Turnaround Week in Topeka with Rep. Shannon Francis
Joe Denoyer - February 26, 2023 3:04 pm
This Week was turnaround and the House worked 69 bills on the floor. Turnaround is a deadline in which bills must move from their chamber of origin (House or Senate) and move across the rotunda to the opposite chamber for approval there. In the House, we passed legislation covering funding our state’s water plan, veterans and military issues, the Back the Blue License Plate, parent’s rights bill, the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act, election laws and many more subjects. Below I will highlight a few of them.
Funding the State Water Plan
The House Water Committee has worked hard researching water in our state and listening to experts from all walks of the issue. They focused on two aspects we need to address:
1) Procure long-term funding to fix outdated infrastructure such as water treatment plants and attend to reservoirs that are at the end of their life span.
2) Create incentives for voluntary, common-sense, locally led water conservation.
On Thursday, the House of Representatives passed HB 2302, a historic piece of legislation that takes a strong first step in addressing our state’s water issues. The bill secures a long-term funding source for infrastructure by dedicating 1.231% of all sales tax revenue, about $54.1 million per year to the State Water Plan. Included in the bill is $15 million for three years to retire debt early for Milford and Perry Reservoirs. Paying off this debt early saves the state millions in interest payments.
Also passed Thursday was HB 2279 for groundwater management districts (GMDs) to identify priority areas of concern within each district and to set reasonable boundaries for those areas. Then each GMD will conduct public education and outreach to develop an action plan to reasonably address the concerns based on input from water right owners and users in the area. Once the action plan is approved by the Chief Engineer, the GMD board of each district would implement the action plan.
There is more work to be done to improve our water policy but these bills are a start.
Other Bills of Interest
HB 2346 would create the Back the Blue distinctive license plate.
This week I was proud to carry the Back the Blue distinctive license plate bill on the floor. This bill allows Kansans from across the state to show and give their support to law enforcement by purchasing a Back the Blue distinctive license plate. A $30 law enforcement support fee for each plate issued will go to support the Kansas Chapter of Concerns of Police Survivors (COPS), Inc.
The purpose of the Kansas Chapter of C.O.P.S. is to provide peer support to the surviving family members of law enforcement officers killed in the line of duty by offering emotional support, aiding survivors in understanding the judicial process and providing information about available services within the local community, the state and the nation. Kansas Cop’s aim is to offer longer-term support and friendship, after the initial wave of community and department support, media attention, and public sympathy has diminished for the survivor. As survivors, Kansas Cop’s members recognize the needs and traumas each new survivor will face as the years pass. Training of state law enforcement agencies in the appropriate handling of line-of-duty death procedures is also a priority.
Kansas Cop’s provides support to all law enforcement agencies including but not limited to Police, Sheriff, KBI and Kansas Highway Patrol officers.
HB2056- Ensuring Absentee Ballots are Required to Arrive by Voting Day
This bill requires all advance voting ballots to be returned by 7 p.m. on election day. Thirty-one states in our nation either require ballots to arrive by 7 pm on Election Day or have tighter restrictions than Kansas law. Federal law requires military ballots to be in by election day. This bill strengthens confidence in Kansas election law and further safeguards our elections.
HB 2376- Removing Racially Restrictive Covenants from Property Deeds
This bill voids all racially restrictive covenants on property deeds and authorizes their removal from existing documents. While unenforceable, these offensive throwbacks still remained on older deeds because until now, there was no way to remove these covenants from an existing deed. HB 2376 creates a mechanism for their removal.
HB2292- Kansas Apprenticeship Act
Workforce issues are affecting all industries across the board- large and small, manual labor and desk jobs. On Thursday, the Kansas House passed the Kansas Apprenticeship Tax Credit Act to encourage development of apprenticeship programs in Kansas by providing income tax credits for participating businesses that employ apprentices.
Parent’s Rights- HB 2236
This bill establishes a parents’ right to direct the education, upbringing and moral or religious training of their children including the right to object to harmful and inappropriate educational materials. I don’t think this is the norm for our KS teachers but I believe parents need a path to address these issues if they have concerns. This Parent’s Rights bill reinforces that parents are the ultimate authority when it comes to their child’s education and upbringing.
Fairness in Women’s Sports Act
The Fairness in Women’s Sports Act passed in the Kansas House with slim, bipartisan support. From here, it will move to the Senate for approval and to Governor Kelly’s desk. During her reelection campaign Governor Kelly said: “So let me just say it: Of course, men should not play girls’ sports. OK. We all agree on that.”
If HB 2238 becomes law it will protect the rights of female athletes in the state by requiring that female student athletic teams only include members who are biologically female. Title IX was designed to stop discrimination and create athletic opportunities for women.
Addressing the Fentanyl Crisis
The rate of fentanyl overdoses in our state continues to climb at a shockingly fast rate and the amount of drug busts involving fentanyl is on the rise too. We passed two bills in the Kansas House this week to address this crisis. One bill, HB 2398, raises the penalties for those who are caught manufacturing fentanyl. By limiting the amount of fentanyl that’s manufactured we can curb the amount that makes it out onto our streets and into the hands of our kids and loved ones. The other bill, HB 2390, would legalize fentanyl testing strips. Fentanyl is frequently found laced in other drugs, anything from marijuana to heroin, quite often without the user even knowing it’s there. Being able to easily test for the presence of fentanyl would hopefully turn our overdose trend in the opposite direction. We just have to be careful that we are not encouraging drug usage. That’s why it was important that legalizing fentanyl strips was done in concert with increased penalties on manufacturers and dealers.
Sharing our need for better highways
This week, I spoke with both the Motor Carriers Association and the Society of Professional Engineers. I continue to use my position as House Transportation Chair to talk about the need to upgrade our major rural freight corridors to four lane expressways. We need better highways to connect to Wichita, Kansas City, and the east and west coasts.
Jennifer Forrester This year my committee and office assistant is Jennifer Forrester. Jennifer has a great background as a Senate committee assistant, corrections officer and with the National Guard. She will be the friendly voice on the other end of the phone when you call my office. You can reach her at [email protected] or (785) 296-7466.
Pages The Page program is designed for students in middle school, junior high or the first years of high school. Working as a page in the Kansas Legislature is an excellent way to learn more about the legislative process. If you or someone you know is interested in serving as a page, please contact me or Jennifer for more information.
Thank you for the opportunity to continue serving working families in Seward and Meade County. Please reach out to me any time I can assist you with a state agency concern. I do ask that you send the request to me by email. This ensures that I get the information correctly to the agency we are working with. You can reach me when I’m in Topeka by email at:
[email protected], by phone (785) 296-7466, or by mail at 300 SW 10th Avenue, 274-W, Topeka, KS 66612