by Rep. Don Schroeder
Kansas House of Representatives
The session always moves along quickly as we are already in Week 3. It?s a challenge to meet the deadlines set out in the calendar. As an example, we only have until Feb. 14 to draft and introduce a bill into a committee. Turn-around day, which is about the middle of the session, is Feb. 28.
Committee action picked up this week, but overall the session may be slightly slower. Since a two-year budget was passed last year, less emphasis will be placed on the budget process. Cer?tainly some adjustments need to be made, but most of the work for the 2015 budget is done.
In some ways it is more efficient in that we do not need to hear and act on budgets for each department each year. It is also less time consuming for those departments since they may not need to go through the entire budget preparation process each year.
The downside is that the Legislature may lose some control over the budget as it is not scrutinized as closely each year. I agree that the Legislature, at times, should do less. Sometimes the Legis?lature should sit back a little and see how the changes are working.
It?s interesting to see some of the bills introduced and scheduled for hearings. One bill is putting a maximum time frame on when court decisions must be rendered and made public.
In recent years, legislation has been passed that limits the time until rulings are rendered, such as rate cases rulings for power companies. There seems to be some frustration among legislators that court rulings take so long.
Another bill would allow a business to refuse to provide services based on religious grounds and not be sued for discrimination. The basis of this bill is that some service providers for weddings are being sued for discrimination because they refuse to provide services for gay ceremonies based on their religious beliefs. I am not on that committee, but it should be very interesting to see where this goes.
Two bills that are being pushed hard by some legislators are the elimination of the death penalty and a bill that would add an autism component to health insurance plans. I talked about the death penalty bill some last week, so will focus briefly on the autism bill for today.
The actual bill is not available to read yet, but my understanding is the cost of autism insurance would be spread over all health insurance plans sold in the state. Since I do not know many details yet, I don?t know what the diagnosis requirements for autism spectrum disorder are within the bill.
The Agriculture Com?mittee had informational hearings on the changes in commercial driver?s license (CDL) requirements and also regarding the changes taking place for commercial vehicle registrations.
Most of the changes are occurring because of changes or additional requirements at the federal level, but even after the hearings, quite a bit of confusion remains. I also write an e-newsletter that often contains more information. If you would like to receive it, please let me know.
In legislative news closer to home, the election to replace Sen. Jay Emler took place Thursday evening in McPherson. Precinct committee members from the 35th Senate District convened to vote and elect Rep. Clark Shultz as the replacement.
Don Schroeder represents District 74 , which includes much of southern Marion County.