Kansas House OKs bill prohibiting local ‘inclusionary zoning’ laws, nutrition labeling

TOPEKA — The Kansas House passed a bill Saturday that takes away the authority of local governments to enact a host of laws or programs that many Republicans consider interference with free market economics.

Senate Bill 366 is a conference committee bill that includes provisions of four bills that were passed, in different forms, by one or both of the legislative chambers.

One provision, which was aimed specifically at Lawrence, would prohibit local governments from enacting what are called “inclusionary zoning” laws that are aimed at promoting mixed-income neighborhoods by regulating the sale or resale price of a certain number of homes within a specified area.

It’s a concept that has only been informally discussed among Lawrence officials, but it was enough to prompt the Kansas Association of Realtors to push for legislation blocking it.

Another provision would prohibit local governments from enacting or enforcing rental property licensing programs that require periodic interior inspections of housing units without the occupant’s consent.

A third provision contains what’s commonly known as an “anti-Bloomberg” law, prohibiting local governments from regulating the labeling or nutritional content of food sold in retail stores or vending machines. Such laws are named after former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who pushed for a ban on the sale of large sugary soft drinks.

But a provision was inserted into the final bill at the request of Douglas and Johnson counties to exempt what are called “double up” programs, an incentive program for people who receive Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits to buy fresh produce by allowing them to buy twice as much of those foods as the regular price would indicate.

Finally, the bill also prohibits local governments from enacting local labor laws that regulate the work schedules and hours of private-sector workers.

“Every single provision of this bill is an attack on local control,” said Rep. Boog Highberger, D-Lawrence. “Every single part of this bill impacts actions that have been taken in my community, by our local elected officials, to try to improve the lives of our citizens.”

But Rep. Mark Hutton, R-Wichita, who chairs the House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee where the bills originated, argued that the bill, and the limits on rental inspections in particular, are aimed at protecting individual rights.

The bill passed the House, 76-45. The Senate may take up the measure when lawmakers convene Sunday. If it’s approved there, it would be sent to Gov. Sam Brownback.