Change the Legislature’s Rules

Although we usually pass 80 or 90 bills each session, only 9 bills were passed in the 2020 session. This was in part due to the COV ID– 9 virus this session, but also because of a perennial problem with inefficient legislative rules. Those need to be updated.

The 2020 legislative session was characterized mostly by what did not happen. The Governor’s initiative to reorganize the Department of Child and Family and to create an Independent Energy Office failed, and several good pieces of legislation were not brought to a vote. The legislature adjourned early because of the threat of the COVI D-19 Virus and met again only for a Special Session to address the COVID-19 Virus response. On the bright side, the Legislature did pass legislation to address the Virus threat, a transportation plan, and a budget.

The legislation below passed and has been signed into law:

SB27 – provides for a maximum of 26 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits and compensation for the pre-payment waiting period. Under previous law, the number of weeks for which a worker may claim benefits was capped and workers must wait for a week prior to making a claim. The bill grants to workers an additional week’s benefit upon the completion of the third week of unemployment after the waiting week.

SB66 – provides appropriations and adjusted funding for fiscal year 2020 and 2021 for state agencies and FY 2020 and FY 2021 capital improvement expenditures for a number of state agencies.

SB102 –  Allows the Chief Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court to extend or suspend deadlines or time limitations to secure the health and safety of court users, staff and judicial officers in provides the court may use electronic audio-visual communication (videoconferencing). 

SB142 – clarifies the authority of the State Board of Education to grant waivers to the minimum number of school hours required each school year. It stipulated that schools teachers and staff should be paid and that they should find alternate ways to educate the children outside of school. It was left to the local teachers to decide how best to do it as some schools have Internet, laptops, mail, or perhaps can meet in small groups if considered safe. It also provided pay for hourly employees, paraprofessionals, and custodial employees during any school shutdown due to the disaster.

SB155 – deannexes all of the City of Valley Center territory within the Hillside Cemetery District, located in Sedgwick and Harvey counties, from the cemetery district.

HB2168 – expands the base of the hospital provider assessment and extends the quality care assessment imposed on skilled nursing care facilities.

HB2595 – eliminates the 30-day delay before offering state surplus property for sale to the general public. Current law allows the Surplus Property Program to sell state surplus property to the general public only after the property has been offered to qualified individuals and entities for at least 30 days.

SB173 – creates the 10 year Eisenhower Legacy Transportation plan. The bill requires at least $8 million to be spent in each county through fiscal year 2030, and allocates a percent of sales tax for the State Highway Fund. It includes a rural broadband fund and provides for the following types of programs in accordance with new or continuing law:

● An aviation program to provide assistance for planning, constructing, reconstructing, or rehabilitating the facilities of public use general aviation airports;

● Public transit programs to aid elderly persons, persons with disabilities, and the general public;

● A transportation technology program to provide for multimodal transportation-related projects that support innovative technology; and

● A multimodal program to provide improvement assistance for bike facilities ,pedestrian facilities, or other transportation-sensitive economic opportunities on a local or a regional basis.

HB2016 – creates the bipartisan COVID-19 response bill, containing essential provisions that will allow us to continue to deliver critical health and economic services to communities and businesses throughout the state during the pandemic. It provides the Legislature with the ability to more effectively engage in oversight while the Legislature is not in session while Governor Kelly retains the emergency authority to act as needed during the pandemic.

A key provision extends the current emergency declaration through September 15, 2020, providing stability and certainty for the state’s ongoing emergency response efforts. Beyond September 15, the State Finance Council may extend the declaration by a vote of 6 legislative members. The bill provides liability protection for medical providers and businesses when the businesses act within the scope of public health requirements.

Hopefully, the 2021 Legislative session will be more productive.

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