Lobbyist Report: April 2017

The main focus of the House and Senate has been on budget bills. The rescission bill, HB2052, which is supposed to fix this year’s budget shortfall, finally went to the Governor on April 6th. The budget bill for the next two years is in the hands of the Senate and the House, and neither chamber has been able to come up with one that is acceptable. The governor vetoed the first budget bill that both houses passed, but the Senate could not get enough votes to override it. The latest bill would have established a flat 4.6% tax for everyone, regardless of income, and it died quickly in the Senate on April 6th. Governor Brownback also vetoed the Medicaid expansion bill on March 30. This bill would have provided health care to low income workers in businesses that cannot afford to provide health care benefits to their employees. The House attempt to override on April 3 was not successful. The school finance plan, which must be in place by June 30, is nowhere near completion. Despite the election of more moderate Republicans, there continues to be divisiveness in the two legislative branches, and with the Governor, so the debate continues.

As of April 7, there have been 420 bills submitted on the House side and 247 on the Senate side. It has been a learning experience for me, as it takes hours and hours and constant internet monitoring to see if any of these bills affect our riders, and then follow what happens to them as the session progresses. The Legislature adjourned for their spring break on April 7 and will not reconvene until May 1st, which is the veto session.

Bills of ABATE attention:
SB-99 and HB-2010: Prohibiting the operation of a motor vehicle while using wireless communication device. Neither Transportation Committee acted on this. Texting is already illegal, and this would have extended that to cell phone use unless hands free technology is being used.

HB-2104: Would have increased the minimum vehicle insurance requirements from $25K to $50K for one person injuries and from $50K to $100K for two persons. This would have, no doubt, increased insurance premiums, however it was not acted on in either chamber.

HB-2152: Would have allowed hemp treatment for certain medical conditions. The Committee on Health and Human Services heard the bill on March 15 but took no action on it.

HB-2174, regarding disabled veteran/disabled persons license plates was heard and approved in the Committee on Veterans. It went to the House floor and was approved 125 to 0, and then went to the Senate Committee on Transportation on March 16. District 4 member George Hanna and I testified at the hearing. The Committee recommended approving it on March 21st, as Senate Substitute for House Bill No. 2174. The Substitute bill amendments would allow anyone with a disability and who has a specialty plate (veterans, college, breast cancer, etc.) to keep their license plate but receive a handicapped sticker to put on that plate. On March 30th the Senate Committee on Transportation, with an Emergency Final Action – the Substitute bill passed; It went to the Senate, who voted Yea: 40 Nay: 0. On April 5th the House concurred with amendments and voted Yea: 124 Nay: 0.

HB-2188, the right of way bill, was never worked by the House Transportation Committee, despite written testimony and testimony at the hearing from myself and by many of our ABATE members (thank you Robin, District 11, for your very moving testimony). Consequently it is dead this year so we’ll have to do some legwork to get it re-submitted next year.

HB-2194, regarding motorcycle licensing and fees, impacting rider education programs and reciprocal recognition of training certificates from other states. It was worked by the House Committee on Transportation on March 15th. With amendments it was approved by the Committee and was approved by the full House on a 122 to 0 vote on March 27th. It was sent to the Senate Committee on Transportation on March 28th. Unfortunately, with the time it took for the amendments to be included it was so late in the session that the Senate committee did not meet about it, so now it will be pushed off to 2018. This one is disappointing in that it would make it much easier for motorcycle safety programs in Kansas to award successful students to get the “M” on their license. We currently have to go through the Department of Education DE-99 process for this to happen.

HB-2200, regarding sale of 6% alcohol (Beer only) in grocery and convenience stores. There were several bills submitted regarding alcohol sales this year. The House passed this version on April 6th. The tradeoff is that liquor stores would be able to sell cigarettes, lottery tickets, and other merchandise. The Senate voted to approve it on April 7th so it will go to the Governor.

HB-2202, Drivers' licenses renewal period, test fees. This bill would have extended licensing periods from 6 to 8 years except for those 65 and older, which would have been 4 years. Renewal fees would have increased from $18 to $27 for those under 65. This bill was never worked by the House Committee on Transportation.
I also submitted a request to the Governor’s Office for a 2017 Proclamation for Motorcycle Awareness Month. After 3 date changes, the date and time will be on April 27th at 9:30 AM. Paul will be soliciting participants, as only 10 people can be in the Governor’s office for the actual signing, but we certainly encourage our members to join us at the Capitol for a good showing of motorcyclists. I believe the plan is for riders to park on the north side of the Capitol in the visitor entrance.
As always, contact me if you have questions or concerns or issues you would like ABATE to address, or that you have personal interest in.

Steve Christenberry
ABATE of Kansas