February 28, 2014

GREETINGS!  As the 2014 session reaches the half-way point, I want to share a few legislative updates with you. 

In the Agriculture Committee, we are working on a pet animal bill that deals with licensing and fees. It also prohibits euthanizing pets by carbon monoxide. This practice is not routinely used, but this bill prohibits it.

The Natural Resource Committee has held hearings on unmanned aviation devices (Drones). The bill attempts to protect private property and individual property rights. It is a very complicated bill as it deals with law enforcement and the application of this technology for a host of uses. Kansas State University is a leader in the technology of developing unmanned aircraft and the commercial application for this industry has great potential.

We continue working on a long term plan for the operation of the Boys Ranch at Lake Afton. The Secretary of Corrections has visited the Ranch and discussed with Sedgwick County staff and commissioners about efficiencies and the relationship with other juvenile programs around the state. We are doing a cost audit and outlining performance measures for all the facilities to determine levels of funding. Unfortunately, the commission seems to rely on a negotiating principle of "fund at our level or else we close the ranch." Furthermore, adding $190,000 for bonus payments when the county says they have no additional funds virtually doomed the funding proposal for the corrections budget on the Senate Ways and Means Committee. Regardless of these unfortunate incidents, the Secretary is proceeding with an evaluation program to determine results and funding levels. To continue to request a million additional dollars for a facility does not sit well with other entities in the Juvenile program as well as be justifiable to taxpayers.

Finally, I am convinced that we can go forward with our business here despite the events connected with the Religious Freedom Act. I, along with a majority of my Senate colleagues, went to the Senate leadership and requested this bill not be advanced into the Senate.


TURNAROUND

Today marks the official halfway point of the 2014 session, which we refer to as turnaround. All bills, aside from some exempt bills, must be passed by their chamber of origin by turnaround in order to be considered on the back half of this year's legislative session. If a non-exempt bill is not passed by its chamber of origin prior to this day, then it cannot be considered.  


SENATE HAPPENINGS

Last week, 20 bills were passed on final action and sent to the House for further consideration after turnaround. The topics discussed this week covered a range of issues from allowing the Kansas State Fair to purchase event insurance for entertainment acts (SB 315), to extending the sunset of various fees currently charged by the Kansas Department of Agriculture (SB 286).


CELL NUMBERS PART OF DO NOT CALL REGISTRY

One notable piece of legislation will allow you to add your cellphone number to the National Do Not Call Registry. As technology is changing, consumers are seeing more and more calls from telemarketers to their personal cellphones. SB 308 will allow Kansans to add their cell number to the national list and also allow the Kansas Attorney General to enforce current law against telemarketers who call consumer's cell numbers listed on the registry. SB 308 passed the Senate 38-0 on Thursday.


PROTECTING ELDERLY & DEPENDENTS

The Senate also considered two bills this week, SB 354 and SB 355, which strengthen current laws for the financial mistreatment of an elder adult or dependent. Primarily, SB 354 gives prosecutors additional tools to indict anyone who takes advantage of a senior. Adult Protective Services, APS, identified that one in nine seniors has reported being abused, neglected or exploited. If enacted into law, offenders convicted of monetary abuse of a person over the age of 60 could be prosecuted under the Kansas Consumer Protection Act.

SB 355, the sister bill to SB 354, strengthens Kansas' Power of Attorney law to include more protections for anyone that is not acting in the best interest of their dependent. The Power of Attorney, if abusing their power, could be terminated and face criminal prosecution under the proposed law. Both bills passed the Senate on a vote of 38-0.