I write this letter to you on March 1, right in the middle of our “Turnaround” break. Turnaround is the midpoint of the session — where bills that were introduced in one chamber must pass out of that chamber in order to be considered by the other.

Alley

There are exceptions — a few committees are “exempt,” which means bills within those committees are “blessed” and aren’t subject to the deadline — but for the most part, we are finished hearing Senate bills.

On March 6, we begin hearing House bills, and we will be in session for another month before the April break.

Due to this deadline, most of our time last week was spent on the Senate floor, debating and voting on a large array of bills that we had to pass prior to adjournment. The good news is we made pretty quick work, actually getting done on Feb. 23 around 11 a.m. I will list those bills in a moment.

Taxes

Of course, the primary focus by the media and others was on HB 2178, the tax bill, which was originally adopted (I voted No) by both chambers the previous week, but was vetoed by Gov. Sam Brownback on Feb. 21. This veto was not unexpected.

Because the bill originated in the House, it then traveled back to the House for a potential override motion, which occurred. Some members, even those who had voted against the bill twice before, voted to override the veto by a vote of 85-40, which then sent it to the Senate.

In the Senate, 27 votes would have been required to sustain the veto, but only 24 voted in favor of the override, killing the bill. I voted to sustain the veto.

While I will always keep an open mind on legislation, this tax bill went way too far and is not something I could support. Among its provisions included:

  • A complete and retroactive repeal of the small business tax incentive. While this has been subject to controversy, there are compromises on this topic that I would like to pursue that don’t harm small businesses.
  • A retroactive increase in rates for individuals, and the introduction of a third tax bracket. I don’t favor rate increases in general, particularly not those which would involve Kansans seeing a sharp increase in their withholding. I also am skeptical of proposals that make our tax code more complicated with a third bracket.
  • In 2018, the lowest bracket was scheduled to drop to 2.6 percent. This bill eliminates that provision.
  • The glide path to zero, which meant taxes would continue to go down in years with increased revenues, was also eliminated.

Now that HB 2178 has died, it is likely that other tax proposals will come our way after we return. I suspect that there will be a bill that eliminates the retroactivity on individual rates but keeps the rest unchanged, and I suspect we may give consideration to the tax proposal from Gov. Brownback, as well.

I look forward to reporting on the progress.

School funding decision

During our recess, the Kansas Supreme Court issued a ruling declaring that schools are not adequately funded.

The ruling seemed to focus on certain at-risk students who are currently under-performing. This has been a long-awaited ruling and various state leaders have been issuing responses. I look forward to returning to Topeka on March 6 and visiting with my colleagues about the proper course of action in response.

Revenues up again

Perhaps the best news this week is that revenues are up another $35 million over projections, which is the fourth month in a row in which revenues have exceeded expectations. You might recall that in past years, revenues were well below estimates, resulting in a reform of the estimating process.

In the short term, this will help our task of balancing the budget; in the long term, it will make it easier to craft a budget and build tax policy.

Other bills

As I noted at the outset, we debated and voted on a large number of bills. The scope of the legislation we work on is vast, as you can see. If you have questions regarding any of these votes, don’t hesitate to contact me.

CABIN FEES OWED/OPERATED BY THE DEPARTMENT OF WILDLIFE, PARKS, AND TOURISM (SB 25)

SB 25 removes the requirement for a public hearing to set cabin fees owned or operated by the Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. The bill would give authorization to the Secretary of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism to establish and change fees for the use of cabins owned and operated by the department and for camping permits at state parks, without the authorization of the department’s Commission and without conducting a public hearing. The bill would also eliminate the statutory maximum on cabin rental fees. Current law requires that a public hearing be set to increase or decrease fees for the use of cabins owned and operated by the Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. This bill passed the Senate 26-14.  I voted Yes.

A BILL INCREASING THE VESSEL REGISTRATION FEE CAP (SB 26)

SB 26 increases the maximum fee that can be charged by the Secretary of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism for vessel registrations — from $30 to $60 — excluding small human-powered vessels, which are not required to be registered at all. Vessel registration fees last were increased in 2006. The department noted that Kansas was in danger of losing federal funds used for boating access and safety projects because the department cannot currently match these federal funds. This bill passed the Senate 36-4. I voted Yes.

REPEALING REGISTRATION FEES FOR CERTAIN VEHICLES (SB 36)

SB 36 would repeal a registration fee for certain vehicles of interstate motor carriers that are used to transport commodities. The fee being repealed is one that is no longer collected because it was phased out several years ago by federal statue. This bill passed the Senate 40-0. I voted Yes.

A BILL REGARDING MEMBERS OF JOINT COMMITTEE AND THE COMMISSION (SB 50)

SB 50 changes the qualifications of members of the Advisory Committee to the Kansas Commission on Interstate Cooperation (the Commission) and the Joint Committee on Special Claims Against the State (Joint Committee). Previous law stated that the Commission would be composed of one member of the Kansas Bar. The bill would allow the chairperson to appoint, with the advice of the Senate President, a current or former member of the Legislature who is a member of the Kansas Bar to serve on the Commission. The bill also strikes a previous requirement that at least one representative and one senator of the Joint Committee be attorneys licensed to practice law in the State of Kansas. This bill passed the Senate 40-0. I voted Yes.

EXPANDING THE AUTHORITY OF THE STATE BOARD OF PHARMACY (SB 51)

SB 51 expands the authority of the State Board of Pharmacy to allow for greater flexibility when scheduling controlled substance analogs and new drugs. Current law only allows for the board to schedule new drugs once a year after the Kansas Legislature approves the scheduling. The bill would allow for the initiation of scheduling of controlled substance analogs on an emergency basis upon the board’s finding of an imminent hazard to public safety. The bill also would allow the board to schedule new drugs on an emergency basis. This bill passed the Senate 40-0. I voted Yes.

A BILL ADDING TO THE SCHEDULE OF CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES (SB 52)

SB 52 adds several drugs and modifies drug classes to the schedules of controlled substances. The bill adds several synthetic opioids to Schedule I, updates existing synthetic cannabinoid class definitions, adds thiafentanil to Schedule II and adds brivaracetam to Schedule V. This bill passed the Senate 40-0. I voted Yes.

A BILL RELATING TO CONTRIBUTION REPORTS (SB 56)

SB 56 would eliminate filing last-minute contribution reports at the office of the county election office and leave the requirement that reports be filed at the Office of the Secretary of State. This bill passed the Senate 40-0. I voted Yes.

SUNSET OF CERTAIN DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE FEES (SB 60)

SB 60 would modify and make additions to statutes relating to fertilizer and agricultural chemicals. The bill also adjusts the fees dealing with fertilizer and agricultural chemicals, and extends the current fees imposed to administer programs dealing with pest control licensees, certification holders/dealers and dam inspections, and various applications dealing with water appropriations. This bill passed the Senate 35-5. I voted Yes.

CREDITOR SALE OF REPOSSESSED ALCOHOLIC LIQUORS (SB 65)

SB 65 would allow for creditors to take alcoholic liquors as collateral for a loan. The creditors then would be able conduct a sale of that collateral to a distributor or other licensee to satisfy any debt owed to them. The bill also would require proceeds from any sale, including a sheriff’s sale, to go to the creditor in fulfillment of debt owed. The remaining proceeds then would be returned to the debtor. This bill passed the Senate 40-0. I voted Yes.

TERMS OF SERVICE FOR MEMBERS OF THE STATE BANKING BOARD (SB 66)

SB 66 specifies that a member of the State Banking Board cannot serve more than two full three-year terms. In the event of vacancy on the board, the governor is required to appoint a new member to fill the unexpired term. The bill clarifies that this mid-term appointment of a new board member would not be considered a full term for purposes of the two-term limit. This bill passed the Senate 40-0. I voted Yes.

STATE-CHARTERED BANKS AND THE PURCHASE OF TAX CREDITS (SB 67)

SB 67 allows for state-chartered banks to purchase tax credits for certain historic structure rehabilitation expenditures. The bill would permit the amount of tax credits a state-chartered bank could hold at a given time to no more than 25 percent of the total sum of the bank’s capital stock, surplus and undivided profits, or 100 percent of the allowance for loan and lease loss, capital notes and debentures, and reserve for contingencies. This bill passed the Senate 38-2. I voted Yes.

JOEY’S LAW (Sub SB 74)

Sub SB 74 provides authorization for the issuance of a placard to use in a vehicle for a person who could need assistance with cognition including, but not limited to, persons with autism spectrum disorder. Once authorized, placards could be attached to the visor of a vehicle or placed on the dash of a vehicle. The bill also would provide the authorization of a decal that could be affixed to a license plate in addition to a placard and placement of an indicator that the person needs assistance with cognition on a driver’s license or nondriver identification card issued by the Division of Vehicles. To obtain an issuance of a placard, a proof-of-need application must be submitted to the division, and placement of an indicator on a driver’s license or nondriver identification card would be given upon request to the division. If a person requests a decal, the bill would direct such information be included as part of the vehicle registration. This bill passed the Senate 28-11. I voted Yes.

KANSAS CREDIT SERVICES ORGANIZATION ACT (SB 87)

SB 87 amends law relating to the Kansas Credit Services Organization (CSO) Act. The bill would modernize the act, and these changes would help CSOs provide additional services, strengthen safeguards for consumers and update the regulatory process. This bill passed the Senate 36-4. I voted Yes.

ELECTRONIC RECORDING OF CERTAIN CUSTODIAL INTERROGATIONS (SB 92)

SB 92 requires all Kansas law enforcement agencies to adopt a detailed, written policy concerning the electronic recording of custodial interrogations conducted at the place of detention. This policy would have to be implemented on or before July 1, 2018. Local law enforcement agencies would be required to collaborate with their county or district attorney regarding the final policy contents. Included in the policy would be the requirement of electronically recording the entirety of a custodial interrogation that concerns a homicide or felony sex offense, as well as the making and signing of a statement during those interrogations. This bill passed the Senate 40-0. I voted Yes.

SUPPLEMENTAL HEALTH INSURANCE OF COVERAGE FOR CERTAIN STATE EMPLOYEES (SB 110)

SB 110 authorizes the Kansas Board of Regents to independently provide health care benefits for employees of a state educational institution when the state health care benefits program does not satisfy the requirements of the federal Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961. The bill would permit Kansas educational institutions to provide benefits through self-insurance or the purchase of insurance contracts. These health care benefits provided would be limited to those not meeting federal requirements. This bill passed the Senate 39-1. I voted Yes.

BACKGROUND CHECK ON INDIVIDUALS INTERACTION WITH CHILD CARE FACILITIES (SB 126)

SB 126 adds restrictions on individuals maintaining, residing, working or volunteering in a child care facility. The restrictions would expand the list concerning existing prohibitions to include those individuals who have been convicted of arson. The list also includes individuals who have been convicted of a crime that requires registration as a sex offender under the Kansas Offender Registration Act, and individuals who are registered on lists maintained by another state or the federal government that are like the Kansas Child Abuse and Neglect Registry. The background check requirements are protections intended to reduce the risk of abuse or neglect to children while in regulated, out-of-home child care settings. This bill passed the Senate 38-2. I voted Yes.

WIRELESS COMMUNICATION DEVICE IN SCHOOL ZONES (SB 144)

SB 144 prohibits the use of wireless communication devices in a school zone or a road construction zone. The bill would aim to reduce distracted driving in these zones, and increase safety for school children and construction workers. This bill passed the Senate 21-17. I voted Yes.

MENTAL HEALTH CARE RESIDENCY (SB 32)

SB 32 those allows individuals pursuing mental health care residency training programs or child psychiatry to enter into residency bridging loan agreements with the University of Kansas School of Medicine. The bill would allow the University of Kansas School of Medicine to enter up to six individuals who commit to satisfying their loan obligations by practicing or teaching general or child psychiatry. Kansas sees a shortage of psychiatrists, and the enactment of the bill could assist in recruiting and retaining psychiatrists in Kansas, especially in our rural areas. This bill passed the Senate 35-5. I voted Yes.

MEMBERS OF THE BOARD OF TRUSTEES OF COWLEY COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE (SB 75)

SB 75 allows for an additional member to the Board of Trustees of Cowley County Community College (CCCC), Sumner County residents would be able to hold an election to vote on the additional board member. This will ensure accountability to Sumner County voters. The bill passed the Senate 40-0. I voted Yes.

DIVERSION OF WATER (SB 48)

SB 48 requires any person with a valid water right or permit to divert and use water first to exhaust the administrative remedies available before seeking a court-ordered injunction. The bill would create a consistent administrative process that would be utilized before court action and create a consistent application for what constitutes a water impairment. This bill passed the Senate 37-3. I voted Yes.

CANDIDATE AND POLITICAL REPORTS (SB 57)

SB 57 would add the option for email addresses in campaign reports to the Secretary of State. Having access to email addresses would allow for easier communications between the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission and political campaign officers and party committees. The bill passed the Senate 37-3. I voted Yes.

FEES FOR MILK CREAM AND DAIRY BUSINESSES (SB 61)

SB 61 extends the sunset date on several fees imposed by the Secretary of Agriculture in relation to milk, cream, and dairy businesses to June 30, 2023. The bill passed the Senate 38-2.  I voted Yes.

REPEALING THE REPOSSESSED CERTIFICATES OF TITLE FEE FUND (SB 88)

SB 88 would direct $3 charged for each certificate of title for a repossessed vehicle to the contractor or county treasurer who processed the application. Under current law, the fee is remitted to the Secretary of Revenue and deposited into the Repossessed Certificates of the Title Fee Fund. The bill passed the Senate 40-0. I voted Yes.

RENOVATION TIME FRAME OF DRIVERS’ LICENSES (SB 93)

SB 93 would clarify the law concerning revocation of a person’s driving privileges. The bill allows the Division of Vehicles to revoke driving privileges for a period of 90 days when it receives a record that a person has been convicted of certain crimes. Current law requires revocation, but does not specify the duration. This bill passed the Senate 40-0. I voted Yes.

PUNISHMENT AND CRIMINAL PROCEDURE OF UNLAWFUL POSSESSION OF DRUG PARAPHERNALIA (SB 112)

SB 112 reduces the penalty for unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia and making burglary of a dwelling person a felony. Residential burglary was made a nonperson felony during the 2016 legislative session. Individuals felt it to be important to victims that it be a person felony because of the invasive and potentially dangerous nature of the crime. This bill passed the Senate 39-1.  I voted Yes.

CHILD CUSTODY AND EVIDENCE OF DOMESTIC ABUSE (SB 124)

SB 124 replaces the requirement for a court to consider evidence of “spousal abuse,” either emotional or physical, with a requirement to consider evidence of domestic abuse. Domestic abuse would include a pattern or history of physically or emotionally abusive behavior, or an act of domestic violence, stalking or sexual assault. This bill passed the Senate 40-0. I voted Yes.

HOME HEALTH AGENCIES RELATING TO LICENSURE (SB 154)

SB 154 amends the Kansas Act on Credentialing by changing law concerning home and health agencies, including licensure and services. This bill passed the Senate 38-2. I voted Yes.

AMNESTY AGREEMENTS CONCERNING SUSPENDED DRIVERS’ LICENSES (SB 181)

SB 181 authorizes a person whose driving privileges have been suspended for failure to comply with a traffic citation to enter into an amnesty agreement with a county or district attorney. The bill would allow a person unable to pay due to hardship or lack of employment to enter an additional agreement with the court to receive a credit against any fines imposed by performing community services or attending classes aimed at developing job skills and gaining employment, as approved by the court. The bill would help individuals by allowing them to drive legally, enhancing their ability to gain or retain employment. This bill passed the Senate 40-0. I voted Yes.

CRIMINAL SENTENCING SUBJECT TO A MANDATORY MINIMUM TERM OF IMPRISONMENT (SB 42)

SB 42 modifies law concerning mandatory minimum sentences for individuals who receive life sentences. The bill would clarify provisions on sentencing so that if a person was convicted of serious crimes, they are punished appropriately and consistently with their actions and criminal history. The bill passed the Senate 40-0. I voted Yes.

ADVANCED VOTING BALLOTS (Sub SB 8)

Sub SB 8 revises deadlines regarding advance voting ballots. The bill would allow for the counting of advance voting ballots received after Election Day, but postmarked on or before that day. The bill passed the Senate 27-13. I voted Yes.

WATER CONSERVATION AREA FINDINGS (SB 46)

SB 46 amends law that relates to water conservation areas. The bill passed the Senate 40-0. I voted Yes.

MOTOR VEHICLE REGISTRATION COLLECTION OF FEES (SB 89)

SB 89 authorizes the Division of Vehicles or a contractor of the division to be paid fees for registration and certificates of title, along with the county treasurer. Current law permits only county treasurers to be the sole recipient of fees associated with commercial vehicle registration, even though DMV office staff are completing the registration work. The bill would allow the unit completing the work to collect the associated administrative fees. Allowing the Division of Vehicles to retain the fees associated with registrations will provide funding needed to maintain and enhance its registration systems. The bill passed the Senate 34-6. I voted Yes.

GRAND JURIES SUMMONED BY PETITION (SB 62)

SB 62 amends the law concerning grand juries summoned by petition. It would allow a person who files by petition the right to appeal. The bill passed the Senate 40-0. I voted Yes.

SCHOLARSHIPS FOR MENTAL HEALTH NURSES (SB 100)

SB 100 would give priority when awarding scholarships in the Nursing Service Scholarship Program to qualified applicants whose sponsor is a mental health or treatment facility. Those filing for the scholarship would not need to be a Kansas resident to be eligible, and the scholarship would be capped at 70 percent of in-state tuition. There is a tremendous need for nurses in mental health and treatment facilities in Kansas. The bill passed the Senate 40-0. I voted Yes.

PROTECTION FROM ABUSE ACT (SB 101)

SB 101 extends the provisions of the Protection from Abuse Act and Protection from Stalking Act to victims of sexual assault. Kansas is one of 17 states that does not have a civil protective order for sexual assault victims. Currently, the Protection from Abuse Act applies to intimate partners and household members, and the Protection from Stalking Act applies to victims of stalking, which requires two or more separate acts over a period. Under this context, it is nearly impossible for a victim who does not know the attacker to obtain a protective order. This bill passed the Senate 40-0. I voted Yes.

REVISED UNIFORM FIDUCIARY ACCESS TO DIGITAL ASSETS ACT (SB 63)

SB 63 allows those with power of attorney or those who are designated in a will to have access to digital assets. This authorization would allow a person to maintain digital assets access if the user resides in Kansas or resided in Kansas at the time of the user’s death.  The bill allows Kansas to keep pace with technological advances in the internet age. This bill passed the Senate 40-0. I voted Yes.

KANSAS PET ANIMAL ACT (SB 47)

SB 47 includes many amendments and additions to the Kansas Pet Animal Act. These include a licensure program for animal rescue networks, allowing animal shelters to use pet animal foster homes and making changes to how licensed facilities are inspected. This bill passed the Senate 34-5. I voted Yes.

KANSAS LAY CAREGIVER ACT (SB 68)

SB 68 creates the Kansas Lay Caregiver Act. The bill requires a hospital to provide each patient, or the patient’s legal guardian, with an opportunity to designate a caregiver. The bill ensures that the hospital provides proper after-care instructions to the designated caregiver. This bill passed the Senate 38-1. I voted Yes.

ARREST WITH A WARRANT FOR VIOLATION OF AN APPEARANCE BOND CONDITION (SB 40)

SB 40 changes the law concerning revocation of appearance bonds. Currently, officers must obtain a warrant signed by a judge. The bill would allow the magistrate to authorize a pretrial services supervision officer which allows them the power to arrest a defendant without a warrant if the defendant violates the conditions of his or her bond. This bill passed the Senate 38-1. I voted Yes.

DRUG AND ALCOHOL TEST REPORTS ADMISSIBLE EVIDENCE (SB 114)

SB 114 amends the Child in Need of Care proceedings. It allows for the admissibility of certain tests for drugs or alcohol in proceedings. This change eliminates the need for drug testers to leave their work and make an in-court appearance to testify to the results of their drug testing. The bill passed the Senate 39-0.

WRITTEN NOTICE ON VOTING PLACE CHANGE (SB 78)

SB 78 prohibits a county to change its polling place for an election without providing a mailed notice. Notice would have to be sent out to voters at least 30 days prior to the election. A waiver from this requirement is granted if the county election officer declares an emergency. The bill would clear up confusion regarding the changing of polling places, allowing for no obstacles to voter participation. The bill passed the Senate 39-0. I voted Yes.

EXPUNGEMENT OF ARREST RECORDS RESULTING MISTAKEN IDENTITY OR IDENTITY THEFT (SB 136)

SB 136 creates a mandatory expungement of an arrest record for a person arrested because of mistaken identity or identity theft. An arrest record can impact negatively a person’s ability to get a job or secure a loan, and the bill would provide a swift process to ensure a mistaken arrest does not remain on a person’s record. This bill passed the Senate 38-1. I voted No. I voted no due to the face that if the person arrested has a gun in his or her possession, it was not clear what would happen, so I voted NO.

Final comments

During our off week, I held town hall meetings in Medicine Lodge, Kiowa, Wellington, Argonia, Conway Springs, Winfield and Arkansas City (combined). There was great discussion and attendance. I want to thank all of you who attended and participated in the meetings.

That’s it for this week. When we return, look for the debate to pick up again quickly on taxes, as well as our need to pass a rescission bill for 2017 to ensure our budget balances. Otherwise, the cuts will be up to the governor and I feel we should not shirk that responsibility. We can find the savings. It’s an honor to represent the 32nd District.

This information was provided by Sen. Larry Alley, R-Winfield, who represents Senate District 32, which includes most of western Cowley County, including Arkansas City and Winfield.