had permitted imposition of the hard fifty sentence (life in prison without possibility of parole for fifty years) to be made by a judge.
The procedural changes implemented during the special session insure these sentences will be served by those convicted of the most heinous crimes. The new law was crafted by the Attorney General in cooperation with several district attorneys, including the Wyandotte District Attorney, Jerome Gorman, who briefed me and other legislators on local cases that might be involved.
Fitzgerald attends school dedication in KCK
A letter from Cynthia Lane,
Supt., KCK School District
I want to extend my appreciation for your interest in, and support of, the Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools. We appreciated that you took the time to join us for the rededication of Mark Twain Elementary School.
You have always reached out to understand the work we are doing to improve our student's readiness for college and careers. I thank you for your service to our community and the interest you have personally demonstrated to the work we are doing.