Legislative Update: Week 11
The newsletter this week is a day early because regular legislative session work has ended for the week. Today and tomorrow conference committees are meeting to iron out details of the bills that have passed in the House and the Senate.
NEXT WEEK LAST FOR REGULAR FLOOR SESSION
Next Saturday, April 3, is “drop dead” day for the 2010 legislative session. On this day, any bill that has not passed both House and Senate chambers can no longer be debated, although certain bills such as the budget, are exempt from this deadline.
To prepare for “drop dead” day, legislators have been working on the floor and in conference committees to push through important legislation. After a short break, legislators will return for the wrap up session in early May. At this time, the Omnibus Reconciliation budget bill, some conference reports and any vetoes by the Governor will be considered.
This summer, the Legislative Coordinated Council will meet to form Senate Interim Committees. Unlike standing committees (which can have a broad focus), interim committees review highly specific topics. Primarily, interim committees explore issues from 2010 that need in-depth review, additional hearings or further study. Topics for interims change each year depending on recommendations from standing committees, individual legislators or other organizations. These committees will meet from mid-summer until December, but because of legislative budget cuts, there will be very few interim committees scheduled this year.
I will keep you posted on interim committee topics, appointments and information as it becomes available. As with standing committees, you are welcome to testify before an interim committee on any issue important to you.
I am honored to serve as your Senator and am humbled by the support I receive from my community. I want to thank the people of the 5th District for allowing me this opportunity. My office is located in room 124-E. Please feel free to visit, or to contact me at (785) 296-7357, if you should have any questions. Complete daily calendars are available for you to follow at www.kslegislature.org along with live broadcasts of Senate and House proceedings.
EXPANDED LOTTERY ACT
Senate Substitute for House Bill 2180 (formerly SB 401), which amends the Kansas Expanded Lottery Act was passed out of the Senate Federal & State Affairs Committee on Wednesday and placed on the Senate’s General Orders. The bill changes the distribution of electronic gaming machine income from a racetrack gaming facility by increasing the amount of income to be received by the racetrack gaming facility manager. The bill also lowers the minimum investment required for a gaming facility or destination casino in the southeast gaming zone from $225 million to $100 million and lowers the privilege fee for the southeast gaming zone from $25 million to $11 million.
The original SB 401 included language that would allow Sedgwick County to hold another special election to allow slot machines at racetracks, but this language was removed in Sen. Sub. for HB 2180. Senate leadership has stated that floor work on this bill probably won’t happen until after the April break.
FIVE COUNTIES TO BE REPAID FOR FUEL TAX ERROR
More than $11 million dollars will be repaid to five Kansas counties that were shorted revenue generated from fuel taxes due to an accounting error. On Tuesday, the Senate approved a bill which outlines the reparation process.
Beginning this year, all 100 counties which had been overpaid will see correlating reductions in fuel tax payments until the five underpaid counties – Shawnee, Douglas, Leavenworth, Butler and Barton – are made whole.
The process will take an estimated five years. At the end of this time, all counties will have the correct funding they are entitled to.
The accounting error, which had been made by former State Treasurer Lynn Jenkins office and the Kansas Department of Revenue annually for more than a decade, was discovered in 2008.
I am pleased that the state was quick to respond to this egregious error and to find a fair resolution to an unfair problem.
BILL HELPS LOCAL BUSINESSES BY EXPANDING PEAK PROGRAM
Companies will have greater enticement to locate or expand in Kansas, due to a number of changes the Kansas Legislature made this week to the state’s PEAK program. PEAK – which stands for Promoting Employment Across Kansas – authorizes certain companies to qualify for a diversion of employee withholding taxes.
When the act was created during the 2009 legislative session, it required that a business to relocate to Kansas, even if its facilities had previously existed outside the state. To allow more businesses to participate, the House and Senate introduced a follow-up bill that would permit “expanding business units” to also qualify. A business headquartered in Nebraska, for instance, could qualify for PEAK if it had expanded into Kansas.
Additional language would require that those companies participating in PEAK must pay new employees an average annual wage that meets or is greater than the county’s median wage.
Any money raised by application fees would be diverted to Kansas, Inc., which helps promote new and existing industries such as aviation and agriculture. It also provides workforce training, rural development and education to a number of Kansas industries in an effort to build a strong, diversified state economy.
When this bill left the House of Representatives, it had a price tag of $96 million over the next five years. Faced by the worst economic crisis in generations, the Senate decided to pare the bill way down, drastically reducing the final cost associated with the program.
Because the House and Senate versions of the bill differ, a conference committee will be needed to come to a resolution that can be agreed to by both chambers. While I fully support this bill as an economic development tool, I will be carefully working with the appointed conference committee to make sure that we approve a bill that not only helps local businesses and employees, but a bill that the state can afford.
SENATE APPROVES JOURNALIST SHIELD LAW
The Senate on Tuesday approved a bill – House Bill 2585 – that will better protect journalists from being forced to reveal confidential sources or information in state court. These protections – called a shield law – are intended to provide journalists with an extra level of confidentiality when reporting a story, unless subpoenaed by a state judge.
In 1972, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that the press did not have a constitutional right of protection from reveling confidential information in court, although the court acknowledged that the government must have a substantial reason to force a journalist to reveal a source against his or her will.
Proponents of shield laws argue that they allow a sense of openness and protection to the reporting process. Opponents, however, argue that shield laws grant journalists privileges not given to other citizens.
I voted in favor of this bill. Shield laws not only help journalists remain independent, but protect confidential sources. Also, it’s important to remember that journalists always have the ability to opt-out of these protections.
LITTLE BLUEGRASS SELECTED AS STATE GRASS
A strain of native grass present in each of Kansas’ 105 counties has been named the state’s official grass by the Kansas House and Senate. House Bill 2649, which was approved by the Senate 38-2 and by the House 83-25, adds schizachyrium scoparium – better known as little blue grass – to the list of state symbols.
To learn more about our state symbols, visit the State Library of Kansas.
DOMESTIC VIOLENCE BILL PASSES SENATE
The Senate approved a bill this week that will help the justice system better track domestic violence cases.
HB 2517, which was introduced on behalf of Lawrence resident Jana Mackey who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend in 2008, will allow judges beginning on July 1, 2011, to determine whether crimes are linked to domestic violence and then tag them accordingly on legal documents connected to any criminal act involving an intimate or domestic relationship. A tag will allow for better tracking or repeat offenders. This is especially important with domestic violence cases, as most offenders repeat their crimes.
The bill will also allow judges to require the offender to participate in and pay for an offender assessment and appropriate treatment, such as therapy.
The Senate Judiciary Committee also amended the bill to state that domestic violence offenders may only enter a diversion agreement twice during any 5-year period.
I voted in favor of this bill which I believe will help sanction domestic violence before it escalates into another violent act.
SENATE UNANIMOUSLY APPROVES DIABETES RESOLUTION
On Tuesday, the Kansas Senate unanimously approved a Resolution declaring March 23rd as American Diabetes Association Alert Day and formally endorsing a plan developed by the Kansas Diabetes Action Council.
The Kansas Diabetes Action Council, which includes more than 40 Kansas entities, was created to reduce the negative clinical and economic impact on diabetic individuals and on the State of Kansas. According to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), more than 170,000 Kansans are currently living with diabetes. It is estimated that up to 113,000 more adult Kansans have undiagnosed diabetes.
Statistics indicate that diabetes affects 14 percent of adult Kansans ages 55-64 and nearly 20 percent of Kansans 65 years and older. More than 90 percent of those Kansans diagnosed with diabetes each year suffer from Type 2 diabetes, which can be controlled or delayed.
I was pleased to vote in favor of this resolution. Diabetes affects thousands of Kansas residents and their families. Unfortunately, the problem has become more prevalent as obesity increases and our elderly population grows. By designating a statewide Diabetes Alert Day, the legislature can raise awareness of this dangerous disease and promote education and management practices that will help ensure the well-being of all Kansans.
SEE TO LEARN PROGRAM OFFERS FREE EYE EXAMS TO CHILDREN
With March designated as Save Your Vision Month, the Kansas Optometric Association is working to increase the awareness of its SEE TO LEARN Program, which offers free vision assessments to three-year-old children, regardless of their parent’s income, insurance coverage or ability to pay.
SEE TO LEARN is an innovative, three-step preventive health program designed to ensure that kindergarten children entering school can see to learn, and educates parents and teachers about the warning signs of vision problems in all school-age children. To date, participating optometrists have donated more than $2 million in care through this program and have made a positive difference in the lives of thousands of children.
Although vision problems among the very young are generally uncommon, some serious conditions like amblyopia (lazy eye) and strabismus (turned eye), require care before age 5 to avoid permanent loss of vision.
If you need a referral for a vision assessment for your three-year-old or an examination for your kindergarten student, call the Eye Care Council at 1-800-960-EYES.
Some warning signs that your child may have vision problems:
- Frequent rubbing and blinking of the eyes
- Short attention span or frequent daydreaming
- Poor reading ability
- Avoiding close work
- Frequent headaches
- A drop in school or sports performance
- Covering one eye
- Tilting the head
- Squinting one or both eyes
- Placing head close to a book or desk when reading or writing
- Difficulty remembering, identifying and reproducing basic geometric forms
- Poor eye-hand coordination
UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE BILL SIGNED INTO LAW
Gov. Mark Parkinson this week signed legislation to protect Kansans’ unemployment benefits and ease the financial burden on businesses as the state works its way through the national recession.
“This legislation is critical to Kansans during these difficult economic times. Our Unemployment Trust Fund offers a lifeline to those who are struggling to find work and depend on benefits to provide for their families,” said Parkinson. “With this bill, businesses will receive the necessary relief in providing to the fund, while Kansans needing assistance will be able to maintain their benefits.”
HB 2676 will reduce contribution rates for employers in rate group 1 through 32 to the 2010 original tax rate computation table. Contributing employers in rate groups 33 through 51 remain at their current capped rate of 5.4 percent. In addition, HB 2676 gives employers 90 days past the due date to pay their contribution taxes without being charged interest.
MIDWEST INTERSTATE PASSENGER RAIL COMPACT ENACTED
To plan and prepare for future passenger rail service in Kansas, the Midwest Interstate Passenger Rail Compact was enacted on Wednesday, establishing the passenger rail service program in Kansas.
HB 2552 promotes improvements to passenger rail service and the development of plans for long-range high speed rail service in the Midwest. The legislation also coordinates interaction between Midwestern state elected officials and their designees on rail issues as well as the interests of public and private sector partners.
In conjunction, SB 409 authorizes the Secretary of Transportation to establish and implement a passenger rail service program. The Secretary would be authorized to enter into agreements with Amtrak, other rail operators, local jurisdictions, and other states. She would also be allowed to provide local jurisdictions assistance and encourage economic development as well as loans or grants to passenger rail service providers from a Passenger Rail Service Revolving Fund established by the bill.
SB 409 is also aimed at helping Kansas attract further funding for passenger rail from the federal government. The bill does not propose a revenue mechanism for funding the activities and leaves the initiation of the activities outlined in the bill to the Secretary.
A strong public infrastructure system helps attract businesses and jobs to our state, and a high speed rail service is another piece in furthering our economic recovery. These two bills will set the gears in motion for increased avenues of transportation in Kansas and the entire Midwest.
BILLS SIGNED INTO LAW THIS WEEK
Governor Parkinson signed a number of bills this week, bringing the total number of bills signed during the 2010 legislative session to 33.
Concerning state purchasing laws and regulations
HB 2433 extends a three-year pilot program exempting the University of Kansas and Fort Hays State University from state purchasing laws and regulations, including the Prison Made Goods Act. The bill also broadens the exemption to all Regents universities, the University Press and certain real estate leases. The program was set to sunset on June 30, 2010. HB 2433 also authorizes the Secretary of the Department of Corrections to sell prison-made goods to private residents and businesses of Kansas. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.
Concerning court procedure, time limitations for filing
HB 2364 will add “days on which the court is not accessible” to the list of days excluded from time limitations for filings and court procedures. Currently, time limitations exclude Saturdays, Sundays, and holidays when the court is not open for business. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Register.
Concerning motor vehicle liability coverage
HB 2492 will amend a provision in the Kansas Automobile Injury Reparations Act to require insurance companies to add the make and year of an insured vehicle to the list of information required to be included on insurance identification cards. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.
Designating the 1st Lieutenant Michael Hugh Breeding memorial bridge
HB 2436 would designate bridge no. 62 located on U.S. Highway 77 in Marshall County as the Michael Hugh Breeding Memorial Bridge. 1st Lieutenant Breeding’s plane was shot down near the Quang Tri Providence in Vietnam on February 12, 1970. His body was never recovered. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.
Designating SFC David R. Berry/SGT WillSun M. Mock memorial highway
HB 2555 would designate part of K-14 highway, U.S. Highway 160 and K-2 highway as the SFC David R. Berry/SGT WillSun M. Mock memorial highway. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.
Concerning corporations; relating to indemnification
SB 398 amends the Kansas Corporation Code to state that a right to indemnification or to advancement of expenses arising under the provisions of the certificate of incorporation or a bylaw would not be eliminated or changed after the act or omission of the individual requiring indemnification has occurred. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.
Concerning business trusts filings with the office of the Secretary of State
SB 438 will eliminate the requirement in current law that a domestic or foreign business trust must file a balance sheet with the Kansas Secretary of State’s office. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.
Concerning municipal bonds
SB 451 will change municipal bond law to allow municipalities the option of accepting the good faith deposit for a municipal bond in the form of cash. Current law allows the good faith deposit to be made only in the form of a certified or cashier’s check or surety bond. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.
Concerning contact lenses
SB 489 amends the Patient’s Contact Lens Prescription Release Act by allowing it to regulate the distribution of contact lenses not only through the United States Postal Service, but also through commercial couriers, overnight couriers or other delivery services. The Kansas State Board of Healing Arts testified that the bill would allow the Board to carry out the original legislative intent and purpose of the law. Distributors of contact lenses are required to register with Board of Healing Arts. Currently, the Board registers six distributors in the state. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.
Concerning rural water districts and annexation
HB 2283 enacts new law that requires a city to give written notice to a rural water district not less than 60 days before the effective date of a proposed annexation of land served by the district into the city. If the city designates a different supplier of for the annexed area, the city would be required to purchase the property, facilities, improvements, and going concern value of the district located in the annexed territory. HB 2283 also outlines the method in which the city and rural water district is to engage in mediation. In addition, the bill outlines the additional factors that must be determined by a rural water districts governing body when determining whether or not lands should be released. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.
Concerning employment of persons by care services providers
HB 2323 amends current law concerning background checks of job applicants for adult care homes or home health agencies. The bill would add conviction of felony theft to the list of convictions the prohibit individuals from employment by adult care homes and home health agencies. In addition, the bill would allow employers to submit criminal record checks requests for licensed staff and volunteers through the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, but would not require them to do so. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.
Concerning military installations and adjacent areas
HB 2445 promotes communication and collaboration between military installations and municipalities that are adjacent to military installations. The bill requires each adjacent municipality and commander of a military installation to meet at least once a year. The bill also requires military installations to notify and coordinate with municipalities regarding any development, project, or change that alters or amends a Joint Land Use Study area, Army Compatible Use Buffer, Air Installation Compatible Use Zone, or Environmental Noise Management Plan. Municipalities would be required to notify the applicable commander of any adoption or change to a comprehensive planning document that affects any agree-upon area. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.
HB 2456 makes a technical change to probate law, clarifying that it is the “known” estate subject to probate that is of concern. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.
Concerning optometry, relating to ophthalmic lenses
HB 2584 allows ophthalmic lenses with medication to be dispensed by optometrists over any period of time required. Under current law, optometrists can dispense no more than a 24-hour supply of medication in lenses at a time. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.
Relating to banks and banking
HB 2609 amends the Kansas Banking Code to allow state-chartered banks to purchase and hold life insurance policies for limited purposes, such as employee compensation, within set limitations. Banks would be allowed to purchase insurance for the same reasons and to the same extent as national banks. The bill codifies authority Kansas banks currently have under a Special Order issued by the Bank Commissioner in 2005. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.
Concerning registered nurse anesthetists
HB 2619 amends current law regarding the scope of practice allowed for registered nurse anesthetists. Under the direction of a physician or dentist, RNA’s would be allowed to order or administer medication and anesthetic agents necessary to implement anesthesia plans of care. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.
Concerning the Kansas Judicial Review Act
SB 376 changes all references in the statutes from the Act for Judicial Review and Civil Enforcement of Agency Actions to the Kansas Judicial Review Act. This is a technical clean up of SB 87, passed in 2009, that enacted, among other things, the name change. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.
Concerning the Laboratory Fee Fund
SB 396 establishes the Laboratory Equipment Fund within the Department of Agriculture. The fund would be used for the acquisition, maintenance, and replacement of equipment used in the Agriculture Laboratory and Metrology Laboratory. Up to 10 percent of carry-over funds from various Department of Agriculture Fee Funds would be transferred to establish the fund up to $500,000. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.
Relating to registration of insignias
SB 440 would repeal the statutes regarding the registration of insignias (a symbol or emblem) with the Secretary of State. According to the Secretary of State’s office, the law is seldom used, and an insignia could be filed as a service mark or trademark under current law. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.
Concerning county bonded debt limits
SB 463 adds Norton County to the list of counties authorized to have a bonded indebtedness limit of 30 percent of the assessed value of all tangible taxable property. Current law limits indebtedness to 3 percent, except for Franklin and Wyandotte counties, for which the limit is 30 percent. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.
Concerning payment of property taxes
SB 464 clarifies the “second half” property tax payment deadline date in three statutes to conform with legislation passed in a previous year. The legislation returns the payment date to May 10 from June 20. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.
Concerning discount cards, filing requirements
SB 508 requires any healthcare card supplier who sells discount cards in Kansas to file an annual notice with the Secretary of State of intention to sell the discount card and submit the surety bond required by law to the Secretary of State. The legislation also requires suppliers to obtain approval of the surety bond by the Attorney General and file a copy of the bond and proof of renewal with the Secretary of State with the annual notice. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.
State Sen. Kelly Kultala represents the 5th District, which includes parts of Wyandotte and Leavenworth counties.