Lawmakers, including a historically large batch of freshmen, are working to put their mark on Kansas in a wide variety of ways. Here’s a quick look at some of their decisions halfway through the session.
Senators have agreed to require drug tests of welfare and unemployment recipients suspected of using illegal substances, sending those who fail to treatment and job training. Democrats forced a successful vote to include lawmakers in such tests. The bill now goes to the House.Guns
A House committee has endorsed a plan to shield Kansas-made guns and ammunition from federal gun-control measures. Federal officers who tried to intervene could be arrested. A proposal to let licensed Kansans carry concealed guns into more public buildings is also still alive.Education
The Senate has approved a proposal to let voters decide on a constitutional amendment preventing courts from ordering lawmakers to spend more on schools; it still must go to the House. Gov. Sam Brownback’s plan to hold back third-graders who can’t pass reading tests failed in committee. Here’s where other key issues stand at the midway point in the legislative session. Bills that have been approved in one chamber still must gain approval in the other.Judges
The Senate approved a constitutional amendment to let the governor select Supreme and Appeals court judges, subject to Senate confirmation. But the proposal seems unlikely to pass in the House. The House, meanwhile, approved a bill that lets the governor select only appeals judges, a change that doesn’t require a public vote.Labor
The House voted to prevent public employees from volunteering to have a portion of their paycheck docked to fund political advocacy. A bill to change how judges who rule on workers compensation claims are selected has also advanced. And a bill to limit teacher union collective bargaining is also still alive. But it’s unclear whether they’ll garner enough support.Abortion
The Senate approved a bill intended to keep a doctor from performing an abortion based on gender. A doctor could face criminal charges and lawsuits from a woman or family member.Alcohol
A proposal to allow grocery stores and other retailers to sell stronger beer, wine and spirits didn’t get much discussion in the first half of the session, but is poised for debate starting next week.Immigration
Despite a pile of ideas aimed at stricter enforcement of immigration laws and attempts to generate discussion about requiring employers to use E-Verify to check residency status, it’s unlikely the House or Senate will take up any major changes.Medicaid expansion
No decision has been made about whether to expand Medicaid to more Kansans under new federal health care laws. But a House panel voted against expanding it, a move that, if affirmed in subsequent votes, would likely send a message to Brownback that lawmakers oppose the expansion.Rape
Both chambers have passed bills that eliminate the statute of limitations for the prosecution of rape cases. Under current law, prosecution has to start within five years from when the rape occurred. The bill also allows prosecution of sexually violent crimes anytime within 10 years of when the victim turns age 18 — or within one year of when authorities establish a conclusive DNA link between the crime and the suspect.Turnpike
A proposal to merge the Kansas Turnpike Authority into the Kansas Department of Transportation remains alive in theory, but a bill proposing that did not get a full vote in the House.Voting
The Senate approved a plan that increases penalties for voting crimes and gives the secretary of state the power to prosecute those crimes.