Greetings from the Kansas Statehouse. We are making the turn into February this week in the Legislature and that means we are approaching the first set of deadlines that help keep our sessions shorter. Those deadlines for when individual legislators and committees may request bills ensure that we get ideas out on the table early. Monday was the last day for committee bill introductions and earlier we saw the last day for individual members to introduce bills.

Once these initial deadlines have passed we should have a fairly good idea of the issues — other than school finance — that will be in play this session. Some committees have already started vetting those ideas and some fairly big topics are already beginning to bubble up. In the Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee we have already heard and passed out a bill that would stiffen penalties for those who have a prior DUI, drive drunk again in violation of their restrictions and cause a death or great bodily injury. In the Judiciary Committee we have heard bills to improve reporting and data collection on civil asset forfeiture and improving the process so innocent owners can get their property back. In Utilities we will begin hearing and working legislation on rural broadband. Specifically, a bill to study how to make broadband internet more available to those Kansans who live and work outside the metropolitan areas in our state.

The biggest news in the Statehouse this past week was the changing of the guard in the governor’s office. Sam Brownback resigned to take a position in the Trump administration and Jeff Colyer, a plastic surgeon and former state legislator from south Johnson County, moved from lieutenant governor to the top post. Now Gov. Colyer has promised a new tone and a more inclusive working style than his predecessor. I am hopeful that he will fulfill those promises. Our state faces some tough challenges and it will take a team effort to meet and conquer them.

This week I was honored to carry House Resolution 6045 celebrating National Freedom Day and supporting the efforts of the Topeka Rescue Mission in its new effort, Freedom Now USA to combat human trafficking. Over 20 million people around the world live each day as slaves. Many in horrible conditions where they are forced to do dehumanizing things. Our legislative efforts over the past several sessions have moved Kansas from an “F” to an “A” rating in this area. Having the rescue mission bring awareness and support to these efforts will further help rescue people who are being trafficked and bring justice to those who would perpetrate these heinous acts. It was an honor to present the resolution on Freedom Day when we celebrate the day that President Lincoln signed the joint resolution that would become the 13th Amendment to the Constitution, abolishing slavery in the United States.

In closing I want to again thank each of you for giving me the opportunity to serve you. I welcome your comments and questions. Our government works best when we thoughtfully discuss the issues together and find the best way forward together. If there is any way I can help you with a state government issue please email me at blaine.finch@house.ks.gov or call me at (785) 296-7655.

Blaine Finch is a Kansas House member, representing Franklin County and the 59th District in the Kansas House.