Legislative Update: March 2
This was a short and relatively uneventful week. The House only debated two bills – both related to strengthening the state’s cyber security protections. As I’ve said before, there has been a lot of testimony about the vulnerability of the state’s information networks. It’s pretty serious business, and one of those things that most of us don’t pay much attention to or care about – until after the fact, when our information has been compromised and we’re hurriedly canceling credit cards and setting up new bank accounts.
Oh, the picture of that card and sticker on the front of this entry – that’s a nice and encouraging note from a dear friend back home. I can’t miss this opportunity to say thanks to all of you who take the time to send notes, messages, texts and phone calls with encouraging and thoughtful words. You have no idea how much it means to me.
What we did…
I didn’t have many committee meetings this week, and most were informational presentation that, while interesting, aren’t related to any active legislative work. I did spend lunch Thursday listening to a presentation from officials with AT&T and CenturyLink about the challenges of bringing effective and reliable broadband service to rural areas. This is a big issue in the statehouse, and an even bigger issue for those Kansans who live in the rural parts of the state. Progress will require serious examination, and input from voices who haven’t previously been a big part of the conversation.
As I said, we debated and passed two bills out of the House this week – Substitute for HB2332 and Substitute for HB2359. The first bill simply changes the membership of the state’s Information Technology Executive Council, reducing membership from 17 to 15, and balancing the members across different functions. This group helps direct the state’s cyber-security operations.
There was an amendment proposed for this bill – offered by Rep. Brandon Whipple – that would have tasked the committee with also examining and making recommendations on the issue of cyber-bullying. It failed 53-68.
I voted against this amendment, and I’ve been cautioned that, politically, this was probably not a great decision. I’ve been told that this will be fodder for postcards in the upcoming campaign season, where an opponent could argue that I am a supporter of cyber-bullying and want to do nothing to stop it.
Well, I don’t know anyone who supports cyber-bullying. I sure don’t. The reason I voted against the amendment (and out of line with all but one other Representative in my party) is that I didn’t feel this was the right place for this issue. I think it muddies the water to mix cyber-security with cyber-bullying – and my feeling was that it would dilute the effectiveness of the committee’s primary task.
Politically, it certainly would be easier for me to have voted for it, and come out with some material that promotes my strong stance against cyberbullying. But, to me, this bill wasn’t the best place for it, and in my mind it would’ve weakened a good piece of policy. A lot of people saw things differently than me and voted for the amendment – and that’s precisely how all this works.
In my mind, if my constituents trust me to make thoughtful, deliberate decisions on their behalf, I have to trust my constituents to have thoughtful, deliberate conversations with me about my voting record. I could be completely wrong, and, if so, this will likely be a short-lived experience. But if and when those postcards start hitting your mailboxes, give me a holler and we can talk. I’ll explain that I don’t support cyber-bullying, and that I have never, ever thought it a good idea.
This is another opportunity, however, to talk about the sacred committee process that I’ve learned so much about. There was a cyber-bullying bill, coupled with a teacher due process bill in the House Education Committee that on Feb. 14 was approved and recommended for passage by the House. It, however, was killed under House Rule 1507. Unfortunately, even after a reading of the rule, I don’t know what happened. Perhaps another chance to talk about the need for better transparency in the process….
I’ll spend less time talking about HB2359. This is the Cybersecurity bill. It came through the Committee on Government, Technology and Security. It’s a lighter version than what was originally brought to us, and some on the committee felt we needed to do more – and put more teeth in this bill – to protect the state’s information systems. But everyone agreed that this is a first good step that sets us on the right path, without costing too much or being too much a burden for users that access the state’s computer networks. This, in my opinion, is a really good piece of legislation that attempts to address a serious issue for our state.
In other news….
Since it’s a short week, I don’t have much more to offer. Kansas Democrats will gather in Topeka this weekend for Washington Days – and I’ll attend that Friday and part of Saturday. On Saturday morning, I’ll get up way too early and head back to Hutchinson for the 9:30 a.m. Legislative Forum at Shears Technology Center. I hope to see you there!
One more thing…
There are 125 House members and 40 Senators in this building who deliberate and debate matters that will become policy for the state’s residents.
But… nothing would get done around here if it wasn’t for the people who work inside this building. The office assistants, the support staff for both chambers and parties, the maintenance people and not least of all – the folks who work in the Research and Revisors offices. Daily, these people are asked to do the heavy lifting for us. I am certain few people outside of the Capitol have any idea how much work – and how many competing demands – these people deal with on any given day. It sort of blows my mind.
In my immediate world there is Anita and Mona, who between them manage the affairs of six House members. Mona was out of the office part of the week, and I barely knew how to make it to my meetings on time. So thanks you two, for making this place run smoothly, and for making it so much fun.Feel free to reach out to me with any comments or concerns. I want to hear from you! Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call my office at 785.296.7645. You can also follow me on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram – @thatguyinhutch.
Have a great weekend and a productive week!