By Aaron Strain
A roundup of what’s going on in Topeka.
Bureaucrats Busy Boozing
A loud, drunken party was banned from The usually quiet Topeka White Linen restaurant in late February. The party of 12, in a room with a maximum occupancy of 25, included three House Republicans and two lobbyists. The manager of the fine dining restaurant told the Topeka Capital-Journal that one member of the party drank five old fashioneds in 90 minutes, one made an “inappropriate” toast to the entire restaurant, and one yelled at the sous chef. The party asked the owner if he knew who they were and if liquor laws for cutting off drunk people applied to them. One of the Representatives later commented, “I’m not aware of anything happening.”
Last year, the Kansas Corporation Commission approved Westar Energy’s request to fine customers who use solar panels and generate their electricity up to $70 a month. Environmental groups, including the Kansas Sierra Club, support The Energy Fairness Act (SB124 and HB2190) which aims to curb the fees. The Commission’s Chairman is a former executive of an oil and gas company.
If SB 162 passes the House, private contractors under the Department for Children and Families (DCF) would be required to notify the Governor, every member of the legislature, and local media of any missing children from foster care contractors. A fine of $500 would be imposed on a contractor for every day they do not notify the DCF of a child who went missing or had to spend a night in the contractor’s office. Children’s rights advocates filed a class-action suit in November which alleges that “Kansas’ child welfare system is, and has been… systemically failing to protect the safety and well being of vulnerable children.” The Senate unanimously passed the bill.
If HB 2006 passes the Senate, the Department of Commerce would be required “to create a database of economic development (incentives)” the agency offers to private corporations. The database would also analyze the return on investment from these corporate subsidies. The House unanimously passed the bill.
SB 1494, which would add $90 million to school funding and potentially end the litigation against the state’s unconstitutional education funding, passed the Senate and is now in House committee.
HB 2079, which would have ended the spousal exemption from sexual battery, diedin the House Committee on Judiciary. The state currently defines sexual battery as “the touching of a victim who is not the spouse of the offender… who does not consent thereto, with the intent to arouse or satisfy the sexual desires of the offender or another.” According to Rep. Brett Parker, D-Overland Park, “if you have a spouse who commits sexual battery against you, you have no recourse under the law because it’s not illegal.”
Governor Laura Kelly signed into law:
SB 9, giving $115 million to KPERS, the state’s public employee retirement fund. The amount equals a payment the legislature skipped in 2016 but does not make up for all the rest of the skipped payments used to support the Brownback administration’s tax experiment.
SB 130, giving discretion to county election officials to allow for registered voters to vote at any polling location in their registered county. However, SB 43, which would have allowed Kansans to register to vote up to and on election day, died in committee. Voters still must register before an arbitrarily-set deadline.
HB 2191, allowing issued search warrants for electronic devices or electronically stored information “for examination and review anywhere.” The ACLU of Kansas testified that the bill includes “numerous privacy concerns” and potential Fourth Amendment infringements, citing broad language that may be used to justify “(seizing) more data than what is identified in the warrant.”
Learn about more upcoming bills, information about your representatives, and how they vote on acts you support by going to kslegislature.org