This Week in Topeka
February 21-25, 2022
Business, Economic Development & Local Government News from the Legislative Session
After a few last-minute committee meetings on Monday, the House and Senate spent Tuesday and Wednesday focused on floor action. They churned through multiple, mostly non-controversial pieces of legislation that had previously been vetted by their respective committees. This week’s action was focused on meeting the “turn around” deadline that was set for the latter part of this week. Turn around, or more properly the House of Origin deadline, is a procedural deadline in which bills need to be passed out of their house of origin to remain alive for further consideration. There are exceptions to this procedural deadline and no idea is truly dead until the final gavel falls later in the session.
The House adjourned early Wednesday afternoon and the Senate followed suit a little later in the day. Both bodies will return to action next Tuesday. The focus will return to committee action as each chamber now gets to look at what the other chamber did during the first half of the session. There will also be an increased emphasis on finalizing a budget now that committees and sub-committees have had their shot at crafting their budget recommendations.
Here is an update of a few bills of note that saw action this week…
Rules and Regulations
The House passed HCR 5014 on an 85-39 after the measure failed to pass earlier in the week on an 80-33 vote. The resolution would grant the legislature the power to override rules and regulations adopted by executive branch agencies. The Senate will now have a chance to secure the 27 votes needed to send the question to November’s ballot where voters will then have the final say on granting the new oversight powers.
Election of Sheriff
Another constitutional amendment is halfway to appearing on November’s ballot. The House passed HCR 5022 this week on a 97-24 vote. The resolution would enshrine in the State Constitution that the position of county sheriff be an elected position with each term lasting four years.
Last year the idea of having the sheriff in Johnson County appointed rather than elected touched off a firestorm when the idea was floated by a County Commissioner as a possible discussion point for the Johnson County Charter Commission. The Charter Commission did not consider that change and only discussed a proposal to make the race a non-partisan race. In the end, the Commission received a legal opinion suggesting that a non-partisan election could conflict with existing Kansas statute so ultimately recommended no changes to the sheriff’s office or any other aspect of the county’s charter.
The House on Tuesday adopted HCR 5030, a concurrent resolution recognizing the growing problem of antisemitism in the United States. According to the provisions of the resolution Kansas would subsequently adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance IHRA) working definition of Antisemitism. The resolution received unanimous support in the House and will now have to be considered by the Senate before becoming official.
The Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee advanced two bills to the full Senate for further consideration. SB 519 would increase the standard deduction for single taxpayers from the current $3,500 to $4,375 and increase the deduction for married filers from $8,000 to $10,000. The fiscal note on the bill is pegged at just over $23 million for FY 23 and more than $78 million in future tax years.
SB 520 would create an individual income tax credit for public or private school teachers equivalent to what they spend out-of-pocket on classroom supplies. The credit would be limited to $250 and would also be limited to teachers residing in Kansas.
SB 161 was approved by the Senate on a 24-15 vote. The bill would allow for small, automated delivery vehicles to be operated in Kansas. The bill envisions the vehicles operating primarily on city sidewalks making deliveries for companies like Amazon. Originally the bill pre-empted local governments from regulating the driverless vehicles, but provisions were added to allow for local oversight to address public safety concerns.
Kansas Speaks Survey
Fort Hays State University’s Docking Institute of Public Affairs just released the findings of their annual public opinion survey, “Kansas Speaks.” The annual survey looks at Kansans’ attitudes toward important issues and about our state in general. To review the most recent survey, click here.
Late last week Attorney General Derek Schmidt filed a petition with the Kansas Supreme Court asking to dismiss two lawsuits recently filed against the Ad Astra 2 congressional maps that were approved by the legislature over the objections of Governor Laura Kelly. The request argues that the state courts lack jurisdiction over the congressional maps and that claims in the original lawsuits are “not valid as a matter of Kansas law.”
The filing asks for an expedited resolution and a stay on district court proceedings related to the original cases filed by Wyandotte County litigants.
The Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee held a hearing on two pieces of legislation proposed by the Secretary of State’s office. SB 439 is aimed at helping clean up voter roles by adding an additional reason that a voter confirmation notice can be mailed to a registered voter. The legislation would allow for a voter confirmation letter to be mailed out if a voter showed no voting activity over a four-year period.
Voter confirmation notices assist county election officials and the Secretary of State’s office to confirm whether a person should remain on the active voter lists. Proponents argue out-of-date lists have the potential support fraudulent activity while opponents argue that procedures such as what is proposed can disenfranchise voters.
The Committee also looked at SB 438 which would require an audit of any federal, statewide, or state legislative race that is within 1% of the total votes cast. The bill also would require randomized audits in even-numbered years.
HB 2463 found new life after the bill was originally delayed for further consideration over questions about the legalities of the proposed legislation. The bill, as proposed, would have prohibited changes to the state’s Medicaid program until 1 January 2026. The bill was revised to allow for the extension of current Medicaid contracts through 31 December 2024 while also granting authority to the Legislative Coordinating Council to approve or disapprove potential contract changes prior to that revised date. The practical impact of either version of the bill was to block the current administration from making substantive changes to current Medicaid contracts and allowing a future administration to have more input on the process.
By turnaround, most bills that haven’t seen significant movement are procedurally eliminated from further consideration. This is done to winnow down the number of bills actively being considered and to help move the legislative process along. Bills introduced into a handful of specific committees, like the tax and appropriations committees, are automatically exempt from the deadlines. However, under the dome bills can be temporarily assigned to an exempt committee and that then makes the bill exempt from procedural deadlines. These bills are dubbed as “blessed” in legislative parlance.
Bills can be blessed for many reasons, but it is often an indication that legislative leaders intend to move the bills later in session.
A few notable bills were blessed and will remain alive for further consideration:
HB 2662 – Establishes the parent’s bill of rights and academic transparency act.
HB 2704 – Provides for changes to notification requirements and other aspects of the workers’ compensation system.
SB 152 – Provides for joint liability for costs and sanctions in third-party funded litigation.
SB 340 – Clarifies responsibilities in the Kansas Promise Scholarship Act.
SB 455 – Allows K-12 students to transfer to any school district in the state.
SB 478 – Establishes requirements for lighting systems on wind energy conversion systems.
SB 484 – Enacts the fairness in women’s sports act.
SB 496 – Establishes the parent’s bill of rights for students attending elementary or secondary school in Kansas.
Kevin Walker, IOM
Senior Vice President of Public Policy
(913) 766-7602 | (913) 526-6855