News from the Capitol--February 29, 2016

Last year, the Kansas Legislature met for a record-length of time, extending all the way through mid-June and it appeared we’d never get finished. The opposite seems to be the case this year, as we’re quickly moving through our work with a goal of getting done on time--if not early.

Right now, we are on break during a period that is known in legislative jargon as “Turnaround.” It is the point where bills originating in one chamber must be passed by that chamber to be considered, except for “blessed” bills from certain committees. Because of this deadline we cast many votes this week, which I will list below.

Before I do, so however, a couple items of note:

Kansas Caucus
The Kansas Caucus is occurring next Saturday, March 5th between 10 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. across 103 sites in Kansas, including 9 here in Johnson County. View the complete list of locations in Johnson County.

I will have a booth at the Shawnee Caucus site at Rhein Bennighoven Elementary, 6720 Caenen Avenue, Shawnee, KS 66216, the closest location to the 39th District.  I encourage you to come by and cast your vote.

Religious Liberty
I am a strong supporter of defending religious liberty. That’s why I took part in an important event in Topeka sponsored by several groups supporting this critical freedom two weeks ago in Topeka. Hundreds of Kansans filled the Capitol Rotunda and showed just how much grassroots support there is for this fundamental right, enshrined in the First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution, and the Preamble of the Kansas Constitution:

We, the people of Kansas, grateful to Almighty God for our civil and religious privileges, in order to insure the full enjoyment of our rights as American citizens, do ordain and establish this constitution of the state of Kansas . . . .

§ 7. Religious liberty property qualification for public office. The right to worship God according to the dictates of conscience shall never be infringed; nor shall any person be compelled to attend or support any form of worship; nor shall any control of or interference with the rights of conscience be permitted, nor any preference be given by law to any religious establishment or mode of worship. No religious test or property qualification shall be required for any office of public trust, nor for any vote at any elections, nor shall any person be incompetent to testify on account of religious belief. (KANSAS BILL OF RIGHTS)

We must stand firm and reject attempts to place a scarlet letter on those who have sincerely held religious beliefs, because, as you can see, this God-given right is guaranteed in our state Constitution. I will never relent in this fight.

Correcting the Record
Some, particularly those on the left, have made dubious objections to the state’s spending $3 million to hire a consulting firm to find savings and efficiencies. This is despite the fact that this consulting firm has discovered over $2 billion in savings over the next five years that could potentially be realized. Fiscal responsibility and being a conscientious legislator means recognizing the fact that our limited time in Topeka doesn’t always lend itself to finding every potential savings – that’s why we hired the study. The potential savings, if implemented, are tremendously significant and will prevent future tax increases and in fact, enact future tax cuts. These savings and efficiencies also may make it possible to provide delayed pay raises to state employees and teachers while saving the state money at the same time. Lastly, the expenditure is very economical and reasonable considering the annual Kansas budget is approximately $15 billion.

Charitable Healthcare
Beginning in 1991, the Charitable Health Care Provider Program was introduced as a way to increase the delivery of medical care to the medically indigent. To accomplish this, the Charitable Health Care Provider Program established liability coverage to health care professionals in exchange for their services. The Charitable Health Care Provider program allows for health care providers who participate in gratuitous care to the medically indigent to be protected for liability purposes under the Kansas Tort Claims Act.

This week the house passed House Bill 2615 which would arrange for charitable healthcare providers and dentists the opportunity to fulfill one hour of continuing education credit in exchange of two hours of cost-free service to medically poverty-stricken people. Participants must first sign an agreement with the Secretary of Health and Environment to provide the cost-free services. Healthcare providers participating would be allowed to fulfill a maximum of 20 continuing educational credits through gratuitous service per licensure period, and dentists participating would be allowed to fulfill up to of 6 continuing educational credits through gratuitous service each licensure period.

The program is available to those individuals lacking the financial resources to pay for medically essential health care services and who meet eligibility criteria for qualifications established by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Individuals are eligible if they are a member of a family unit at or below 200 percent of the current federal poverty level and not covered alongside medical or dental costs by accident and sickness insurance, an employee health benefits plan, or similar coverage or is eligible for publicly funded health care programs administered by KDHE or Indian Health Services.
Information on eligibility can be found on under eligibility guidelines on the KDHE Website.

The House passed HB 2615 on Tuesday, February 23rd, by a vote of 124-0. I voted yes.

Constitutional Right to Hunt, Fish, and Trap Wildlife
Kansas is quickly becoming one of the best states in the union to uphold your 2nd Amendment rights. On Monday of this week, the house debated and passed HCR 5008, which proposes a state constitutional amendment for consideration during the next general election, in November 2016.

HCR 5008 would add a new section to the Bill of Rights in the Kansas Constitution to create the right of the public to hunt, fish, and trap wildlife. The constitutional amendment would affirm the people of Kansas have the right to hunt, fish, and trap by traditional methods. The right will still be subject to reasonable laws and regulations that promote wildlife conservation and management. The proposal would specify that hunting and fishing shall be the preferred means for managing and controlling wildlife, and also that the amendment shall not be construed in any way to modify provisions of law relating to trespass, property rights, or water resources.

I am a strong supporter of hunting, fishing, and trapping being valued traditions, but an integral part of wildlife management and conservation. Unfortunately, activists for years have been pushing to limit and even entirely ban hunting, fishing. If approved by Kansas voters, the amendment guarantees that sporting traditions Kansans have enjoyed for years will still be around for future generations. If HCR 5008 obtains a two-thirds majority in the Senate, it will be added to a ballot for Kansans to vote on in the November general election
The house adopted HCR 5008 by required 2/3 majority vote on Monday, February 22nd, by a vote of 117-7. I voted yes.

Final Action Votes
This week, the House took final action on the following bills.

HB 2436 - Amends existing law pertaining to drivers’ licenses for motorcycles to restrict a class M license of an applicant who passes a driving examination on a three-wheeled motorcycle, which is not an autocycle, to the operation of a registered three-wheeled motorcycle. Also applicants for a class M license who pass a driving examination on a two-wheeled motorcycle would be allowed to operate any registered two-wheeled or three-wheeled motorcycle.
The House passed HB 2436 on Monday, February 22nd, by a vote of 124-0. I voted yes.

HB 2447- Increases the maximum number of days an inmate’s sentence may be shortened for earning program credits from 90 days to 120 days.
The House passed HB 2447 on Monday, February 22nd, by a vote of 122-2. I voted yes.

HB 2489An act concerning retirement; relating to the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System; death and long-term disability benefits; employer payments to group insurance reserve fund; Kansas public employees retirement system act of 2015; accidental death benefit; annuity interest rate; Kansas public employees deferred compensation act; sharing of account information; tax treatment; local governmental unit plan option.
The House passed HB 2489 on Monday, February 22nd, by a vote of 90-34. I voted yes.

HB 2610Designates the junction of interstate highway 70 and commerce parkway in Ellis county as the chief warrant officer 5 David Carter fallen veterans memorial interchange, also a portion of U.S. highway 400 as the John Troy, Pete Hughes and Earl Seifert highway, and the junction of interstate highway 235 and central avenue in Sedgwick county as the Captain Chris Norgren memorial interchange
The House passed HB 2610 on Monday, February 22nd, by a vote of 124-0. I voted yes.

HCR 5010Kansas’ application to Congress, under the provisions of Article V of the U.S. Constitution, for the calling of a convention of the states.
The house did not adopt by required 2/3 majority HCR 5010 on Monday, February 22nd, by a vote of 77-47. I voted yes.

HB 2285 - Establishes the Kansas Legislature Paper-Free Task Force (Task Force). The Task Force’s would be responsible to study and then determine whether the Legislature should adopt a paperless initiative to reduce the amount of legislative paperwork distributed to legislators, staff, and the public.
The House passed HB 2285 on Monday, February 22nd, by a vote of 106-18. I voted yes.

HB 2655 - Provides the placement of a memorial on the State Capitol grounds honoring the laying of the building’s original cornerstone and authorizes the Division of Facilities Management, Department of Administration, to approve the memorial’s design and architectural drawings for construction.
The House passed HB 2655 on Monday, February 22nd, by a vote of 119-5. I voted yes.

HB 2532Would add sufficient “mathematic” and “scientific” skills and “sufficient knowledge of financial systems to enable the student to make informed choices” to a list of capacities designed by the State Board of Education to be provided to every child in any accredited school in Kansas. Also would require the Kansas State Board of Education to develop state curriculum standards for ethnic studies for grades 7 through 12. Buried in this bill were concepts of social justice, which our friends on the Left were trying to insert into the curriculum. Social justice is one of the propaganda tools of the radical Left, which includes collectivism, socialist style wealth redistribution etc., that not surprisingly, has dozens of definitions. It can mean anything the Left wants it to mean according to the needs of their agenda at that particular time, per Jonah Goldberg of National Review Online. He says it is code for “good things” no one needs to Argue for, and no one DARE be against. Goldberg further says Friedrich von Hayek was vehemently against it, because, at its core it means “freedom must be sacrificed in order to American history, the melting pot, our right to own private property and the American free enterprise system. They subscribe to the idea that the government should constantly expand its power, which necessarily means your personal freedom and your right to keep your own money shrinks, so the government can do “good things”, which meaning can change on a daily basis. It can mean something as vague as ‘fairness’. The state (or government) must eventually coerce individual citizens to do what is “socially just”. This is the last thing our children should be exposed to in our public schools. It is antithetical to all things held by traditional Americans. We have to be on our guard constantly in Topeka to watch out for things like this. Be on your guard anytime anyone mentions ‘social justice’. We killed this in the Education Committee, but they amended it into the mathematics bill on the House floor.
The House failed to passed HB 2532 on Monday, February 22nd, by a vote of 43-81. I voted no.

HB 2516 - Eliminates requirements for Kansas-specific training and certification of individuals who perform asbestos abatement work. Instead requires these individuals to meet federal training requirements, which are identical to current state requirements. The time period for which companies licensed under the Asbestos Control Act are required to keep records of employee training would be reduced from six years to three years to be consistent with the document retention policies of other Kansas air programs.
The House passed HB 2516 on Monday, February 22nd, by a vote of 124-0. I voted yes.

HB 2567Reinstates the eligibility for resident tuition rates at postsecondary institutions previously granted by the Legislature to certain military veterans and their families. Also provides reimbursement to any person enrolled in a Kansas postsecondary educational institution in the 2015-2016 school year who would have been entitled to resident tuition and fee rates if the eligibility criteria had been in effect during the 2015-2016 school year. The reimbursement would be equal to the difference between any tuition and fee rates the person paid and the resident tuition and fee rates.
The House passed HB 2567 on Monday, February 22nd, by a vote of 124-0. I voted yes.

HB 2479 - Requires the Secretary of Agriculture to adopt rules and regulations declaring which weeds of the State are to be considered noxious weeds. The Secretary could not declare any weed to be noxious without the recommendation of the State Noxious Weed Advisory Committee (Committee) except under new emergency declaration authority. Once weeds are declared noxious by the Secretary, they would be considered to be noxious in every county of the State.
The House passed HB 2479 on Monday, February 22nd, by a vote of 85-39. I voted no.

HB 2578 - Add individuals who are licensed to practice chiropractic medicine as health care providers to be eligible to evaluate and provide to an injured athlete a written clearance to return to play or practice after suffering a concussion or head injury.
The House passed HB 2578 on Monday, February 22nd, by a vote of 73-51. I voted yes.

HB 2462 - Increases the $1,000 minimum value for felony theft to $2,000. Theft of property valued under $2,000 constitutes a class A nonperson misdemeanor. Also provides a new floor of $250 for the special rule in the theft statute providing that thefts of property valued at less than $2,000 that would otherwise be misdemeanors are severity level 9 nonperson felonies if committed by a person who has two or more prior theft convictions
The House passed HB 2462 on Monday, February 22nd, by a vote of 105-19. I voted yes.

HB 2545 - Amends statutory provisions governing the disclosure of affidavits or sworn testimony supporting arrest warrants and search warrants to provide that, if such are disclosed pursuant to the existing provisions, the information would become part of the court record and shall be accessible to the public. Also amends the procedure for disclosure to require the prosecutor to notify any victim of an alleged crime that resulted in the issuance of the warrant of the request for disclosure. If the victim is deceased the prosecutor must notify the victim’s family.
The House passed HB 2285 on Monday, February 22nd, by a vote of 122-2. I voted yes.

HB 2620 - Permits the dismissal of parole, conditional release, or post-release supervision violation charges to be conditioned upon the released inmate agreeing to credit being withheld for the period of time from the date the Secretary of Corrections issued a warrant to the date the offender was arrested or returned to Kansas.
The House passed HB 2285 on Monday, February 22nd, by a vote of 123-1. I voted yes.

HB 2643Amends statutes governing the determination of criminal history to add non-grid felonies to the list of juvenile adjudications that will decay if the current crime of conviction is committed after the offender reaches the age of 25.
The House passed HB 2643 on Tuesday, February 23rd, by a vote of 106-19. I voted yes.

HB 2464 - Allows a court to continue or modify conditions of release for or impose a 120- or 180-day prison sanction on an offender who makes off from supervision, without having to first impose a 2- or 3-day jail sanction.
The House passed HB 2464 on Tuesday, February 23rd, by a vote of 123-2. I voted yes.

HB 2460- Would make a violation or an aggravated violation of the Kansas Offender Registration Act a person offense if the underlying crime is a person crime. If the underlying crime is a nonperson crime, the registration offense would be a nonperson crime. If there are multiple underlying crimes, which include both a nonperson crime and a person crime that require compliance with the Kansas Offender Registration Act, the registration offense would be a person crime.
The House passed HB 2460 on Tuesday, February 23rd, by a vote of 118-0. I voted yes.

HB 2622 - Amends the Kansas Private and Out-of-State Postsecondary Educational Institution Act by modifying a definition, changing some fees, and repealing two statutes.
The House passed HB 2622 on Tuesday, February 23rd, by a vote of 86-39. I voted yes.

Sub HB 2473 - Authorizes an Alzheimer’s disease awareness license plate and authorizes those with additional types of distinctive military license plates to purchase decals indicating the owner has received certain military honors.
The House passed Substitute for HB 2473 on Tuesday, February 23rd, by a vote of 125-0. I voted yes.

HB 2563 - Adds a $50 nonrefundable fee to go along with an application for a license to operate a motorized bicycle from a person who has had driving privileges suspended.
The House passed HB 2563 on Tuesday, February 23rd, by a vote of 106-19. I voted yes.

HB 2502 – Amends the law concerning motions to vacate, set aside, or correct a sentence to specify that for the purpose of finding manifest injustice, which extends the time limitation for bringing an action beyond a year, the court’s inquiry would be limited to determining why the prisoner failed to file the motion within the one-year time limit or whether the prisoner makes a colorable claim of actual innocence.
The House passed HB 2502 on Tuesday, February 23rd, by a vote of 111-14. I voted yes.

HB 2522 – Adds the option of a white and black laser engraved photograph to a driver’s license, learner permit or nondriving identification card. Current law requires a digital colored photograph. This option would still be available.
The House passed HB 2522 on Tuesday, February 23rd, by a vote of 125-0. I voted yes.

HB 2558 - Prohibits cities and counties from regulating or prohibiting certain actions related to door-to-door campaigning for elective office: canvassing, polling, soliciting, or otherwise approaching private residences for the purpose of distributing campaign literature or campaigning for a candidate.
The House passed HB 2558 on Tuesday, February 23rd, by a vote of 122-3. I voted yes.

HB 2615 - Allows charitable healthcare providers and dentists to fulfill one hour of continuing education credit for performance of two hours of cost-free service to medically indigent persons if they sign an agreement with the Secretary of Health and Environment to provide cost-free services.
The House passed HB 2615 on Tuesday, February 23rd, by a vote of 124-0. I voted yes.

HB 2632- Enacts new law and amends law to recognize the Pooled Money Investment Board as a separate state agency for the purposes of budgetary preparations and reporting.
The House passed HB 2632 on Tuesday, February 23rd, by a vote of 124-1. I voted yes.

HB 2643 – Gives the authorization to the Secretary of Transportation to increase the speed limit on certain highways outside of an urban district by 5 mph. The highways on which speed limits could be increased from 65 mph to 70 mph would be those that are not separated multilane highways or any county or township highways.
The House passed HB 2643 on Tuesday, February 23rd, by a vote of 106-19. I voted yes.

HB 2696Allows university police officers to exercise their powers on property occupied by the state educational institution or municipal university, a board of trustees of the state educational institution, an endowment association, an affiliated corporation, an athletic association, or a fraternity, sorority, or other student group associated with the state educational institution or municipal university. Also allows university police officers exercise powers on property owned or operated by an affiliated corporation and at the site of a function or academic program sponsored by the state education institution.
The House passed HB 2696 on Tuesday, February 23rd, by a vote of 125-0. I voted yes.

What’s Next?
We will return to session on Wednesday, and get to work on considering bills passed by the Senate. We have about four weeks to do so. The regular session is complete on April 1st, where we will then have about a month off before the Veto Session.