We Can No Longer Be Timid
We are now just a month from the conclusion of the regular part of the session, and last week we passed a number of bills. You can see the list of bills, and my votes, in the “Vote Tracker” at then end of this newsletter.
I want to take a brief respite from a traditional legislative update, in light of what is going on in our country right now. There is so much at stake, both in the halls of government, and also in our culture, and I know the trend-line is worrying many of you.
I want offer a bit of encouragement and also emphasize how important it is that we continue to stand strong in defense of our core values and the very principles that made our country the shining city on a hill that Reagan once described.
We can no longer be timid.
In a world of media and politics – and I have now been part of both – there is much attention given to sensationalism and who wins and who loses. Of course, everything is a crisis. It’s what local television uses to grab viewership, and it is what politicians use to advance their agenda. You’ve heard the old slogan, “Don’t let a good crisis go to waste.”
Unfortunately, once the “crisis” passes and the mainstream media turns their attention to the next scandal, precious little attention is given to the wrecking ball that caused our core institutions to crumble even further. While the blue-checks on Twitter focus on the rise and fall of politicians who we should have never entrusted with so much power in the first place, there is too little talk about the devastating impact of the policies imposed by those same politicians.
This is why we cannot be timid. Those who would seek to undermine our principles and eviscerate our values never take a day off. They’ll take as much as they possibly can get. If you don’t believe me, look no further than the actions of the Democrats in Congress in the passage of the $1.9 trillion stimulus bill and H.R. 1, which is a progressive dream in terms of undermining our elections. The narrow margins in Congress did not matter – they acted anyway.
We have also seen this play out in our culture. The list of “cancellations” is shocking – they’ve moved on from the names of sports teams to cherished figures like Dr. Seuss to historical heroes like Winston Churchill to “digitally burning” books on Amazon. We are now facing a society that is too akin to "1984' or "Fahrenheit 451" for my taste.
Now, you might be asking – how does this apply to the Kansas Legislature?
It applies because the issues we are debating in Topeka are just smaller skirmishes in the larger battle going on in our country.
Newer arrivals (I’m in my second session) to the legislature are often given the advice to “lay low” or not “rock the boat.” The way I see it is that there are plenty of politicians who would do just that – but that’s not who I am, nor do I think that’s what the people elected me to do. They elected me to be measured and thoughtful in everything we do, and they also elected me to stand up when our very principles are up for debate – and make no mistake, they are.
That has been my approach and will continue to be.
No matter the subject matter, I will study the issue, learn the facts, and then cast my votes in the way I believe is right by you, the people who elected me.
I am pushing for our state to fully re-open and to start treating Kansans like adults. Adults who know best how to operate their business and when and if they should wear a mask. I am advocating for a common-sense approach to energy policy that takes on the Green New Deal and does not saddle our state with the consequences of poor decisions, as we saw during the recent cold spell. I'm for reforming our election process to ensure integrity throughout the process so people can have trust in the results.
The good news, even in the face of news that angers us, is there is much reason for optimism. States around the country are finally opening and removing restrictions at various speeds. Legislatures around the country are fighting for the unborn, for women’s sports, and for election integrity. More attention is being given to the repercussions of wind energy, both on our power grid as well as to our environment and our economy.
And while cancel culture will take a while to defeat, there is considerable push back against it that we must continue to support.
Most of all, I have been heartened to see all the comments and support from so many, both on my own social media feeds and in the broader populace, from people inspired to get involved and push back.
It is you we are fighting for, after all!
With that in mind, here is your “non-timid” recap from last week!
Kansas Department of Labor
My office continues to spend a lot of time trying to help out constituents who are struggling with the Kansas Department of Labor (KDOL). We are still receiving numerous emails and phone calls daily from folks who are reaching their breaking points because they cannot get through to KDOL on the phone, even after hundreds of attempts. Add to that, massive fraud to the tune of $600 million, and the KDOL has allowed their computer system to become obsolete. There’s just no way for people to reach someone or go online to solve their claim issues.
After losing their jobs as a result of the shutdown, many people have been hanging on by a thread with the help of unemployment benefits. They have told us they’ve reached the point of foreclosure on their homes, having cars repossessed, and can’t afford gas money to get to their doctor appointments. Let alone the psychological issues of sitting on the phone all day trying to get help, and never reaching someone. For weeks, we've hounded KDOL constantly with each person’s situation, with limited success.
I’ve also spoken on the radio and contacted TV media to spotlight this issue. Recently, I requested they send claim representatives to Shawnee, with my staff and I arranging the facility and handling the setup for what they would need to meet with those folks who are in need. While there were concerns expressed with that approach, the department is now engaging with my office and I am hopeful that the cases will be handled. I believe they should have been much more creative long before this point to meet the backlog of demands.
This whole situation teaches us a fundamental lesson. When government flexes its heavy hand, shuts down an economy, places enormous restrictions on the population, and puts tens of thousands out of work, people then become dependent on government for their survival.
When that same government has a massive breakdown in competence and efficiency, the people are then left without basic needs. This is the situation Governor Kelly has put us in, and she should not be given a pass on this massive failure.
We’ve literally come to the point where we are ecstatic when one of my constituents actually gets a few of their claims paid. And that is wrong, and brings to mind this quote from Thomas Sowell:.
"The welfare state is the oldest con game in the world. First you take people's money away quietly, then you give some of it back flambouyantly.” Thomas Sowell
My office staff and I will continue to fight for the people who are in this situation.
Kansas Emergency Management Act
We are working on legislation to address both the immediate issue of the COVID-19 situation and the powers the governor has used, but also to reform our laws in case another similar health situation hits us again.
The week before last, we adopted Sub for SB 273 by a vote of 27-12, a veto proof majority. The House followed up with the passage of its own bill, which passed 81-40. There are different approaches between both bills and a conference committee is currently working through the differences on a common Republican solution that we can pass this week.
Due to the fact Judiciary Vice Chair Rick Wilborn was gone this week, I was honored to have been temporarily appointed to that conference committee. I emphasized the importance of ensuring the bill contains the provisions that we need while also keeping in mind we need to obtain the supermajority necessary that would be required in the likely event the governor vetoes the bill.
Here are a few points conservatives are focused on:
No More Statewide Mandates. When the current emergency extension expires on March 31st, that is when all of the statewide mandates related to COVID-19 should end, including the mask mandate.
Checks and Balances. While everyone agrees a governor should have power to rearrange resources and use temporary, targeted measures to deal with a crisis, there is much disagreement about the type of long-term restrictions a governor should be able to impose. Furthermore, it is essential that any decision a governor makes be subject to our system of checks and balances, particularly the people’s representatives at the legislature.
The Buck Stops with Elected Officials. While most agree local health officials have a role to play in terms of issuing recommendations, there is considerable angst about the level of power unelected health officials wielded prior to the passage of HB 2016 last June. For instance, you might recall early last May when the state opened restaurants, our local Johnson County health director unliterally decided to keep Johnson County closed another week. In my mind, that should not be allowed to happen again.
Due Process Rights. It is very important the people of Kansas be given due process rights to challenge any order which they feel is unreasonable, and that those due process rights should be able to be exercised immediately. It only takes a couple of weeks of a business being totally shut down to cause it to go bankrupt – so it’s vital that any aggrieved individual have a hearing, first with the governing body issuing the order and then with the district court.
Preserve Constitutional Freedoms. No unit of government should be able to restrict constitutional freedoms, such as freedom to worship and the right to bear arms.
Local Control of Schools. Neither the governor nor the state school board should have the power to close all schools in the state of Kansas.
I am confident the bill the conference committee produces will reflect these principles. With March 31st fast approaching, this week is critical in terms of getting a bill to the governor. While we certainly hope she would let a bill become law, we must have time to override her veto.
Please stay tuned to my Facebook page for more frequent updates.
What about Local Mandates?
Last summer and fall, while I was campaigning, I heard from countless Kansans that want our state to fully open – without restrictions – and wanted to ensure that the heavy-handed government response would never happen again. Just in the last two weeks, I have had conversations with small business owners and regular individuals alike, all struggling in some way due to the remaining restrictions in place, particularly on masks.
The fact is that any time you place a restriction on the ability of society to fully function, even if it seems like a light touch, businesses suffer. Take a gas station, for instance. Sure, the opened-up economy results in more people buying gas, but the mask mandate may lead more people to not go inside and buy a drink or a snack. Or, for instance, take a clothing store whose brand of attire is more attune to people “browsing” in person than online. The imposition of a mask mandate may result in people not shopping, even if the business is open.
We are working towards getting rid of the statewide mask mandate by the end of the month, as I noted. However, remember that even since last June, counties have been able to opt out of the mask mandate, and many chose to do so – such as Leavenworth County. However, cities within those counties opted to impose a mask mandate, in spite of the county's decision..
We have seen this play out in a number of other states, as well, where statewide mandates (like on masks) never existed or have been repealed. Texas banned local communities from imposing mask mandates but is currently in a battle with the City of Austin. Missouri never had a statewide mandate, but most big cities and counties do, including Kansas City. Many local communities still have capacity limits at restaurants or restrict food at convenience stores.
While repealing the statewide mandate is a great step, many have expressed frustration about the prevalence of these local mandates and have asked what can be done to repeal them. First of all, I would encourage you to contact your county commissioner and city council member to ask them to repeal the local mandates if they have them, and not impose them if they do not.
In the meantime, I am working on a possible solution to address this issue. It has to be navigated carefully, but my goal is to ensure that a local business who does not want to impose a mandate does not have to do so.
In January, one of the first acts of the new Senate was to address property tax reform, a key demand of Kansans around the state. In our very first week, the Senate passed SB 13 by an overwhelming vote. The bill requires local governments to practice “Truth in Taxation” when they desire to use revenues from higher property valuations to increase taxes. The House offered amendments to the bill which we voted on this week.
Here are the highlights of the bill:
Transparency. The bill would establish new notification and public hearing requirements for taxing subdivisions seeking to increase property taxes above those provided for by their “revenue-neutral rate.” A taxing subdivision would be prohibited from levying taxes exceeding its revenue-neutral rate without first approving a resolution or ordinance in accordance with the procedure provided by the bill. It requires county clerks to notify the public about the intent to exceed the “revenue-neutral rate” via publishing such notification on their website as well as via a mailing to each taxpayer impacted. The public hearing would have to be held by September 10th. The governing body of the taxing district would have to vote to exceed the revenue neutral rate by a majority vote. Those entities not complying would be required to refund the property taxes.
Regular Maintenance of Property. The bill would prohibit an increase in the appraised value of real property solely as a result of normal repair, replacement, or maintenance of existing structures, equipment, or other improvements on the property.
Payment Plans. The bill would authorize county treasurers to accept partial payments and establish payment plans for all property taxes. Current law allows treasurers to accept partial payments for delinquent property taxes.
Finally, it eliminates the property tax lid, which currently requires a public vote for certain property tax increases by cities and counties. The process of navigating the property tax lid could be cumbersome and often resulted in no practical benefit to the taxpayer. The process included within SB 13 greatly enhances the ability of Kansas taxpayers to understand what their local government is doing and then object. By requiring local officials to vote to exceed a revenue neutral rate, taxpayers can hold local officials accountable.
The House amended the bill to include all local taxing jurisdictions in the state, including school districts. On Thursday, the Senate accepted those amendments in a vote of 30-5. I voted Yes.
The bill now heads directly to the governor. Last year, she vetoed a similar bill, so we will see what she does with SB 13.
Senate Rejects Marx Nomination
Part of not being timid means rejecting nominations by the governor which are flawed.
On Thursday, Senate Republicans sent a strong message that they will not tolerate legislating tax policy from the bench of the Board of Tax Appeals. In a strong 27-12 vote, the Senate rejected Robin Marx, one of the governor’s two choices to the Board of Tax Appeals. They confirmed the other appointment of Virginia Powell.
The Marx nomination was rejected due to several serious concerns raised by senators that the nominee would attempt to legislate from the bench, by ruling on tax appeals in a manner that would have the practical effect of shifting policy as it pertains to property valuations. The Board of Tax Appeals needs to issue rulings based on public policy that has been adopted, and not try to alter it themselves.
I voted No on Marx and Yes on Powell.
Below is a list of bills we voted in the last two weeks:
SB 20 designates a portion of United States highway 69 as the Senator Dennis Wilson Memorial Highway.
SB 20 passed 39-0. I voted Yes.
SB 26 designates a portion of K-7 as the Senator Bud Burke Memorial Highway.
SB 26 passed 39-0. I voted Yes.
SB 89 would amend law on securing loads on vehicles to create an exemption for trucks, trailers, or semitrailers when hauling agricultural forage commodities intrastate from the place of production to a market or place of storage. The bill would state this exemption would not apply to trucks, trailers, or semitrailers hauling hay bales or other packaged or bundled forage commodities.
SB 89 passed 39-0. I voted Yes.
Sub for HB 2049 prohibits a public agency that is the subject of an audit pursuant to the statute or any other law from charging a fee for copies of or access to certain records requested by the legislative division of post audit.
Sub for HB 2049 passed 39-0.I voted Yes.
SB 19 designates a portion of United States highway 77 as the CPL Allen E Oatney and SP4 Gene A Myers memorial highway.
SB 19 passed 39-0. I voted Yes.
SB 51 would direct the State Department of Education (KSDE) and the Department for Children and Families (DCF) to collaboratively prepare the Kansas Foster Care Children Annual Academic Report Card. The Report Card would be produced annually and contain information from the previous year for students in foster care, such as graduation rates, test scores, grade level promotions, academic progress, and other data.
SB 51 passed 39-0. I voted Yes.
SB 62 would amend state standards for free school-administered vision screenings to add new definitions and amend others; modify the frequency of the vision screenings to specify the grade levels and specific circumstances under which the screenings would occur; provide for vision screenings for students in accredited nonpublic schools; require screenings be performed by a vision screener who would follow the most recent state vision screening guidelines; and require vision screening results and any necessary referral for an examination by an ophthalmologist or optometrist be reported to the parents or guardians of the student. The bill would also establish an eight-member Kansas Children’s Vision Health and School Readiness Commission.
SB 62 passed 35-4. I voted Yes.
SB 83 would amend provisions in the statute governing the State Child Death Review Board regarding confidentiality of information acquired by and records of the Board.
SB 83 passed 39-0. I voted Yes.
SB 86 conforms certain KPERS provisions with the federal CARES act.
SB 86 passed 39-0. I voted Yes.
SB 106 would enact the Revised Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (RULONA) and repeal the Uniform Law on Notarial Acts (ULONA), as well as other current laws regarding notaries.
SB 106 passed 39-0. I voted Yes.
SB 120 would establish the Joint Committee on Child Welfare System Oversight. The bill would outline the topics for Joint Committee review, provide for the appointment and compensation of Joint Committee members, establish the frequency of meetings, require an annual report to designated House and Senate leadership positions and certain standing committees, allow for professional services, and authorize the Joint Committee to make recommendations and introduce legislation.
SB 120 passed 37-2. I voted Yes.
SB 126 would amend the Club and Drinking Establishment Act by authorizing the sale of alcoholic liquor by specific organizations, such as American Legion locations, for special events.
SB 126 passed 36-1. I voted Yes.
SB 142 would require an operator of any vessel to require every person on such vessel age 12 or younger to wear a U.S. Coast Guard-approved personal flotation device while aboard or being towed by such a vessel unless such person is below decks or in an enclosed cabin.
SB 142 passed 36-3. I voted Yes.
SB 143 would update and rearrange definitions regarding grain and grain warehouses, clarify when applications for license should be made, remove a reference regarding an independent public accountant, clarify the fee for a functional unit license, increase the maximum fee caps for storage fees, increase the allowable examination period for grain warehouses, and make technical changes.
SB 143 passed 30-9. I voted No, as I did not like the increase in fees.
SB 159 pays certain claims against the state submitted by the joint committee on special claims against the state.
SB 159 passed 39-0. I voted Yes.
SB 160 updates the valuation process for illegally commercialized fish and mussels and update the reference to the American Fisheries Society guidelines to the most recent special publication.
SB 160 passed 38-1.I voted Yes.
SB 175 would enact the Rural Emergency Hospital Act and create a category of licensure to enable certain Kansas hospitals to receive federal health care reimbursement as Rural Emergency Hospitals.
SB 175 passed 39-0. I voted Yes.
SB 261 would establish the Asbestos Remediation Fund. The bill would also require the Secretary of Health and Environment to remit all moneys received from several sources to the State Treasurer.
SB 261 passed 38-1. I voted Yes.
HB 2022 would amend law concerning the filing of complaints and investigations pertaining to abandoned wells, responsible parties for plugging abandoned wells, and funds used by the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) for plugging abandoned wells.
HB 2022 passed 39-0. I voted Yes.
SB 23 provides for abatement of property tax for certain buildings or improvements destroyed or substantially destroyed by natural disaster.
SB 23 passed 38-1. I voted Yes.
SB 63 would amend law regarding the providing of ACT college entrance exams and Workkeys assessments to school students.
SB 63 passed 39-0. I voted Yes.
SB 71 would authorize, for tax years 2021 to 2025, nonrefundable income or financial institutions privilege tax credits equivalent to 50.0 percent of certain contributions to the Eisenhower Foundation. Credits would be capped at $25,000 for any individual income taxpayer and at $50,000 for any corporation income or privilege taxpayer. The total amount of credits claimed in any fiscal year would be limited to $350,000. The bill is intended to support the efforts of the Eisenhower Foundation to improve the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum.
SB 71 passed 39-0. I voted Yes.
SB 72 is a bill that aids in the protection of taxpayers across the state. The bill would require any continuing education courses required of appraisers for retaining their status on the list of eligible appraisers that are not offered by the Property Valuation Division, Department of Revenue, to be courses approved by the Kansas Real Estate Appraisal Board. On and after July 1, 2022, the bill would require courses necessary to qualify for a registered mass appraiser designation and subsequent continuing education courses to be approved by the Kansas Real Estate Appraisal Board. The bill would require mandatory courses for members of the State Board of Tax Appeals that are not otherwise state-certified general real property appraisers to be approved by the Kansas Real Estate Appraisal Board. In the Senate Committee hearing, proponent testimony was provided by representatives of the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and the Kansas Policy Institute, who stated the bill’s provisions would ensure Kansas appraisal training and qualifications are in accord with Kansas law.
SB 72 passed the Senate 28-11, with all 11 Democrats voting against this additional protection for taxpayers in Kansas. I voted Yes.
SB 78 would amend several provisions in the Insurance Code pertaining to service contracts, surplus lines insurance, the Standard Nonforfeiture Law for Individual Deferred Annuities (Standard Nonforfeiture Law), the Utilization Review Organization Act and oversight of utilization review organizations, and risk retention groups. The bill would also amend a requirement in the Professional Employer Organization (PEO) Registration Act pertaining to registration of PEOs. The bill also would repeal the Automobile Club Services Act and a statute relating to the power of the Commissioner of Insurance to examine and investigate into the affairs of persons engaged in the business of insurance to determine whether any unfair method of competition or unfair or deceptive act or practice has occurred.
SB 78 passed 39-0. I voted Yes.
Sub for SB 84 is the Senate version of an effort to approve and allow sports wagering in the state of Kansas. Under the bill, sports wagering would be operated through the state-owned casinos as part of the Expanded Lottery Act, adopted in 2007. Sports wagering would be allowed at sports books established at the facilities themselves as well as on mobile platforms such as DraftKings and FanDuel, which currently operate sports wagering platforms in other states. The state would retain 5.5% of sports wagers placed in person and 8.0% of wagers placed via a digital mechanism. One would have to be 21 to place a bet. The bill contains several provisions to fund programs to help those who are addicted to gambling. Several Republicans expressed concern about expanding gambling in the state and the impact on families and livelihoods.
Sub for SB 84 passed 26-12. I voted No. While I am open to sports wagering in Kansas, this was not the way to go about it for a host of reasons. First of all, it furthers the mistake made 14 years ago when the state passed the Expanded Lottery Act and created state-owned casinos. Secondly, by running sports gaming through just those casinos, it results in the state picking between winners and losers.
SB 90 creates economic incentives in rural communities by allowing vertical renovations of certain buildings for residential purposes to be a permitted use of bond proceeds and amend definitions under the Kansas Rural Housing Incentive District Act. The bill would provide that, within a Rural Housing Incentive District (RHID), proceeds from the special obligation bonds may be used for the renovation of buildings that are located in central business districts and exceed 25 years of age as certified by the Secretary of Commerce.
SB 90 passed 33-6. I voted Yes.
SB 91 would allow a company to transfer up to 50 percent of the tax credits received from the High Performance Incentive Program (HPIP) to another company or individual per year. Transferability would be allowed only for projects placed into service on or after January 1, 2021. In the event a transferee’s tax liability is less than the amount transferred, the transferee would be allowed to carry forward the credits for up to 16 years. Proponents generally stated HPIP is an effective program and transferability of tax credits is necessary to compete with other states with similar transferability provisions.
SB 91 passed 34-5. I voted Yes.
SB 98 is another bill to protect taxpayers. With regard to any Board of Tax Appeals decision or opinion properly submitted to the district court relating to the determination of valuation of residential or commercial and industrial real property or the classification of property for assessment purposes, county appraisers would have the duty to initiate the production of evidence to demonstrate by a preponderance of evidence the validity and correctness of such determination.
SB 98 passed 38-1. I voted Yes.
SB 101 would amend the definition of and regulate the operations of electric-assisted bicycles (e-bikes). The bill is part of a national effort to create uniform state laws on the use of e-bikes, the fastest growing segment of the bicycle market, and similar provisions have been enacted by 28 states and are pending in 16. They stated having three classes of e-bikes would help make clear where e-bikes with certain characteristics may be ridden or are prohibited.
SB 101 passed 36-3. I voted No, as I did not like the state mandate associated with the bill.
SB 102 requires earlier notice of anticipated release from custody of a person who may be a sexually violent predator to the attorney general and a multidisciplinary team and specifying where such person will be detained during civil commitment proceedings.
SB 102 passed 39-0. I voted Yes.
SB 104 was a very simple yet very important bill, designed to ensure runaway foster children and other children at risk are returned to a safe and secure facility. A secure facility, as specifically defined, is not jail. Our most at-risk youth deserve the proper supervision and services that come with being placed in a secure environment. Not doing so would be turning our back on our responsibility to care for these most vulnerable youth, many of whom have runaway multiple times. This bill gives the state of Kansas another tool to ensure the safety of these children.
SB 104 passed 28-9. I voted Yes.
SB 116 authorize the Secretary of Transportation to let to construction any modernization or expansion project under the Eisenhower Program that would utilize federal stimulus funds regardless of whether at least one phase of each of the remaining Transportation Works for Kansas Program (T-Works) modernization and expansion projects has been let.
SB 116 passed 39-0. I voted Yes.
SB 119 amends several provisions regarding the appraisal process in Kansas, including:
- The bill would prohibit BOTA or a county appraiser from increasing the appraised valuation of property as a result of an appeal of the valuation of the property or an informal meeting concerning the property in question.
- The bill would change the time in which aggrieved parties may request a full and complete opinion from BOTA from 14 days following the receipt of a summary decision from BOTA to 21 days following service of a summary decision from BOTA. Service would be defined according to KAPA.
- The bill would remove the authority of the Director to adopt rules and regulations concerning appropriate standards for the performance of appraisals for property taxation.
- The bill would require appraisals to be performed in compliance with the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP). The Director would be permitted to require compliance with additional standards only to the extent these standards do not conflict with USPAP.
- The bill would stipulate that the Department of Revenue’s Director of Property Valuation (Director) provide notice to certain persons and provide an opportunity for a hearing under the Kansas Administrative Procedure Act (KAPA) prior to removing their names from the eligibility list for the office of county appraiser for certain acts or omissions.
SB 119 passed 38-1. I voted Yes.
SB 122 would amend various sections within the Kansas Rules of Evidence (Rules) related to the authentication of records and documents.
SB 122 passed 38-1. I voted Yes.
SB 124 would supplement, amend, and reauthorize the Sales Tax and Revenue (STAR) Bonds program. The bill would add rural redevelopment projects to the program for areas outside a metropolitan statistical area. Rural redevelopment projects would have a capital investment floor of $3.0 million and allow for vertical building and rehabilitation. Rural redevelopment projects would not be required to issue General Obligation Bonds but could finance projects from sales tax revenues annually up to $10.0 million. Among other provisions, the bill:
- Would require both a net return on investment analysis and a summary of community involvement, participation, and support for the project be included in the proposal.
- Would require the economic impact portion of a feasibility study for a STAR bond project to include the anticipated effects of the project on the regional and statewide economies.
- A city or county wishing to propose a project would be required to first have a feasibility study conducted by one or more consultants. The bill would require these consultants to be selected and approved by the Secretary of Commerce, and the costs paid by the developer, city, or county in question. The bill would also give the Secretary control and oversight over the scope of the project. The Secretary would also be allowed to establish a list of preapproved consultants and preapproved study parameters and methods. The “visitation expectations” element of the proposal would be required to contain a plan detailing how the project’s number of visitors would be tracked and reported to the Secretary on a yearly basis.
The proponents generally stated the program has led to significant projects and development, and the changes contained in the bill would make the program more viable in rural areas and a better tool overall. The opponents generally stated the program leads to an unfair advantage for businesses receiving the incentives. They also stated the bill would expand the program into areas that do not directly generate sales tax revenue, such as offices, medical facilities, and rural projects.
The bill was debated over a several-hour period in which a number of amendments were considered.
Ultimately, SB 124 passed 24-11. I voted No. STAR Bonds have had questionable success and are a form of corporate welfare that needs to be reined in.
SB 127 would amend laws related to driver’s licenses. The bill would add a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to the driver’s licenses that could be renewed online, except if the CDL has a hazardous materials endorsement. The bill would extend the maximum age for online application for renewal of a driver’s license from less than age 50 to less than age 65.
SB 127 passed 39-0. I voted Yes.
SB 131 authorize funeral escorts to reasonably direct vehicle and pedestrian traffic to allow funeral processions to pass through intersections and disregard traffic control devices, notwithstanding any state law, city ordinance, or county resolution relating to traffic control devices or right-of-way provisions.
SB 131 passed 39-0. I voted Yes.
SB 147 would provide a sales tax exemption for purchases made by nonprofit integrated community care organizations.
SB 147 passed 39-0. I voted Yes.
SB 167 would expand the definition of “authorized emergency vehicle” in the Uniform Act Regulating Traffic on Highways to include a vehicle operated by an authorized person for an electric or natural gas public utility; a local exchange or telecommunications carrier or video service provider; or a provider of telecommunications or wireless services.
SB 167 passed 39-0. I voted Yes.
SB 170 would remove the sunset date for the Advisory Committee on Trauma (ACT) of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and regional trauma councils regarding the ability to conduct closed session meetings when reviewing trauma cases and any records or findings that are privileged.
SB 170 passed 39-0. I voted Yes.
SB 178 would amend provisions governing organization and supervision in the Kansas Banking Code to permit a national bank, federal savings association, or federal savings bank to convert to a state trust company. The bill would also permit a trust company to convert its charter to one of the above-named financial institutions.
SB 178 passed 39-0. I voted Yes.
SB 185 would authorize the Kansas Commission for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing to adopt rules and regulations, establish a sign language interpreter registration process, and provide guidelines for communication access services. Among the provisions:
- The bill would require any person seeking to interpret in the state to be registered with the Commission by submitting an application, as prescribed by the Commission, and paying the registration fee.
- The bill would require all registered interpreters to attend a minimum of 30 hours of continuing education programing within a 2-year period as a condition for registration renewal.
- The bill would authorize the Commission to require applicants for registration as interpreters to be fingerprinted and submit to both state and federal criminal history record checks.
- The bill would require the Commission to develop guidelines for the utilization of communication access services, communication access service providers, and interpreter service agencies.
SB 185 passed 24-15. I voted No. While well intentioned, this bill grows government by creating a new licensing and registration program for interpreters that is not necessary and burdensome. I will note a majority of Republicans voted No.
Sub for SB 238 would establish certification and funding processes for certified community behavioral health clinics (CCBHCs) and prescribe the powers, duties, and functions of the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) with regard to CCBHCs. The bill would also authorize a licensed out-of-state physician with a telemedicine waiver issued by the State Board of Healing Arts to practice telemedicine in Kansas. The bill would also amend the disciplinary authority of the Behavioral Sciences Regulatory Board (BSRB) and modify licensure and temporary permit requirements of professional counselors, social workers, marriage and family therapists, addiction counselors, psychologists, and master’s level psychologists.
SB 238 passed 38-1. I voted Yes.
SB 283 would amend law regarding the governmental response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Kansas. Included in the bill:
- In the statute authorizing the use of telemedicine, the bill would amend a provision allowing an out-of-state physician to practice telemedicine to treat Kansas patients, to replace a requirement that such physician notify the State Board of Healing Arts and meet certain conditions with a requirement that the physician hold a temporary emergency license granted by the Board. The expiration date of this section also would be extended for one year, from March 31, 2021, until March 31, 2022.
- The bill would amend the COVID-19 Response and Reopening for Business Liability Protection Act to extend the expiration date of the statute governing COVID-19 claim immunity for persons or agents of persons conducting business in the state by one year, until March 31, 2022.
- The bill would amend a statute regarding immunity for health care providers related to COVID-19 to add an expiration date of March 31, 2022.
- The bill would amend a provision regarding critical access hospital bed limits to extend its expiration from June 30, 2021, until March 31, 2022.
SB 283 passed 31-8. I voted Yes.
We anticipate being on the floor of the Senate this upcoming week quite a bit, as we begin to process House bills. We also anticipate voting on the Kansas Emergency Management Act reforms this week, as well.
In just four weeks, we reach first adjournment, so it is going to proceed very quickly.
I encourage you to follow the process in the following ways:
PAID FOR BY MIKE THOMPSON FOR KANSAS, SHEILA WODTKE, TREASURER