Last week was busy for lawmakers on several politically contentious issues that are not impacted by KLA policy. Both the House and Senate held committee hearings on a proposed constitutional amendment to undo a recent Kansas Supreme Court case that established a constitutional right to abortion. The Senate passed the proposed amendment with the necessary two-thirds majority vote to advance it to the House. Democrat and Republican lawmakers are largely divided on this issue.
The Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee held hearings on SB 252, a compromise bill regarding Medicaid expansion put forth by Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning and Gov. Laura Kelly. The bill is expected to be worked in committee this week. While it is anticipated to have bipartisan support, a number of conservative lawmakers are against the expansion in Kansas.
Several agriculture-related bills were addressed last week.
Fake meat - KLA spent much of the week visiting with members of the House Agriculture Committee regarding HB 2437, the bill to require transparent labeling of fake meat. Originally scheduled to be worked last week, the bill now is scheduled to be debated in the committee today. KLA worked with the committee chairman to offer an amendment to combat First Amendment concerns from the opposition and ensure the bill does not impact federal law governing menus and menu boards. KLA encourages members to ask their legislators to support HB 2437, as well as oppose amendments like “plant-based” and “veggie” that would weaken the disclaimer.
Chief engineer - KLA asked the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee to introduce a bill that would recognize the position of chief engineer of the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) Division of Water Resources as an administrative position and allow any qualified person to be appointed regardless of degree, certification or license as an engineer. SB 329 is an opportunity to broaden the applicant pool when KDA seeks a replacement for the current chief engineer who will retire at the end of February.
Agricultural improvement tax abatement - Several legislators introduced HB 2517, which would give a property tax abatement to any agricultural improvement that was destroyed by a natural disaster. Depending on when the disaster occurred, the property owner could file an abatement for the current year or the following year and continue that abatement for the succeeding three years. The bill was referred to the House Taxation Committee.
Two other bills had hearings before the agriculture committees. HB 2451 would change the date animal health permits for confined feeding facilities are due from June 30 to September 30 and allow KDA to charge an administrative fee to distribute electronic identification tags. SB 270 would allow water rights certified after 2009 to qualify for the multi-year flex account program.
Members can stay current on the session by following the hashtags #ksfakemeat and #KLAatthecapitol or @newsfromKLA.