I introduced a bill on Monday, Feb 4, that was referred to the Senate Ethics, Elections & Local Government committee. This bill, SB 119, provides for the continuation of the proud traditon of our citizen legislature. Currently, those in office come from only a few walks of life. Being a citizen legislator requires a person to uproot and be in Topeka for 90 some days each year. Those that can do this are mostly the self-employed, retired, attorneys, business owners, or farmers/ranchers. Professions or stations in life that allow a person the flexibility of being available for elected office.
If we are truly a citizen legislature than we should strive to allow as many people as possible to have the opportunity to serve. Many people are prohibited from running for office because their employer will not allow them to leave for a three month period. After the redistricting of 2012, so many district boundaries were changed that both Democrats and Republicans were canvassing for available candidates. Many qualified candidates could not run because of fear of losing their job while they served in Topeka.
This bill does one thing - it places a hold on the person's position while they are serving in Topeka. After the session is over they must report within 72 hours to their employer for reassignment. They aren't given a "new" job, or a raise or a promotion. If they leave the job for reasons not related to the Legislature, they cannot go back and demand their job back. They simply go back to the job they held before the session started. They will continue to work in that job until the next session when the process will be repeated. It is the same principle and, in fact, is based on the language of the law, that protects our military reservists and/or national guard members from losing their job when the go on active duty for training or other reasons.
The bill broadens the pool of candidates who could run for office. If a constitutional amendment is passed to "term limit" elected officials (and one has been proposed), broadening the pool is even more important. Being a citizen legislator is an honor and as elected officials we represent our districts. This bill allows more people the opportunity to run for office should they choose to do so. Serving in the state legislature is service and if we can allow more people the opportunity to serve we improve the Legislature for our state.