This week the legislature reached the mid-point in the legislative session. Any non-exempt bills will be considered dead after this week. There is a procedure to revive them, but that is rarely done unless the situation is considered to be extremely important. Otherwise, a similar bill can be introduced in the 2015 session as we begin the process anew.
Committees finished meeting last week and will not have opportunity to meet again until late this week. At that point, the committees will primarily see Senate bills that have been passed to the House. Some will be happy their legislation is still alive, but many will be disappointed their legislative priority did not get through. That leaves the possibility of trying to get a floor amendment passed, and that possibility is typically slim as a bill with the correct subject matter is needed to attach an amendment.
Of course there are many different issues before us. I will give a recap of several that have garnered more attention. The first is what is known as the ‘Fair Tax’. This has not been scheduled for a committee hearing at this time. Another tax bill is repealing the mortgage registration fee. This has been sent to the full Senate for debate. The bill as it came out of committee phases out the fee and eliminates the portion for historic preservation. A Commerce bill known as Promoting Employment Across Kansas (PEAK) received a low review from an audit, so the program was tightened up for better results.
The bill to move spring elections to the fall is still alive as the House bill was ‘blessed’ by moving it to the taxation committee. There are many implications to changing the election dates of school board members and city council or city commission members. Those elections are not currently partisan but could become partisan if moved to the fall. It is not known if voter turnout would be better, but that is another of several points that are being discussed.
In Agriculture issues, the Corporate Farming laws in Kansas received a judicial review over the summer and were determined to be pretty good. No action is planned to change those laws at this time, but it is always a possibility someone could sue the State. The decision seems to be wait and see if that happens.
I still receive mail regarding elimination of the death penalty. There is not an active death penalty elimination bill, but the bill making its way is one that would shorten the appeals time for inmates on death row. The time allowed in the bill is 3 ½ years, which raises concerns about due process. In other words, is the inmate receiving a fair review of their conviction if the amount of paper work and time for appeals is limited? This question should, and will, get additional debate.
The last issue I will review for today is Medicaid expansion. That is still on the table and several ideas are being thrown around. It could be beneficial for many hospitals because the law requires providing emergency room services even though reimbursement for services may not be made. No payment for services is especially difficult for the small rural hospitals. The hesitation is that the Federal government may not keep their promise to continue to provide a high level of reimbursement. There may be several options to explore should this occur. In the end, the Governor has the last say on expansion.
After a two day break, we will be back in session to begin looking at the policy issues the Senate has passed to the House. Most legislative members continue to monitor communications during the break, so please stay in touch!