The Legislature was busy last week trying to meet two important deadlines. The final day for committees to meet was yesterday (2/25), followed by the “turn around” deadline February 28, where non-exempt bills must pass their house of origin to stay alive for further consideration. The Senate passed SB 32 by a vote of 28 to 11. The bill would allow Kansas Farm Bureau to sell to its members a non-insurance health care benefits coverage plan.
There were several bills discussed in committees on which KLA offered input.
Deer permits - KLA testified in support of HB 2167, which would establish a system for landowners to transfer whitetail deer hunting permits to non-residents who were unable to get a permit in the regular draw. The bill was passed out of committee with an amendment to sunset the program after five years, limit hunting solely to the landowner’s land and restrict the number of potential permits transferred to one per landowner or tenant.
Water and soil pollutant release - KLA testified in opposition to SB 153. The bill would redesign the Kansas Department of Health and Environment’s (KDHE) current spill remediation program. Included in SB 153 is a definition of “pollutant” that has potential to make some normal farming and ranching activities subject to increased regulation. While it seems regulating farms and ranches was not the intent of the bill, the definitional change could open the door for future regulation or lawsuits from environmental groups to force the regulation of farmers and ranchers by KDHE. KLA proposed amendments to remedy those concerns and to lessen fines levied by the agency. At this time, it does not appear the bill will be worked before the deadline.
Sedgwick County nuisance abatement - KLA testified in opposition to HB 2238, which would give Sedgwick County authority to declare existing property conditions a nuisance and initiate abatement proceedings. It also would give the county specific authority to drain ponds. KLA suggested amendments to exempt agricultural land, structures and equipment from the authority proposed in the bill and to remove authority to drain ponds. The KLA amendment also would remedy a potential constitutional concern by compensating property owners for the value of demolished property. Sedgwick County accepted KLA’s amendments.
ATVs crossing state and federal highways - KLA testified in support of HB 2248. The bill would allow ATVs to cross state and federal highways by the most direct route if they separate property owned or leased by the same person. KLA suggested amendments to allow farmers and ranchers incidental use on the highway for agricultural purposes and expand the access to UTVs. The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT), however, raised some last minute, unsubstantiated safety concerns. As a result, the committee passed the bill without KLA’s amendments. KLA still is supportive of the bill and will work to alleviate KDOT’s unfounded concerns to achieve adoption of the amendment.
Water meters - KLA testified in support of SB 182, a bill requested by KLA to protect water owners from civil penalties when a water meter technician performs substandard work. It also would allow the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) to penalize water meter technicians who are the cause of an inaccurate meter. The agency and other organizations had some questions regarding language in the bill. The bill will not be worked prior to this week’s deadline. This will allow KLA, KDA and other stakeholders to compromise on the language before the second year of the session.
CattleTrace - The KLA-recommended KDA budget enhancement of $250,000 for the CattleTrace animal disease traceability pilot project was included in the House budget by the Committee on Appropriations. Furthermore, the Senate Ways and Means Subcommittee on Agriculture and Natural Resources also recommended the enhancement be included in the budget. This increases the likelihood CattleTrace will be included in the final budget.