Rescuing children and pets in cars, plus a few other bills recently signed into law

You might have the impression that all lawmakers have been doing is debating school finance, taxes and a few hot-button social issues like guns in schools.

Make no mistake, those are huge issues for the state of Kansas and they deserve all the attention they’ve gotten. But it’s worth pointing out, especially now as lawmakers are trying to wind down the regular session, that they actually have worked on, and passed, bills on a lot of other topics worthy of note.

So here’s a look at a few of those bills, some of which have flown under the radar, so to speak, while most of the media’s attention — and I include myself in that — has been focused on other matters.

Kids and pets locked in cars: The next time you see a child or a pet locked inside of a parked vehicle on a hot summer day and you are afraid for their safety, you won’t need permission to break into that vehicle to rescue them.

Gov. Jeff Colyer announced Thursday that he had signed House Bill 2516 into law. It provides immunity from civil liability for any damage a person does to such vehicle if they break in to rescue a child, a pet or any “vulnerable person,” which includes people who are physically unable to unlock the vehicle and get themselves out.

People relying on that law do, however, need to notify law enforcement, and they need to stay with the person or pet in close proximity to the vehicle until law enforcement or first responders arrive.

Civil asset forfeiture and seizure: The Journal-World did provide quite a bit of coverage about debates this session over reforming the state’s civil asset forfeiture and seizure laws. House Bill 2459 made it through both chambers and was sent to Colyer’s desk in March. Colyer signed it into law April 2.

Cellphones for domestic abuse victims: Three days after signing the asset forfeiture and seizure law, the governor’s office announced the signing of another bill to help ensure that victims of domestic abuse can maintain their cellphone service while they are seeking a protection from abuse order. That’s supposed to be helpful for people in families that have multiple cellphones on a single billing account.

In those cases, when someone files for a protection order, House Bill 2524 allows Kansas courts to order the wireless service company to transfer the billing responsibility for one or more of those numbers to the victim, even if the victim is not the account holder.

“HB 2524 removes the ability for abusers to isolate their victims from loved ones and use access to cellular service as leverage against them,” Colyer said in a statement announcing his signing of the bill. “This is great news for those trying to escape a dangerous or abusive situation.”

Of course there are also plenty of bills each session that hardly anyone really cares about except those directly affected, and this year is no exception. One is House Bill 2628, authorizing the city of Pratt to dissolve its airport authority, which Colyer signed Thursday.

And it seems almost every year, there is a bill to name an official state something-or-other. Usually, these start in some elementary school where a teacher uses the legislative process to teach students about how government works. The students send a letter to their legislator asking to name something the official state “whatever,” and the legislator naturally complies, and the bill goes through the process and ultimately becomes law.

This year, it was House Bill 2650, which actually designates four official state things: the state rock (Greenhorn limestone); the state mineral (galena); the state gemstone (jelinite amber); and the state fish (channel catfish). Colyer signed that bill April 4.