Capitol Update: Sen. Warren details work to address economic impact of COVID-19

Sen. Kellie Warren characterized her first session in the Senate as "incredibly busy and effective at crafting common-sense solutions for a number of key issues facing the state of Kansas." File photo credit Leah Wankum.

Each week, we provide Shawnee Mission area legislators the opportunity to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Sen. Kellie Warren, Rep. Jarrod Ousley and Rep. Owen Donohoe are scheduled to send updates this week.

Below is the submission from Republican Sen. Kellie Warren, who represents District 11, which covers parts of southern Leawood and southern Overland Park.

This session the Kansas Senate has been incredibly busy and effective at crafting common-sense solutions for a number of key issues facing the state of Kansas. This year was my second term in the Kansas legislature, and my first session in the Kansas Senate. I was pleased to be named as the Chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee — the first woman Chair of the committee in our state’s history. This role has given me key influence over several important pieces of legislation impacting Johnson County and the entire state of Kansas.

First, no issue has impacted Kansans more right now than COVID-19. I was pleased that Republicans and Democrats were able to craft a bi-partisan solution to update and improve the Kansas Emergency Management Act. These vital reforms not only modernize an antiquated statute, but also provide needed safeguards for concerned citizens to appeal government decisions while still giving state executives the power to act swiftly in emergency situations.

Second, rebuilding the Kansas economy post-pandemic has also been a key priority of the state Senate. We have advanced several key pieces of legislation to help businesses rebuild, expand and spur economic development and job creation. One important change is allowing greater flexibility and inter-state portability of occupational licensing across state lines. We were again able to craft a bi-partisan solution which creates more opportunities for highly skilled workers to more easily relocate to Kansas and transfer in their licenses, with appropriate safeguards, to Kansas.

Third, I was also pleased that Governor Kelly signed into law significant property tax reform which requires real transparency of property tax increases and requires notice and explanation of any local tax hikes. Very important to the Johnson County area as well, it ends valuation increases for regular household maintenance.

Fourth, as Senate Judiciary Chair, I was also pleased to help guide to passage, critical reforms and new laws to help keep children safe from sexual predators. After a high-profile case last year in Olathe where an individual exploited a loophole to take sexually suggestive photos of a young girl, we closed the loophole and increased the penalties as recommended by Johnson County District Attorney Steve Howe.

And fifth, it’s very important that we have a work force ready for the jobs of the 21st century. That begins with education. That is why the Senate passed HB 2064, otherwise known as the Promise Act. The program established by the bill would provide scholarships to Kansans seeking to enter community and technical colleges in the following fields of study:

  • Information technology and security
  • Physical and mental healthcare
  • Early childhood education and development
  • Advanced manufacturing and building trades

The program is capped at $10 million in annual appropriations for the next two years, after which it could increase. The scholarships would be prioritized to low- and middle-income families. Eligible students whose family household income exceeds the limits in the bill would be eligible for scholarships under the Act only if scholarship money remains after awarding all other prioritized scholarships.

These and other important measures have been a priority for me as your Senator.