Mid-point of session means more debate

by Rep. Don Schroeder

Kansas House of Representatives

This week the legislative schedule is very different as we reach the mid-point of the session. It is turn-around week, so we have spent the week debating bills on the floor of the House as well as the Senate.

Sometimes the debate is rather boring, but other times it is lively. Next week is a short week, but things will begin to return to normal as committees again meet to hear and work bills. I will outline some of the bills that are of interest.

A bill regulating access to certain law enforcement audio and video recordings was brought forward and passed in the House. Access to the body-camera video of law enforcement personnel has been a point of contention, especially in cases that involve deadly force.

Apparently the current law says those recordings are to be made available, but does not specify when or to whom. The bill that passed the House specifies that certain family members can view the recordings within 60 days.

This is a rather delicate issue as the recordings should not be generally available should there be a lawsuit.

An amendment eliminating the death penalty in Kansas was brought to the House floor when we had a bill from the Corrections Committee on domestic violence.

While the debate on removing the death penalty would be good to have, the death penalty deals in criminal law while the underlying bill is about civil law. So the amendment was ruled not germane to the underlying bill in a unanimous ruling by the rules committee and debate on that subject was not allowed at that time.

A couple of elections bills have surfaced, the main one being setting minimum age and residency requirements for statewide office holders. Currently there is no minimum age to run for governor in Kansas and residency in Kansas is not required to file for the office.

The bill put the minimum age at 18 and an individual must be a resident of the state. Using age 25 or 30 as the minimum age to run for governor was debated, but ultimately 18 was where we settled in the House, perhaps because we have two house members that are age 25 and 27. The Senate may change that, but exactly what they will do remains to be seen.

Changes to the noxious weed law advanced. When the invasive weed sericia lespedeza came into the state several years ago, it took the Legislature four years to declare the weed noxious. By that time, the weed had spread through much of the Flint Hills regions and became a serious threat, especially in grazing land.

This bill allows the secretary of Agriculture and a board to make the determination on declaring a new weed species a threat. That should speed up the process. There are other parts to the bill, including how a landowner is notified, but the main issue is to recognize the threat sooner.

Pet animal facilities inspections fees are back again. Various ways have been tried for the past six years to increase the fees for licensing on pet animal facilities as a way to pay for the inspections on the facilities.

This year, a straightforward bill to simply raise some of the fees made it out of the committee. It’s not a question of whether there needs to be a good system to inspect pet animal facilities, but the main issue is who pays for those inspections, and to a lesser degree on whether inspections are unannounced or not.

While the Department of Ag does some unannounced inspections, an amendment would require unannounced inspections in certain cases.

Tomorrow is the preliminary report by a specialist on the funding lawsuit. It is a review by an independent consultant to address whether the funding amounts being thrown around are considered to be reasonable and appropriate. Should be an interesting report and help direct the Legislature in making decisions on education policy.