To say this session is weird is an understatement. There are no groups visiting. No interns. Very few lobbyists. One might think there would be more free time, but it is somehow filled with other work. We are rapidly approaching turnaround, which is when all the House bills (some exceptions) move to the Senate and Senate bills move to the House. Next week will be some long days on the House floor as we try to meet the deadline.
House Floor Debate
The House debated and passed 19 bills this week. These were all yes votes for me. Here are a few highlights:
- HB 2071 would increase the criminal penalties for stalking a minor.
- HB 2029 would “count” any crime with a domestic violence designation as a prior conviction under domestic battery offenses, which would allow for harsher sentences.
- You have likely heard the term “triggering” when an event or situation triggers violent memories of a crime. A crime victim may not have asked for mental health assistance immediately following a crime. HB 2082 would waive the time restriction to request counseling, to allow the crime victims’ compensation board to provide help.
- HB 2001 would create the crime of sexual extortion and require offender registration.
- HB 2062 allows the state to participate in the State Child Death Review Board national database, and for information to be shared with appropriate law enforcement and county or district attorneys for investigation and prosecution.
- Current law gives one spouse the privilege of not testifying against the other. HB 2120 would remove that rule in the case of sexual battery.
Criminal Justice Reform
- HB 2077 extends the Kansas criminal justice reform commission’s work beyond December 2020 and adds topics to its scope, including diversion and supervision programs, and the task of monitoring implementation of its recommendations.
- HB 2030 would allow for early release for inmates likely to die within 120
Children and Seniors
- HB 2114 establishes the senior care task force. This will allow legislators, along with professionals and stakeholders, to look deeper at issues impacting our senior citizens. The task force will give its final report to the legislature in January of 2023.
- HB 2115 establishes the joint committee on child welfare system oversight.
I have worked very hard on both bills for 2 years and happy to see them pass the House with widespread support.
SB 15 which would create the KS Economic Recovery Loan Deposit Program as an incentive for Kansas financial institutions to offer agricultural and commercial loans by deducting the interest income received on such loans when that interest is also included as taxable income of a corporation.
We are currently receiving reports from subcommittees and building the budget. This week we have heard reports on:
- Agriculture & Natural Resources
- Transportation & Public Safety
- Social Services – KDHE, KDADS, DCF, & the state mental hospitals
- When the Beloit Juvenile Corrections Facility closed in 2009, the land was transferred to the City of Beloit, which is now home to the Law Enforcement Center, Library, Parks & Recreation office and shop, community garden, and USD 273 Early Learning Center and Transitional Learning Center. However, one small tract of land (east side of Walnut where the water tower is located) was omitted from the transfer and HB 2214 corrects that oversight and transfers the remaining plot to Beloit. HB 2214 passed out of committee and is headed to the House for debate.
- HB 2195 which would provide liability protection for employers who are the victim of unemployment insurance fraud.
I have been very pleased with the robust schedule of presentations and bill hearings in this committee that I chair.
Secretary of Health & Environment, Dr. Lee Norman provided an update of the state’s vaccine rollout. Monday, Governor Kelly announced the prioritization of Kansas teachers and staff.
My friend and former House colleague, Melissa Rooker, is now the Executive Director of the Kansas Children’s Cabinet & Trust Fund, whose primary role is to manage the Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement funds, which the state has dedicated to improving the lives of all Kansas children. The Cabinet’s work is a benchmark for children’s services coordination efforts across the country.
- HB 2004 would create the right to appeal an involuntary discharge or transfer from and adult residential care facility.
- Currently, there is a 20-hour/week work requirement to receive subsidies to help pay for childcare. HB 2116 would exempt foster parents from this requirement and allow the State to use federal funds to help cover childcare costs.
- Certain offenses come with a restriction on where an offender can live related to childcare facilities, and there are no exceptions under the statutes for those crimes. HB 2149 would allow the Secretary for Children & Families limited flexibility to make an exception when in the best interest of the child and has no public safety ramifications.
- HB 2150 would change the term “fiduciary abuse” to “financial exploitation” and add more mandatory reporters to the list of those required to report abuse.
- HB 2151 would require the Attorney General to establish an elder and dependent adult abuse team in each of the state’s 31 judicial districts. The teams would coordinate abuse investigations and make recommendations on policy and procedure changes.
The budget presentations from the departments and agencies allow us to look at their budget requests, then look at what the Governor budgeted and make committee recommendations for any changes in expenditures. Those recommendations will go to the larger Appropriations committee for further scrutiny.
We also held a hearing on HB 2250, which would expand newborn screening to meet more current guidelines. The bill would provide for broader universal newborn screening for a variety of newer conditions, and $2.5 million to cover the expenses.
Last week, the fiercely cold temperatures across the Midwest caused severe disruptions in the natural gas market and led to rolling blackouts for many Kansas utility customers. The fallout from this shortage and the resulting price hikes will require careful monitoring. We will continue to see if there are actions we can take as a legislature to help ease the burden on Kansas utility customers.
I have had numerous people contact me regarding their problems with the Department of Labor and unemployment. If you, or someone you know, receives a fraudulent insurance claim, lease report it at https://www.dol.ks.gov/fraud. If you, or someone you know receives a 1099 form based on a fraudulent unemployment claim, go to https://www.dol.ks.gov/ui-faqs/1099g-forms. I am willing to help if you email your information to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
It is an honor to represent you in Topeka!