The 2018 Kansas Legislative session has reached the halfway mark, or “turnaround.” At this point, if a bill hasn’t been passed by at least one chamber – the House or the Senate – it’s pretty much dead for this year. Well “pretty much” because there are several exempt committees that can still introduce bills after turnaround. While mostly these bills are meant to address budget and appropriations issues that are generally handled near the end of the session, some exempt committees have introduced other bills and then the floor and committee amendment process can always resurrect “dead” proposals.
Before we look at some of the bills we’re watching that still have a chance of getting passed this year, let’s talk about some of the issues that didn’t pass.
There was very little work done on school finance and the need to address the state’s school funding formula since the State Supreme Court voted the formula approved in the 2017 Legislative Session unconstitutional.
A bill to lower the age of concealed carry in Kansas to 18 (HB 2042), was removed from the agenda for the Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs following the Parkland Florida shooting. The week before, the bill passed the House 120-0. On the flip side, HB 2145, banning domestic violence perpetrators from owning firearms, was also removed from the agenda.
DREAMers Education Under Attack
A bill removing undocumented Kansas foster children from a program that helps Kansas foster children attend in-state universities (HB 2643) failed to pass out of committee, despite testimony from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach. A single line near the end of the bill would have repealed in-state tuition for any undocumented Kansas student. For years, Kansas has offered undocumented Kansas residents, children brought here by their parents, the same in-state tuition rates as other Kansas residents.
BILLS STILL ALIVE THIS SESSION
Increased Transparency With Police and Car Camera Video
Under this amended bill (HB2571) certain family members will be allowed to view any body cam and vehicle video within 20 days of a request. People who can request and get approval to see the video are: a person who is the subject of the recording; any parent or legal guardian of a person under 18 years of age who is a subject of the recording, an heir at law when a decedent is a subject of the recording and an attorney for any of these individuals. An heir at law is an executor or an administrator of a decedent, the spouse of a decedent, if living, an adult child of a decedent if there is no living spouse or if no living spouse or adult child of a decedent exists, a parent of the decedent.
Senate Votes to Reinstate LLC Taxes
The Senate voted to restore a small business tax deduction that lawmakers repealed last year when they rolled back then-Gov. Sam Brownback’s income tax cuts. Several senators said they voted for the measure with reservations because of its estimated $21 million cost to next year’s budget.
Increased Penalties for Filing False Request for Emergency Services
In response to a “swatting” incidence where a false call of a violent act was in process that resulted in the shooting death of an innocent person shot by a Wichita Police Officer, the House passed HB 2581 escalating the penalties for making false emergency calls. The penalty is escalated to a non-person felony if the person uses an electronic devise to alter or disguise the source of the call or if they claim the incidence involves violence or the threat of violence to a person. The penalty is escalated to a person felony if the call results in great bodily harm to an individual; or results in a death. In the case of a death, the minimum sentence under the state’s sentencing grid is 15 years.
Cities Push Bill to Turn Over Blighted Houses
Again this year, municipalities across the state are pushing for a bill that they say will help them remove or renovate dilapidated and or abandoned properties. A similar bill passed both the house and senate last year but was vetoed by Gov. Sam Brownback. Brownback and many of those who voted against the bill were concerned the bill allows cities to take away property from often poor individuals or families and give them to non-profits without any compensation to the property owners. Often these properties have been abandoned for years and are behind on taxes and the cities insist no movement is being made to improve the properties and the non-profits will renovate the properties and help clean up the property and the surrounding neighborhoods.
Decreased Penalty for Possession of THC
During the 2017 session, the legislature lowered the penalty for possession of marijuana, however they failed to reduce the penalty for tetrahydrocannabinols, or THC, the chemical in marijuana that makes you high. In a house keeping measure, the House voted to reduce the possession of THC to the same level as marijuana.
In an amendment that didn’t get any traction, Rep. Gail Finney from Wichita proposed allowing counties and cities to adopt an ordinance with a penalty that is lower than the states and that the lower penalties would have precedent of the state’s penalty. The penalty was in response to the City of Wichita’s ballot initiative that would have lowered the penalty for possession of a small amount of marijuana. Although Wichita residents approved the measure, the State attorney filed suit, saying Cities and Counties couldn’t adopt a penalty less than the state’s.
Legislature Votes to Pay Wrongly Imprisoned In Kansas
If you’re released from prison in some states after a wrongful conviction, you could be owed millions of dollars or a promise of a college education.
In Kansas and 17 other states, you get nothing.
Lamonte McIntyre was exonerated after 23 years in prison. He told a Senate committee he struggles just to get by and that financial compensation would help because he was locked up during a period of his life when most people would be building a career.
“All that passed me,” he said. “It would help me by way of getting myself established as a man in America, basically.”
Following the hearing, both the Senate and the House have passed bills to compensate individuals exonerated in Kansas. The bill passed by the Senate would provide exonerated individuals $50,000 for each year spent in prison and an additional $25,000 for each year on probation or parole.
The House-passed bill is more generous. It authorizes $80,000 for each year of wrongful imprisonment.
A conference committee of House and Senate members will start working to reconcile the bills next week when lawmakers return.