With the echoes of the K12 School Finance Study lingering the 2018 Kansas Legislature returned to work this week. As the session begins to hurtle toward its conclusion work remains to be done and the pace looks to pick up.
K12 School Funding
On Monday the Legislature received more detail on the study they commissioned from the author, Dr. Lori Taylor. Reaction to the report has varied with Democrat and Moderate Republicans generally agreeing with the need for significantly more funding while not directly endorsing the study’s findings and Senate Leaders President Susan Wagle and Majority Leader Jim Denning both ripping the study. What the end result will be remains to be seen but thus far the study does not appear to be the defining moment many expected it to be. Expect the fight over K12 School Finance to continue and for the rhetoric to heat up as we move forward.
Both House and Senate budget committees wrapped up their versions of the first budget bills this week. Both bills now move on to their respective floor debates before each house. It’s unlikely that either version will get modified much, or at all, during floor debate. After passing their chambers, the action will move to Conference Committee, where differences will be negotiated and adjustments to the budgets will be made for another vote of both chambers.
In other committee action, Senate Ways and Means passed out a bill on coordinating IT policy for state government. This mainly had to do with the proposed membership of a state government group for IT policy and security of state agencies.
House Appropriations discussed the annual Claims Against the State bill, which deals with paying claims by individuals against state agencies. In the past this was highlighted by extravagant claims by inmates in state prisons, but those have greatly diminished and now its things like wind blown bleachers crashing into college students cars.
On Thursday the Senate heard testimony both for and against increasing taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products (OTP), i.e. cigars and pipe tobacco. Proponents spoke of the dangers of cigarettes and the need to reduce the number of smokers as well as the benefit of increased revenue from the tax increase. Opponents argued against the measure citing already high taxes, the failure of increased taxes decreasing the number of smokers, damage to small business, and the loss of business by retailers near the border. This was very similar to a hearing held last week in the House Tax Committee and did not seem particularly appealing to either committee.
House Judiciary on Thursday sent from committee to the House SB 296, the seat belt bill allowing juries to hear if the injured person was wearing a seat belt at the time of the accident. House Judiciary passed the bill out but limited it to products liability only. It will be interesting to see if that meets with the approval of the Senate, which passed the bill without that change 25-15.
Transportation Task Force
House Transportation is moving out of committee HB 2775 a bill which establishes the joint legislative transportation vision task force charged with reviewing and evaluating the state highway fund and the state highway transportation system. The goal of the task force is to work to ensure Kansas has the best highways possible to help support tourism and travel as well as continue the tradition of excellent roads Kansas is known for as the current ten-year transportation program comes to an end.
At the Thursday evening the House Commerce committee elected to suspend action on STAR Bonds and focused instead on SB 448, a bill creating the joint economic development incentive review committee and providing for regular evaluations of Kansas economic incentives and reports to the legislature. This bill was amended to use the Joint House and Senate Commerce committee instead of creating a new committee and was then passed out favorably.
The Telemedicine Bill was passed to the Senate Floor. The House version added an exclusion for abortion-related services and placed a non-severability clause that would repeal the entire telemedicine statue if a court declared that the abortion-related services section unconstitutional. The Senate Committee left the exclusion but took out the non-severability clause. They also added SB 312 which is the industry compromise on dental therapists that had been stuck in the House Health Committee.
The House passed the Pharmacy bill that would allow pharmacist to advise their clients on alternative and/or cheaper drugs. These so called “gag orders” will no longer be allowed in PBM/Insurance contracts. The bill was not amended in the House so it is on its way to the Governor.
Finally, the bill allowing the State to enter into multi-state nurse compacts was passed out of the Senate Health Committee and on to the Senate Floor.
The final two insurance bills were passed out of House Insurance committee this week. SB 410, which would modernize the Captive Insurance Statutes, was tweaked and sent out to the House Floor. SB 348, which allows the use of electronic documents in insurance forms, was also tweaked and passed out.
On Thursday evening the Senate passed HB 2457 enacting the Asbestos Claims Transparency Act. The bill was previously passed by the House and it now moves forward for further consideration.
With most committee work now finished attention will turn to floor action as both chambers work to finish their work ahead of next Thursday when the deadline for second chamber consideration moves the 2018 session into the conference committee stage followed by First Adjournment on the following Friday. With so much left to do and the K12 budget all but untouched it should be an exciting ride.
Significant Dates and Events
Last Day Non-Exempt
On Floor/2nd Chamber