Politics & Government

Where bills stand halfway through the Kansas legislative session

The Wichita Eagle

Kansas lawmakers trekked home to their districts last week at the traditional midway point of the session.

Here is where some key issues stand:

Abortion

A bill would require a doctors providing an abortion to disclose more information to the woman before the procedure – such as where they went to school, when they started working at that clinic, whether they have malpractice insurance, whether they have faced disciplinary action and whether they live in Kansas. It would also require that information be on white paper in 12-point Times New Roman font. The bill was advanced by the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee and is now before the full Senate.

Asset forfeiture

A bill would have reformed the state’s civil asset forfeiture law by requiring a conviction before a person’s property is seized after an arrest. After a committee hearing, the issue has been sent before the state’s Judicial Council – a panel of judges and attorneys – for further review.

Beer in grocery stores

This session features another fight over a bill that would allow grocery and convenience stores to sell full-strength beer and wine. Liquor store owners opposed it in a hearing before the House Commerce Committee. It was sent to the House Appropriations committee, where it now sits.

Convention of the states

An effort to call a convention of the states under Article V of the U.S. Constitution died in a House committee.

Dental care

A bill licensing dental therapists, who are like nurse practitioners or physician assistants in the dental profession, did not come up for a vote in the House Health and Human Services Committee. Supporters say they will try again next session.

Firefighting

Under a House bill, Kansas would join the Great Plains Interstate Fire Compact to share firefighting resources with Colorado, Nebraska, the Dakotas, Wyoming and New Mexico. It passed the House nearly unanimously and now heads to the Senate.

Guns on campus

Colleges and universities are currently exempt from a 2013 law that enables people to bring guns into public buildings. When the exemption expires this summer, they must allow concealed carry in their facilities or set up their own security measures. Numerous bills to extend the exemption have failed to gain traction.

Income taxes

Gov. Sam Brownback vetoed a bill that would have raised income tax rates, added a third tax bracket and rolled back an exemption on non-wage business income. The Senate failed to override, meaning the governor’s veto stands. Rep. Steven Johnson, R-Assaria, said his committee will re-introduce the governor’s tax plans and a bill similar to the previous income tax plan back onto the House floor shortly after lawmakers return to Topeka on March 6.

Medicaid expansion

A plan to expand the Medicaid program to provide insurance for more than 150,000 Kansans passed the House late last week after first appearing “dead” when a committee tabled a bill until at least early April. House members added that bill’s language into another bill on the floor, then sent that bill to the Senate. It’s expected to get a round of hearings before the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee on March 20 and 21.

School finance

The Kansas Supreme Court has not issued its ruling on school finance, which could obligate the state to pay more than $300 million to districts if the court determines school funding is inadequate. The ruling hangs over the Legislature on everything from the budget to Medicaid expansion. Lawmakers still also must come up with a new school finance formula before block grants expire.

Slots at Wichita Greyhound Park

A House committee narrowly passed a bill that could allow Sedgwick County voters another chance to vote on slot machines at Wichita Greyhound Park. The bill was put on the House calendar for a vote but was sent back to the House Appropriations Committee.

Teacher tenure

The Kansas House approved a bill restoring guaranteed teacher tenure and sent it to the Senate. Supporters said the bill guaranteed due process for teachers who are fired. Opponents urged their fellow lawmakers to let local boards and districts control tenure decisions.

Transparency

The House voted to classify complaints against law enforcement received by the Kansas Commission on Peace Officers’ Standards and Training as criminal investigation records, which do not have to be released under the Kansas Open Records Act. The House also voted to allow the Governor’s Domestic Violence Fatality Review Board to review cases in closed, executive sessions. Both measures were sent to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

WSU-WATC affiliation

A proposal would affiliate the Wichita Area Technical College with Wichita State University. The technical college would become the WSU Campus of Applied Sciences and Technology. Educators and Wichita-area economic development groups urged the Senate Ways and Means Committee to approve the bill last week. The committee is scheduled to vote on it March 7.

Contributing: Associated Press

Daniel Salazar: 316-269-6791, @imdanielsalazar

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