We are working very hard, but the big issues we know we have to fix don’t seem to be percolating to the top of the priority list. However, we have heard and voted on dozens of bills in the last two weeks, so I’ll get right to it!
On the Home Front
Congressman Roger Marshall will be joining us at the Great Bend legislative coffee on March 9, so the time is changed to 9:30 a.m. instead of 10, still at the Chamber office.
Around the Capitol
February 18 is 4-H Day at the Capitol. Students from all over the state are visiting Topeka. Last week, they met in the House of Representatives chambers. Members were divided into groups that ran one of two bills: How could legislation help with opioid addiction cessation, and the other related to the best practices of conserving the Ogallala Aquifer. The next day they toured the Capitol, visited legislators, and attended committee meetings. Kudos to Kansas 4-H members, their families, and their advisors. It is a great program to build skills, confidence, and leadership!
On the Senate Floor
The first handful of bills we deal with tend to be annual date changes or non-controversial technical edits. We’ve passed a lot of bills, but most of them have been unanimous because those “rats and cats” bills are the fastest to get through the committee process. Here are a few bills of broader interest:
If you’re a car dealer, SB 39 would change the Vehicle Dealers and Manufacturers Licensing Act regarding how new vehicle dealers are compensated for warranty services and how dealers establish markup for parts and labor. A complete description of the bill changes is in the supplemental note. It passed unanimously.
We approved SB 32, that would allow the Kansas Farm Bureau (KFB) to offer health benefit coverage without offering such coverage to those with pre-existing conditions. The coverage sold by KFB would not be subject to the oversight of the Kansas Insurance Department, and the bill would specify that the coverage offered would not be considered “insurance.” Bill supporters said that KFB can offer lower-cost policies to its members, many of whom have limited income. It passed 28-11, I voted YES.
SCR 1606 is a non-binding resolution condemning New York law, the Reproductive Health Act. The bill would allow abortions as legal within 24 weeks of the start of a pregnancy – “or at any time when necessary to protect a woman’s life or health.” Read news coverage of the legislation here. The resolution passed 27-13, I voted YES.
Agriculture & Natural Resources
I found last week’s hearing on the Cattle Trace pilot project fascinating. The project was announced last summer and is a partnership to develop and test a disease traceability infrastructure in Kansas. Cattle disease traceability is an important component in the overall biosecurity of the U.S. beef cattle industry, playing a significant role in maintaining commerce in the event of a disease outbreak.
Similarly, SB 117 would establish procedures for when the state issues a quarantine to prevent the spread of a contagious disease among dogs and cats. The bill would prohibit anyone who owns a dog, cat or ferret that is under rabies observation, under a quarantine order or has not been vaccinated from allowing the animal to run free or from transporting the animal. The bill also would prohibit anyone from bringing a dog or cat into the state without first having the animal pass a health inspection. This last provision is what will likely keep the bill from getting out of committee.
SB 153 consolidates laws regarding the Kansas Spill Program, would require the responsible party in a spill to complete remediation, allow oversight and technical guidance during the response; and permit program staff to take emergency actions necessary to protect human health and the environment. The bill would permit cost-recovery from the responsible party for state expenses for response to any release. The legislation also would provide the ability to levy penalties for illegal dumping, the refusal of the responsible party to clean up a release or the lack of timely reporting of a release.
Under current law, the Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) is authorized to establish fees for the public use of cabins owned or operated by the agency. SB 49 would change the law to also apply to fees for camping permits at state parks.
SB 182 would create an inspections process for water measuring devices and limit the ability of water rights owners regarding water measuring devices and the use of water measuring device technicians.
Public Health & Welfare
We are finally getting to the meaty issues and held hearings on some complicated concepts:
• SB 144 would authorize healthcare providers to prescribe drugs to a patient’s sexual partner, without examination, if the patient has been diagnosed with a sexually transmitted disease. The bill also would create a liability waiver for prescribers and pharmacists, so long as prescribing and dispensing are done in good faith compliance with legislation. I have some concern about interactions with other prescriptions or conditions the partner may have, but I think we can work out those details.
• SB 162 could be a logistical nightmare – it would require foster care management contractors to alert the Department for Children and Families (DCF) within 24 hours of a report of a missing child. Within 48 hours of this notification, DCF would be required to notify the Governor and Legislature of the missing child and publish the information in a newspaper that circulates within the county where the child went missing. Contractors that fail to report missing children would be fined $500 per day.
o DCF testified the bill could put $55 million in federal funding at risk because it would violate federal confidentiality laws by providing the children’s identities to those not authorized to receive it.
• SB 122 would require the Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) to provide Medicaid services and an internet-based system for academic instruction to any child under the age of 18 who is in Department for Children and Families’ (DCF) custody. The bill also would apply to individuals between ages 18 and 26 who are in DCF custody on the day before their 18th birthday, as well as any child under age 18 that was in DCF custody and was then adopted.
• SB 193 would change allow for licensure reciprocity for doctorate degree holders who are psychologists, marriage and family therapists, addiction counselors, social workers, professional counselors, as well as master’s degree level psychologists to allow individuals licensed in other states and jurisdictions to be licensed in Kansas.
Current law specifies 4 fire drills, 3 tornado drills, and 9 crisis drills are required in schools. SB 128 would free up those requirements to meet the needs of each district, with at least four fire drills, two tornado drills (one in September and one in March), and three crisis drills. The bill sets a floor for local school boards to build on if they feel more is needed.
SB 47 would create the Student Opportunity Scholarship Program to grant scholarships for Kansas high school graduates who enroll in a Kansas postsecondary institution. The scholarship amount would be 95 percent of the amount of Base Aid for Student Excellence (BASE) as calculated by the Kansas School Equity and Enhancement Act. The school district from which the student graduated would be eligible to receive 5 percent of the state aid per student while the State Board of Education would retain 2 percent to handle the administrative costs of the program. It’s estimated 310 students would have been eligible for the program in 2018, but no funding exists for this bill.
SB 199 would create the AO-K to Work Program (Accelerating Opportunity: Kansas). AO-K would allow certain adults to earn high school equivalency credentials, ready themselves to take college courses and earn industry credentials. Eligible adults are those who are at least 21; have not earned a high school diploma; have been accepted into a Kansas adult education program; and have demonstrated high school equivalency by meeting certain criteria. We passed this bill out of committee today to the full Senate for debate.
We also hosted a briefing on the Reading Roadmap, which sponsors after school programs and works with schools’ curriculum to increase reading, and an update on the Legislative Task Force on Dyslexia.
It is an honor and privilege to serve you in Topeka.
At your service,
Sen. Mary Jo Taylor
Serving West Central Kansas
Sen. Mary Jo Taylor serves West Central Kansas including Barton, Edwards, Kiowa, Lane, Ness, Pawnee, Pratt, Rush, Scott, Stafford. and parts of Hodgeman and Rice Counties.