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Archive for Monday, May 10, 2004

Legislature adjourns after work on state’s biggest issues

May 10, 2004

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Here's a look at the status of major issues when the Legislature's wrap-up session ended:

School finance

Legislators failed to pass a school finance plan. A bipartisan coalition in the House held firm for raising taxes to benefit education, while a majority of senators rejected higher taxes. The last proposal to fail was worth $82 million and relied on a loan of transportation funds.

Gay marriage

During the Legislature's wrap-up session, leaders resurrected a proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution to ban gay marriage and civil unions between same-sex couples. The measure won Senate approval but failed in the House.

Gambling

The Senate rejected a bill authorizing five state-owned casinos and installation of slot machines at dog and horse tracks, veterans' and fraternal groups' halls and qualified recreation-related businesses.

Liquor laws

Many legislators hoped to amend the Liquor Control Act to apply uniformly to all cities and counties, because the lack of uniformity has allowed 15 communities to authorize Sunday liquor sales, despite a long-standing ban in state law. However, no bill passed because the Senate wanted to end Sunday sales even where they exist now, while the House wanted to allow such sales to continue.

Concealed carry

Legislators approved a bill allowing qualified Kansans to carry concealed handguns, but Gov. Kathleen Sebelius vetoed it. The House failed to override her veto.

Economic development

Sebelius signed a bill creating the Kansas Bioscience Authority to help establish bioscience as a major industry and create a Center for Entrepreneurship to aid small businesses.

The governor also signed legislation aimed at stimulating agriculture-themed tourism businesses by protecting operators against injury lawsuits.

State budget

Both chambers approved a bill tying up loose ends in a $10.3 billion budget already approved for the fiscal year beginning July 1.

The measure would prohibit the state from allowing workers outside the United States to handle telephone calls from Kansans who have questions about food stamps.

Transportation

Sebelius signed a bill using bonds, sales tax revenues and federal funds to shore up the 10-year comprehensive transportation plan begun in 1999.

Medical services

Sebelius signed legislation intended to raise reimbursements to Kansas doctors and hospitals for treating Medicaid patients for the first time in more than 20 years by securing an additional $67 million in federal aid.

Open records

Legislators approved a bill strengthening the Kansas Open Records Act and allowing attorneys' fees in some cases where government agencies denied records in bad faith.

Abortion

A House-passed bill to impose minimum standards on abortion clinics failed to clear a Senate committee. Sebelius vetoed a similar bill last year.

Immigrants

Legislators approved a proposal granting some illegal immigrants a break on tuition to public universities and colleges.

A House-passed measure to grant illegal immigrants driver's licenses failed to clear a Senate committee.

Lobbyist disclosure

Details about free meals accepted by legislators from lobbyists during committee gatherings or national conferences would no longer be public information under a bill sent to Sebelius.

Legislators rejected a proposal to exempt all meals and small gifts worth under $15 from the disclosure requirement, which applies to small gifts and the food and drinks lobbyists provide legislators, other than at large group events.

Enhanced 911

Sebelius signed a bill that would fund improvements in county 911 systems with a new, 50-cent monthly fee on wireless phones.

Crime legislation

A bill creating a sentence of life in prison without parole as an alternative to the death penalty in capital murder cases passed and was signed by Sebelius.

Elections

Sebelius signed a bill requiring some voters to show a driver's license or other identification to ensure their ballots are counted, so Kansas qualifies for aid under the federal Help America Vote Act of 2002 for upgrading voting machines and improving poll worker training and voter education efforts.

She also signed legislation designed to make polling places more accessible to people with disabilities.

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