Much of the attention paid to the Legislature as it wrapped up its regular session a week ago before going on break centered on what it had accomplished — abortion-related legislation, welfare restrictions and school finance changes.
There was also attention paid to one major item of business that has not been accomplished: the budget, and the accompanying tobacco and liquor tax hikes proposed with it.
Far less attention has been given, however, to a whole raft of bills that have not advanced through the legislative process.
These bills may or may not be dead in the water, but they are currently at a standstill. Some even made a splash when first introduced, but have since faded into the background.
Updates on five bills that have previously generated Capital-Journal coverage are below. They are not ranked in any particular order.
House Bill 2234
The legislation sparked a heated debate when it was first introduced. The bill would require the governing boards of community colleges and state universities to implement policies prohibiting employees from providing titles when authoring or contributing to newspaper opinion columns, which includes letters, op-eds and editorials.
The main proponents of the bill are Rep. Joe Seiwert, R-Pretty Prairie, and Rep. Virgil Peck, R-Tyro, who have argued that university employees should not be using titles to trash lawmakers or elected officials.
Some professors, such as Fort Hays State University political science professor Chapman Rackaway, believe the legislation is directed at them. Rackaway is part of a group of professors known as Insight Kansas that write opinion columns on Kansas politics.
The House Education Committee held a hearing on the bill on Feb. 18. No action has been taken on the bill since then.
“There was enough negative reaction to it that I think there’s enough folks that have reconsidered whether it was a good idea or not and it may hopefully, therefore, just kind of die in committee and go no further,” Rackaway said.
Senate Bill 9 and House Bill 2011
These two bills would legalize medical marijuana. The legislation has been introduced yearly since 2009, yet has not advanced far.
This year appears no different so far.
Rep. Gail Finney, D-Wichita, introduced the House bill. She said the legislation appears to be stalemated again. After both bills were introduced in January, neither has received a committee hearing.
On Tuesday, however, Wichita voters approved reduced penalties for marijuana possession, limiting punishment to a $50 fine for first-time offenders. That’s less than state law, which labels a similar offense a class A misdemeanor.
“I think that’s an indication it’s time for people in the Legislature to at least listen to what people want,” Finney said.
House Bill 2075
Legislation to designate an official meditation room in the Capitol has stalled out since receiving attention in January.
The bill came after a failed 2012 effort to create a chapel at the statehouse.
The room targeted by the bill, 221-E, essentially operates as a room for contemplation and prayer now. The legislation would provide an official designation.
The House Federal and State Affairs Committee recommended on Feb. 2 the bill be passed. No action has been taken since then.
Senate Bill 37
The bill would create the Foster Parents’ Bill of Rights. The legislation would require the state to offer additional training to foster parents, as well as provide more information to foster parents about a child’s progress after they leave their care.
After its introduction in January, a hearing was held in early February in the Senate Judiciary Committee. No further action was taken.
House Bill 2002
House Bill 2002 slightly modifies the state’s law against the sexual exploitation of children.
Currently, Kansas law defines “sexually explicit conduct” in part as “exhibition in the nude.” The bill changes the language to “appearance in the nude, with or without the knowledge of the victim.”
Sharon Sullivan is an associate professor at Washburn University who studies human trafficking. Sullivan has said the change would move the law toward more victim-centered language.
The bill received a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee and the committee recommended the bill be passed. It has since been referred to the House Appropriations Committee and then to the House Judiciary Committee.