Politics & Government

Major steps lawmakers did – and didn’t – take during the session

Gifted student Kate Quinton, 9, works on an assignment at McCollom Elementary School. on Wednesday. The Legislature passes a bill this session to replaced school funding based on weighted attendance with block grants based on 2014 spending. (Jan. 7, 2015)
Gifted student Kate Quinton, 9, works on an assignment at McCollom Elementary School. on Wednesday. The Legislature passes a bill this session to replaced school funding based on weighted attendance with block grants based on 2014 spending. (Jan. 7, 2015) Eagle file photo

The Legislature began its wrap-up session the final week of April but did not finish until the second week of June. Lawmakers spent the bulk of that time battling over how to cover the state’s $400 million budget shortfall. But they also passed other significant measures. Here’s a quick look at some of the major steps the Legislature took during the 113-day session – and a few it didn’t.

What the Legislature did

Abortion

Made Kansas the first state to restrict an abortion procedure – common in the second trimester – known as dilation and extraction. A legal challenge was filed in Shawnee County this month.

Budget

Passed with almost no debate a plan for $6.37 billion in spending in state general funds and $15.4 billion when all funds, including designated fees and federal grants, are taken into account.

BYOB

Passed a bill allowing businesses to let patrons bring their own alcoholic beverages. Banned BYOB hours from midnight to 9 a.m. after Wichita complained the original plan would facilitate “after hours” club drinking.

Courts

Passed a bill funding courts but de-funding them if they strike down a law that strips the Supreme Court of authority to choose local district presiding judges.

Guns

Stripped cities and counties of the authority to regulate gun sales in residential areas; earlier, allowed anyone who is legally qualified to own a gun to carry it concealed in public without a license or training.

Elections

Moved city and school board elections from spring of odd-numbered years to fall of odd-numbered years; granted Secretary of State Kris Kobach and his successors authority to prosecute alleged election crimes.

Fantasy sports

Legalized “real money” daily fantasy league sports betting.

Local property taxes

Restricted county and city governments’ ability to increase property taxes beyond the inflation rate without a public vote, with exceptions for infrastructure needs and to meet state and federal mandates. The Kansas Association of Counties warns this will hamstring local governments and potentially force budget cuts.

Private school scholarships

Expanded eligibility for a $10 million private school scholarship fund established last year to allow use by parents who pay tuition through tithing to a church. The provision will likely be a boon to Catholic schools in Wichita, but some education advocates have raised concerns that the program lacks accountability and could steer public dollars toward unaccredited schools.

School finance

Replaced school funding based on weighted attendance with block grants based on 2014 spending. School districts have sued to overturn, arguing it fails the constitutional mandate of equitable funding for rich and poor schools.

Taxes

Passed a tax package – spread over three bills – that raises more than $400 million in revenue. The sales tax will increase from 6.15 percent to 6.5 percent in July – including on food purchases, which some critics say will disproportionately affect poor and working-class Kansans. The Legislature did include a tax break for low-income workers, first floated by Gov. Sam Brownback, but that won’t go into effect until 2016.

Uber

Passed an insurance and background-check bill for ride-sharing services that caused Uber to shut down in Kansas; Uber resumed service after a second bill softened the regulations.

Welfare

Cut welfare eligibility from four years to three; banned use of welfare funds for a long list of recreational and social activities; set $25 limit on ATM withdrawals of welfare funds; passed trailer bill to allow administration to raise or eliminate the ATM limit if necessary to comply with federal law.

Wind

Repealed state standards requiring utilities to provide renewable energy, agreed not to levy excise tax on wind power.

What the Legislature didn’t do

Antlers

The Senate rejected a bill to require wildlife agents to give valuable antlers from illegally poached deer to the property owner or tenant where the deer’s carcass is found.

Campus religion

The Senate passed a bill to exempt campus religious groups from university anti-discrimination rules, but it stalled in the House.

Grocery alcohol

Lawmakers did not pass a proposal backed by Dillons, Wal-Mart and others to allow grocery stores to sell full-strength beer, wine and liquor and convenience stores to sell stronger beer.

Medicaid expansion

The Legislature took no action to expand Medicaid to cover workers with too much income for Medicaid and too little income for subsidies under the Affordable Care Act.

Private e-mails for public business

Attorney General Derek Schmidt recommended the Legislature close a loophole that allows public officials to conduct official business through private e-mails, circumventing the state’s open records law, after The Eagle reported the use of private e-mail by the Brownback administration. Legislation to close the loophole was introduced in both chambers but failed to gain traction. Senate Vice President Jeff King has asked that a special committee study the issue before the next session.

Teacher prosecution

A bill to allow criminal prosecution of teachers who display materials deemed harmful to minors passed the Senate but stalled in the House.

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