Politics & Government

What passed, what didn’t in this year’s Kansas legislative session

A bill to prohibit school districts from using Common Core educational materials and standards died on the Kansas House floor.
A bill to prohibit school districts from using Common Core educational materials and standards died on the Kansas House floor. File photo

It was easy to lose track of what was going on in the Legislature this year as lawmakers worked a frenetic accelerated schedule to make up for last year’s gruelingly long session.

In the final days of the legislative wrap-up session that concluded in the wee hours Monday, bills were being frantically combined, torn apart, rewritten, revised and renumbered.

From taxes, welfare and how to choose Supreme Court nominees to drone stalking, transgender bathroom use and alcohol in grocery stores, here’s a look at what passed and what failed when the final gavel fell and who won’t be back under the dome to try again next year.


Lawmakers passed bills that addressed these issues.

Doctors: Makes it easier for out-of-state physicians to become certified to work in Kansas, a measure intended to help rural communities near the Oklahoma state line.

Drones: Adds remote-controlled aerial drones to the state’s anti-stalking law to keep people from using them to spy on their neighbors.

Guns: Allows public employees to carry guns on the job, including onto residents’ property, if the property doesn’t have a “no-guns” sign.

Judicial nomination: Requires Supreme Court Nominating Commission to comply with Kansas open meetings and open records acts. Gives Secretary of State Kris Kobach and Attorney General Derek Schmidt roles in registering and counting the votes of lawyers who select five of the nine commission members. Requires governor to release the names of applicants for seats on the Court of Appeals.

Juvenile justice: Adopts a sweeping reform of the state’s juvenile justice system, designed to reduce teen incarceration and replace it with treatment programs to try to cure juvenile offenders’ underlying issues such as substance abuse or inappropriate sexual behavior.

Legislature transparency: Creates mechanism to live-stream meetings of key committees.

Marijuana: Slightly reduces the penalties for first and second marijuana-possession convictions.

Medicaid: Approves “step therapy,” requiring physicians to use inexpensive treatments first for low-income Medicaid recipients before proceeding to more expensive drugs.

Midwifery: Expands midwives’ ability to supervise births without doctor oversight. Bans midwives from participating in abortions.

Open records: Closes a loophole in the state’s open records act and makes public officials’ private e-mails open records if they pertain to official business. Private e-mails on personal matters would remain private.

Property tax lid: Moves up the effective date for spending limits on city and county government from 2018 to 2017. Money received in excess of the spending cap will have to be refunded through property tax cuts, unless voters approve a spending increase. Cap will be based on state-adjusted consumer price index.

Schools and guns: Prohibits school districts from banning air guns used in school shooting clubs.

School finance: Adds about $2 million in school funding statewide and makes some recalculations in how money is divided among districts in reaction to a Supreme Court order to make school finance more equitable for poorer districts. The court will hear oral arguments next week on whether the plan is constitutional.

Three-wheeled motorcycles: Allows riders to take driver’s test on a three-wheeler and get a three-wheel-only cycle license.

Welfare: Cuts lifetime eligibility for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families from 36 months to 24 months. If any member of a household has reached that, no one in the household can get benefits.

Wildfires: Allows tax breaks for farmers to help replace fencing destroyed in the recent spate of wildfires, which burned a broad swath of southern Kansas.

Didn’t pass

These issues – some of them perennial – failed to gain traction.

Alcohol: A proposal to generate $40 million for the state by allowing grocery and convenience stores to sell full-strength alcoholic beverages didn’t get a hearing.

Common Core: A bill to prohibit school districts from using Common Core educational materials and standards died on the House floor.

Deer antlers: A move to allow landowners to keep valuable antlers from deer poached on their property passed the House but died in the Senate.

Judicial impeachment: A bill to allow the Legislature to impeach Supreme Court justices for trying to “usurp” other branches’ powers passed the Senate but stalled in a House committee.

Medicaid expansion: The Legislature pretty much ignored efforts to expand Medicaid to insure low-income workers who make too much to be covered by the state’s KanCare program and too little to qualify for subsidized coverage through the Affordable Care Act insurance exchange.

Medical marijuana: Language to allow use of marijuana-derived hemp oil to treat epilepsy patients was removed from the bill reducing marijuana possession penalties.

Slot machines: A proposal for a revote on slot machines at the shuttered Wichita Greyhound Park languished after the attorney general said a revote probably would violate the state’s contract with operators of the Kansas Star Casino in Mulvane. The contract guarantees the casino a monopoly on casino gambling in south-central Kansas until 2032.

Tax changes: A bill to roll back Gov. Sam Brownback’s zero income tax rate for farms, limited liability companies and S corporations failed in a House floor vote.

Opponents rally at the Kansas Capitol against a bill to require transgender students to use the bathroom corresponding to their gender at birth. Video by Dion Lefler / April 29, 2016

Transgender bathrooms: A bill requiring Kansas students to use school and university bathrooms and locker rooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificate stalled in committee.

Saying goodbye

Five Wichita legislators announced they won’t run for re-election this year. All are Republicans.

▪ Sen. Les Donovan, District 27, west Wichita and Sedgwick County

▪ Rep. Mark Hutton, District 90, northwest Wichita

▪ Rep. Mark Kahrs, District 87, east Wichita

▪ Rep. Dennis Hedke, District 99, east Wichita, Andover

▪ Rep. Gene Suellentrop, District 91, a swath of northern Sedgwick County that includes north Wichita, Park City, Valley Center and Maize. Suellentrop will leave the House to run for Donovan’s vacant Senate seat.

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