Week six of the 2018 Kansas Legislative Session remained relatively slow with the biggest event of the week being the naming of the new Lieutenant Governor on Tuesday evening. Beyond that the legislature continued its work with committees continuing to hold hearings on a variety of issues and a few bills being worked and sent on for further debate and evaluation by the larger chambers. This weekend the Republican State Party Convention is being held in Wichita and the Legislature will be pro forma on Friday in accordance.
New Lieutenant Governor
On Tuesday night at the Kansas Livestock Association dinner Tracey Mann was named the new Lieutenant Governor by Governor Jeff Colyer. Mann is a commercial real estate developer who previously ran for US Congress from the 1st district in 2010 before eventually losing to Tim Huelskamp in the primary.
From Governor Colyer’s press release announcing the choice;
“Tracey has made a name for himself as a strong, servant leader and a go-getter. He is truly in tune with the needs and challenges of Kansas’ rural and agricultural communities.
Tracey has been a leader on economic development and rural issues in Kansas for years, and I am excited to bring those skills to our team.
Tracey Mann is a fifth-generation Kansan from Quinter. Although his family now lives in Salina, he still regularly returns to Quinter to work on the family farm. Tracey truly knows what it means to listen, serve and lead.”
Amusement Park Legislation
SB 307 dealing with regulating amusement parks was heard in Senate Fed and State on Monday with the bill passing out of committee unanimously following a series of amendments. Those amendments were largely about explaining what was meant by amusement park rides with the bill excluding hayrack and barrel train rides and better defining water slides as longer than twenty feet. The bill also outlines in greater detail following amendment the qualifications for inspectors.
Seat Belt Legislation
On Tuesday the Senate Judiciary Committee passed on to the full Senate for consideration SB 296, which allows juries in auto accident trials to hear if the injured person was wearing his or her seatbelt. Current law prohibits that information from being revealed. It seems likely that this will continue to be a contentious issue as it moves forward.
On Wednesday in Senate Ethics, Elections, and Local Government Senate President Susan Wagle and Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley spoke in favor of their bill, SB 394, which President Wagle referred to as a “sunshine bill”, The bill would require anyone wishing to lobby executive branch agencies or the judiciary to register as lobbyists. Currently only those lobbying the legislative branch are required to register. The bill was passed out of committee on Thursday and sent on to the full Senate.
The budget process continued in both chambers this week. Budget subcommittees are still meeting to get detailed information from agencies about those agency budgets. The House Appropriations Committee discussed a number of budgets. In the budget for the Attorney General they reviewed his request for more funding to address fraud and abuse. The Board of Indigent Defense Services requested more funding, due to their increased activity as a number of capital punishment cases start the end phase of their process. Appropriations also discussed funds for career and technical education across the state, including south central Kansas. The workforce training at NIAR and NCAT led to a spirited discussion in committee, which led to the committee ultimately approving funds for both.
Senate Ways and Means heard budget reports, but also discussed the move at the Dept. of Revenue to transition to digitally printed license plates. This is suppose to get to lower costs and faster turn around.
Ways and Means began their discussion on the Judicial Branch. One of the most discussed items here is the salary levels for judges and non-judicial staff. Getting staff salaries up to market levels has been a topic for a number of years now. The House committee has delayed their discussion Judicial Branch. The Senate committee will continue their discussion into next week.
Both committees are reviewing the budgets for the state hospitals. This budget and the judicial budget will likely be significant points of difference between the two chambers in upcoming budget negotiations.
Multiple insurance bills were discussed/worked. HB 2104 (auto insurance limits) and HB 2575 (Patient Right to Shop) failed to pass out of committee. SB 348 (Electronic documents for A&H Insurance companies), SB 410 (updating Kansas Captive Insurance laws) and SB 351 (PBM) all were passed out of committee to the Senate floor. Finally, HB 2674 (Telemedicine) and SB 304 (Step Therapy) both had hearings and may see committee action on Monday.
The Senate Ways and Means Committee sent on to the full senate a bill that would essentially freeze KanCare as it currently exists without legislative approval for changes. The bill would end administration efforts to include work requirements for recipients as well as providing a vehicle for proponents to attempt to expand KanCare. There will be a KanCare Oversight meeting on Friday the 16th and an update on that meeting will be sent next week. This fight has likely only just begun.
The Senate passed 38-0 SB 312 which broadens what dental therapists are allowed to do and procedures they are allowed to perform provided they are supervised by a licensed dentist. Proponents argue this will greatly expand the number of Kansans receiving dental services. As a part of the bill dentists who agree to supervise up to three dental therapists must be a KanCare provider.
With Turn-Around looming on Thursday the legislature is expected to spend most of the week on the floor with debate hot and heavy as they work to move bills out of their chamber of origin. The slow pace thus far means the chambers have work to do in a short amount of time. It should be an interesting week.