As we get settled into the second week of the 2018 legislative session, most of our work is concentrated in committees where bills are being prioritized and vetted. The senate has 13 standing committees which cover many different topics, including education, agriculture, judiciary, and utilities—to name a few.

In observation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the legislature and state offices were closed Monday, Jan. 15. However, the abbreviated week did not slow committees from introducing and holding hearings on proposed legislation – as of Friday, the senate has introduced roughly 50 bills in the first two weeks.

Once a committee completes hearings and votes on a bill, if passed, it will then make its way to the senate floor and the full body will begin to debate and vote on the measure. Floor debates and votes will begin in the coming weeks. If you’re interested in tracking our work, you can head to our website at www.kslegislature.org and click on the calendar tab at the top of the webpage to view the senate’s daily schedule. You can also view live streams of the senate sessions on the Legislature’s YouTube page.

Please do not hesitate to contact me with any further comments, questions, or concerns.

LANSING CORRECTIONAL FACILITY

The State Finance Council was scheduled to meet on Thursday, Jan. 18, to vote on a plan to rebuild Lansing Correctional Facility but shortly before the 10:30 a.m. meeting, Governor Brownback postponed the vote.

The vote was originally scheduled for Jan. 4, but was pushed back until Jan. 18 to allow legislators time to gather more information on the plan. Many legislators expressed concern with the cost of the proposed $363 million rebuild and CoreCivic, the private prison operator that would build the new Lansing facility.

The plan as introduced would be a 20-year, $362 million contract that would finance, design, construct, and maintain a new state prison in Lansing. Under the plan developed by KDOC and CoreCivic, the new facility would have 1,920 maximum and minimum-security beds and 512 medium security beds. Technology and design upgrades would allow the KDOC to reduce staffing from 682 to 371.

First-year payment by the state would be $14.9 million and would rise 1.9 percent yearly during the contracted 20-years. A spokesperson for the governor said the following on the postponement: “There are some questions that still need to be answered. It’s not dead.”

At this time, it is unknown when the vote will be rescheduled.

DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER STATUE

On Wednesday, the Senate Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on S.B. 262 which would authorize the construction of a statue honoring Dwight D. Eisenhower. S.B. 262 which is sponsored by Senators Elaine Bowers (RConcordia) and Randall Hardy (R-Salina) would allow for construction to begin on the northwest quadrant of capitol grounds.

State law requires legislation to be passed before any statue or memorial be placed on capitol grounds. The monument would be a replica of the Jim Brothers statue of Eisenhower that resides in the Rotunda of the United States Capitol in Washington, D.C. The funds required for the installation and construction of the statue were raised through a private fundraising campaign.

At Wednesday’s hearing the great-grandson of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Merill Eisenhower Atwater, spoke to endorse the legislation.

Final action on S.B. 262 in the Senate Ways and Means Committee is scheduled for Thursday, Jan. 25.

HEMP LEGISLATION

On Monday and Tuesday of this week the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee held hearings on S.B. 263, a bill that creates a program to research the use of industrial hemp. H.B. 2182 was passed in the house in 2017 and allows for the growth of industrial hemp across the state. In H.B. 2182, industrial hemp would not be considered a controlled substance or marijuana as defined by state law.

Overview of S.B. 263

The Department of Agriculture, alone or in coordination with a state educational institution (regent schools), may cultivate industrial hemp grown from certified seed and promote the research and development of industrial hemp.

Overview of H.B. 2182

Representatives from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and various law enforcement officer associations spoke in opposition to H.B. 2182 in 2017. They expressed concern the bill would provide a legal defense to the possession of marijuana by a person holding an industrial hemp license.

The Kansas Bureau of Investigation (KBI) testified neutral to S.B. 263 but was opposed to H.B. 2182. The Farm Bureau testified in support of S.B. 263 but was neutral to H.B. 2182.

I appreciated having the opportunity to talk with constituents this week while they were in Topeka. Thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to share your interests and concerns: Ray Vail (Arma, KS), Jason Sutterby (Savonburg, KS), Lynn Moore (Pittsburg, KS), Ron Brown (Fort Scott, KS), Stacy Kratz (Crawford County Mental Health Center), Michael Ehling (Crawford County Mental Health Center) and Scott Jackson (Spring River Mental Health & Wellness Center). The next time you are in Topeka be sure to come by my office located on the fourth floor(445-s) in the capitol.