To keep our readers better informed about the state government actions that impact our communities, we feature an update columns each Monday from one of northeast Johnson County’s elected officials: Rep. Barbara Bollier, Rep. Stephanie Clayton, Rep. Jarrod Ousley, Rep. Melissa Rooker and Sen. Kay Wolf. Sen. Wolf submits this week’s update:
The Senate spent three full days on the floor this week debating and voting on 45 bills as the Legislature works its way toward First Adjournment. The Legislature wrapped up debate on Wednesday night, allowing time for conference committees to meet on Thursday and Friday. Conference committees – which are made up of three Senators and three House members – meet to iron out differences in specific bills. Legislators will return to Topeka on Monday for further debate and conference committee negotiations before adjourning for the April break.
BALANCING THE BUDGET
The Senate tackled the budget this week during a three-hour floor debate. The bill, Senate Substitute for HB 2135, calls for a two-year budget that includes $6.48 billion in state spending for Fiscal Year 2016 and $6.49 billion in Fiscal Year 2017. I carried one of the five budget amendments that successfully passed on the floor. The Wolf Amendment allows KU and K-State to move forward with three on-campus construction projects. The budget passed 26-13. I voted yes. In any budget, there are difficult decisions to be made, but by and large the Senate proposal protects key programs and services. The Senate budget nearly closes the $600 million shortfall facing the state ($130m shortfall). Additionally, it is projected to produce a $70.2 million ending balance in Fiscal Year 2016 followed by a $164.5 million ending balance in Fiscal Year 2017.
Monday, when we return the House can do one of three things with the budget. 1) Concur with the Senate budget and send it directly to the Governor or 2) non-concur and send the bill to conference committee where three Senators and three Representatives will negotiate the bill or 3) work the House version of the budget bill.
Passing the budget will provide a roadmap for how much revenue will be needed to balance the budget. My expectation is all the tax items will be discussed during the veto session. Some possible changes in the tax structure will be within the LLC’s , a motor fuel tax, a sales tax increase and freezing the income tax rate. Exactly how much is needed will depend on the consensus revenue estimates due April 20th. The legislature reconvenes on April 29th to begin the process. The final budget (Ominibus) will account for any revenue differences from the proposed Mega budget.
ALLOWING CHARITABLE GAMING & FANTASY SPORTS
The Senate approved of a bill to update the law on charitable gaming. In the November election, Kansas voters approved of a Constitutional amendment that would make it legal for nonprofits to conduct raffles for charitable purposes. Take for example a church group wanting to sell tickets to raffle off a quilt, or a Girl Scout troop wanting to sell chances to win a trip to summer camp. Both of these examples were technically against Kansas law prior to action by the voters in November. Senate Substitute for HB 2155 creates a new law on charitable gaming to reflect the decision of the voters. The bill makes it legal for nonprofit organizations to conduct raffles and it also makes it legal to participate in fantasy sports leagues. The bill passed 38-0. I voted yes.
CHANGING STATE GUN LAWS
The Senate concurred on a bill that eliminates the need for a permit to carry a concealed weapon in Kansas. The current law requires individuals to undergo minimal training and obtain a permit to carry a concealed gun. Under Senate 45, which has now passed both the House and Senate, Kansans are no longer required to receive training or apply for a permit to carry a weapon within state lines. The bill passed 31-8. I voted no after hearing from many of you – including gun owners in our district – who expressed safety concerns. Additionally, the bill creates disparity for gun owners that are particularly problematic in our border community like ours. Under this bill, a gun owner could conceal carry in Overland Park without a permit, but should they cross the border into Missouri, it would become illegal to do so. SB 45 is on the Governor’s desk awaiting final approval.
Kansas City Star: Reject reckless gun bills
FREEDOM FROM UNSAFE RESTRAINT AND SECLUSION ACT
The Senate voted to pass Senate Substitute for HB 2170, known as the Freedom from Unsafe Restraint and Seclusion Act. The bill clarifies rules and parent notification in the use of restraint and seclusion of students. Specifically, HB 2170 defines key terms, requires documentation of emergency safety intervention (ESI), and creates a dispute resolution process for parents. The bill also requires the Board of Education to adopt rules and regulations as necessary related to restraint and seclusion. The bill passed 38-1. I voted yes.
HB 2200 was referred back to committee. This bill allows changing the alcohol law to allow grocery stores and convenience stores to sell alcohol as well as liquor stores. Wednesday, SB 298 was introduced which provides for a county option for purchasing alcohol liquor and full strength beer. Senate Federal and State Affairs committee will hold a hearing Monday at 10:30am.
ABLE ACT (Achieving a Better Life Experience)
HB 2100 was introduced in the House and proposes to create a tax deferred savings plan for persons with disabilities to help pay for their care and needs. Unfortunately the bill was gutted in the House so consequently it is dead within the House. However, this week during the Senate floor debate, the ABLE Act provisions were inserted in HB 2216 and passed by a vote of 40-0 and now awaits approval by the House.
Thank you for allowing me to serve you. As always, I appreciate your questions, feedback and ideas on these bills and any other bills being considered by the Legislature. Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.