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Prefiled bills offer a glimpse into Kansas 2017 legislative session
new deh statehouse pic web
This undated photo is of the Kansas State Capital in Topeka. Next Monday, Jan. 9, the Kansas Legislature will convene its 2017 legislative session. - photo by Dale Hogg, Tribune Staff

On Monday afternoon, Jan. 9, the Kansas Legislature will convene the 2017 Legislative Session in Topeka. When members elected on Nov. 8 convened for certification and caucusing on Dec. 5, the filing of prefiled bills also began. With seven House Bills and five Senate Bills already on the list as of Thursday, Dec. 28, legislators will not face an empty slate.

The majority of those bills have been filed by the joint Legislative Post Audit committee. However, the Joint Committee on Pensions, Investments and Benefits filed one bill, and three individual legislators have also been busy in December.

Three of the bills that the Legislative Post Audit Committee has already filed speak to the Kansas standard asset seizure and forfeiture act, removing reporting requirements from local law enforcement agencies to their city councils or county commissions, and restricting the county or district attorneys representing those agencies from representing them as private attorneys in relation to the act.

One bill, if passed, will exempt the Division of Post Audit from paying any Monumental Building surcharge collected by the Department of Administration or any other state agency-leased square footage in Shawnee county. According to an auditor at the Division of Post Audit, the Monumental Building surcharge is a charge placed on all agnecies that lease space from the state or a private entity, which is used to maintain the Statehouse, the Governor’s Mansion at Cedar Crest, and the Kansas Judicial Center. The Division of Post Audit is the only Division that is not housed in the Statehouse, and the only agency that is charged the surcharge. In years past, it has received annual exemptions to bring it in line with its sister agencies. The bill would simply make the arrangement permanent.

House Bill No. 2005 exempts members of the state Board of Regents retirement plan (KPERS) from certain employment, mostly pertaining to law enforcement, after retirement by better defining when retirement begins, limiting the amount of compensation that can be paid in a set amount of time to an individual who chooses to work for a participating employer.

House Bill No. 2006, authored by Rep. J.R. Claeys, R-Salina, changes how county commissioner seats will be filled in the event they become vacant because a county votes in favor of increasing the number of seats. In 2014, this happened in Saline County. According to the current state law, Governor Sam Brownback was required to fill the vacancies, and when he refused to share applicants’ information with the public it touched off a controversial lawsuit by the Associated Press and the Kansas Press Association under the Open Records Act. Ultimately, it was determined by the Kansas District Court that the public had a right to see the information, but that the governor had acted in good faith, so attorney’s fees were not reimbursed to the plaintiffs.

House Bill No. 2007, authored by Rep. Tom Sloan, R-Lawrence, provides certain employment protections to members of the Kansas Civil Air Patrol when requesting leave to fulfill obligations in an emergency service operation for the Civil Air Patrol.

On the senate side, Senate Bill No. 5, authored by Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau, D-Wichita, seeks to expand eligibility for restrictive driving privileges. In May, 2013, Brownback signed into law SB-2009, spearheaded by Faust-Goudeau. The bill allowed drivers facing license suspension for failure to comply with traffic citations the ability to petition the Division of Vehicles for a restrictive license, in order to allow them to travel to work so they can afford the fines and court costs associated with their citations. The new bill removes one of the conditions that must be met in order for an individual to qualify for restricted driving privileges. That condition speaks to individuals that previously received a stayed suspension as a result of driving while suspended conviction.

The Great Bend Tribune acquired the full text of these bills through the Chief Clerk of the House and the Secretary of the Senate’s office. The full text of each of these bills and any others subsequently filed before the start of the session will be available to the public to view on the Kansas State Legislature’s website on Tuesday, Jan. 3.