’21 Legislative session: A look at more than 70 measures

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Here are the highlights from the 2021 Kansas legislative session.

We look at 70 bills and/or votes that were taken during the last four months.

It’s a comprehensive guide to what happened this year: what key bills and amendments lawmakers considered and the votes they took.

If something was left out, don’t take it personally. Drop us a line and we’ll plug it in.

  1. American civics test/financial literacy: Vetoed. The Legislature approved a bill requiring Kansas students to pass an American civics test to graduate from high school. It also would have required a personal financial literacy course for grades 10 through 12 lasting at least one semester or two quarters. Students wouldn’t have had to pass the civics test until the 2022-23 school year. It would have required students to pass the financial literacy course for graduation starting in the 2024-25 school year. The House passed the bill 72-51. It was approved 25-13 in the Senate. The governor vetoed the bill. Lawmakers chose not to override.
  2. Angel investor tax credit: Signed into law. The bill renews the economic development incentive for small, innovative startup companies for five years, until 2026. The bill increases the tax credits received from an investment in a single business to $100,000 from $50,000. It also increases the total yearly tax credits received for an investor to $350,000 from $250,000. The bill passed the House on a 109-12 vote. The Senate passed the bill 29-9.
  3. Automated delivery vehicles: A bill authorizing Amazon to operate automated delivery vehicles on city sidewalks passed out of a Senate committee but died on the floor. The bill was facing opposition from labor unions, which thought it would displace jobs. The legislation is expected to return next year.
  4. Ballot collection: The Kansas Legislature passed a bill that limits the delivery of ballots to election offices on behalf of someone else. The bill limits to 10 the number of ballots a person can deliver to the election office on behalf of someone else during an election. It would be a misdemeanor offense. As originally drafted, the bill prevented an individual from delivering more than five advance voting ballots on behalf of other voters during an election and it would have been a felony. The bill passed the Senate on a 27-11 vote. It passed in the House 80-42. The governor vetoed the bill. The veto was overridden 85-38 in the House and 28-12 in the Senate.
  5. Budget: The Legislature passed passed a budget that provides pay raises for judges and court staff, money for settling a legal case of misdirected securities fees and money to meet the state’s matching requirement for higher education. The House voted 98-21 to pass the $21 billion budget for fiscal year 2021 and nearly $15.3 billion for fiscal 2022. It passed in the Senate on a 26-12 vote. A proposal for a 2.5% salary increase for state employees at a cost of about $28 million was not included in the budget. The budget provides about $13 million for salary increases for state judges and their staff. It also includes about $6 million to settle a lawsuit charging the state with unlawfully directing regulatory securities fees into general government operations.
  6. Business compensation: Vetoed by the governor. The Legislature passed a bill that could provide as much as $500 million in relief to Kansas businesses that were shut down during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill directs a portion of uncommitted federal COVID-19 relief money coming to the state — as well as cities and counties — for settling claims for government-ordered shutdowns or restrictions during the pandemic. The amount could be substantial since it requires the state to set aside 25% of its uncommitted federal COVID-19 relief money. Cities and counties that put restrictions in place during the pandemic would have to earmark 35% of their federal relief money for compensation. The House passed the bill 68-42, and it was passed 24-14 in the Senate.
  7. Business loans: Enacted. The Legislature passed a bill creating a $60 million low-interest loan program for businesses struggling from the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. The legislation also allows banks to deduct interest income from agricultural loans and single-family housing loans in rural areas with populations of fewer than 2,500 people outside a metro area. It also expands the geographical area that credit unions can serve. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and 122-1 in the House. The governor signed the bill.
  8. Candidate vacancies: A bill that would have stripped Kansas governors of their power to replace vacancies for two statewide offices died in the House this year. The bill would would have turned the appointment authority for treasurer and insurance commissioner over to the state’s political parties of the officeholder. The governor now appoints vacancies for those offices. Republican leaders said the bill is still a priority even if it didn’t make it across the finish line this year.
  9. Carl Folsom III nomination for state appeals court: Gov. Laura Kelly’s nomination to the Kansas Court of Appeals came up three votes short of winning confirmation to the bench in an 18-17 vote, including three present and not voting. It was the second time the Senate refused to confirm Folsom’s nomination to the bench.
  10. Car sharing: Gov. Laura Kelly signed groundbreaking legislation that could change the way we rent cars – or at least how we share them for money. The law sets up a new regulatory framework allowing Kansans to share their vehicles, very much in the same way Airbnb lets you share your home. The bill passed the House unanimously and 39-1 in the Senate.
  11. Cellphones and driving: New limits proposed for drivers using cellphones, including a ban for anyone under 18 and for the general public in construction and school zones, advanced out of a Senate committee. It wasn’t considered by the full Senate.
  12. Child advocate office: The Senate approved a bill creating an office that would handle child welfare complaints. The Senate voted 31-4 to approve the bill. A separate bill was not acted on by the House. Some children’s advocates were cool on the Senate bill because they thought it gave the attorney general too much power over the office.
  13. Closed businesses (in the future): The Legislature passed a bill that would require counties in the future to reimburse businesses that are shut down or limited in any capacity because of a declared emergency disaster. The reimbursement would be 1/365 of the amount of taxes levied for every day the business is shut down and 1/365 of the amount of taxes levied multiplied by thepercentage restricted for every day the business is required to limit operations. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and 108-3 in the House.
  14. Concealed carry age: Enacted. The Kansas Legislature passed a bill that lowers the age for carrying a concealed weapon to 18. State law already allows someone as young as 18 to carry a gun, but the bill would allow anyone from 18 to 20 to get a license to carry a concealed weapon. The bill passed the Senate 30-8. The House passed the bill 80-43. The governor vetoed the bill. The House voted 84-39 to override the veto. The Senate voted 31-8 for the override.
  15. Constitutional amendment on abortion: The Legislature passed a constitutional amendment overturning a 2019 state Supreme Court decision that found Kansans have a fundamental right to an abortion. It goes to the voters in August 2022. The Senate passed the bill 28-11. It passed in the House 86-38.
  16. Constitutional amendment on citizen grand juries: A proposal that would write citizen grand juries into the Bill of Rights of the state constitution was heard in a Senate committee but didn’t advance. Kansas is just one of six states that allow citizens to request grand juries through petitions. They’ve been used to investigate abortion clinics, pornography, the Board of Public Utilities in Wyandotte County and even former Secretary of State Kris Kobach.
  17. Constitutional amendment on convention of states: A proposal asking Congress to call a constitutional convention to place limits on the federal government was defeated when the Senate voted 21-19 to send it back to committee. The Senate tried to pass the vote with a simple majority even though the state constitution required a two-thirds vote. The resolution sought to have Congress call a convention of states under Article V of the U.S. Constitution. The convention would be held for the purpose of imposing fiscal restraints and limiting the power and jurisdiction of the federal government, as well as limiting the terms of members of Congress.
  18. Constitutional amendment on rules and regulations: A proposed constitutional amendment giving the Legislature the power to veto rules and regulations adopted by executive branch agencies moved out of a House committee but was not acted on this year by the full Legislature. This bill was announced earlier this year by Attorney General Derek Schmidt and Republican leadership in the Legislature. The proposal could very well return next year – when Schmidt will be running for governor.
  19. E-Verify: Vetoed. The state budget would have required state agencies and contractors to verify the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. State agencies and major contractors would have been mandated to use E-Verify, a U.S. Department of Homeland Security website that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. The bill would have required all state agencies to enroll in E-Verify to determine whether employees hired after Jan. 1, 2022, are eligible to work in the United States. It would have applied to state contractors that do at least $50,000 worth of business with the state to verify the eligibility of their employees. The governor vetoed this provision of the budget, and the Legislature didn’t vote to override.
  20. Education savings accounts: A bill that would have allowed students to take their base state aid with them to private schools under a number of circumstances passed the House but died in the Senate. It was part of a broad bill that included school funding and a proposal to expand taxpayer-subsidized scholarships to attend private school. The education savings accounts were ultimately removed from the legislation. They are expected to return next year.
  21. Education bill: The Legislature passed an education budget tied to a key policy that would expand a program that awards tax credits for donations to private school scholarships. The bill passed 35-4 in the Senate and 107-9 in the House. The budget for schools includes $5.2 billion to comply with a state Supreme Court order requiring the Legislature to adequately fund education. The bill also expands the tuition tax credit scholarship program to cover more students.
  22. Election Day mail ballot deadline: A bill eliminating the three-day grace period for mailing in ballots died in Senate committee after it was initially advanced and later pulled back. Its future is uncertain. The law now allows advanced ballots to be delivered to election officials up until three days after the election so long as they’re postmarked on or before Election Day. The bill would have set a new deadline of  7 p.m. on Election Day.
  23. Emergency management law: The Legislature passed a bill rewriting the state’s emergency management law, which included provisions allowing aggrieved individuals to go to court if they feel they are overly burdened by government regulations. The House passed the bill 118-5. It passed 31-8 in the Senate. The bill was signed into law.
  24. Energy choice: Enacted. The Legislature passed a bill banning Kansas cities and counties from restricting public access to natural gas. The Kansas House voted 93-29 to approve the bill. It passed on a 30-10 vote in the Senate. The bill was aimed at undercutting a national trend toward banning natural gas hookups as local governments fight climate change and fossil fuel emissions. The governor allowed it to become law without her signature.
  25. Energy plan: bill creating a task force charged with developing a new state energy plan was set aside this year. The bill, which passed out of committee, called for creating a 25-person task force — 17 voting members and eight nonvoting members — to develop a comprehensive state energy plan by January 2023. The bill would have directed the task force to assess strategies for currrent and future energy technologies as well as enhance energy efficiency. Some lawmakers saw it as a pathway to Green New Deal policies.
  26. Fitness center tax breaks: Wichita health club owner Rodney Steven, a frequent campaign contributor to legislators, lost another attempt to get a property tax exemption for fitness centers. A House committee heard the bill but didn’t act on the legislation. The proposal was added to a Senate bill, which was voted down 27-11.
  27. Firearm safety: Vetoed. The Legislature passed a bill requiring the state Board of Education to develop guidelines for gun-safety courses that would include the National Rifle Association’s Eddie Eagle GunSafe program. The bill would have required the board to write a standardized firearms education program under certain conditions that a local school board could implement if it chose. The legislation passed 31-7 in the Senate and 79-44 in the House. The governor vetoed the bill, and the Legislature didn’t vote to override.
  28. First-time home buyers tax: Enacted. The Legislature passed a bill providing a tax deduction for first-time home buyers. The bill passed 119-3 in the House and 35-1 in the Senate. The governor signed the bill. It allows Kansans to set up savings accounts at financial institutions starting July 1, 2022, to save for the purchase of a new home. Contributions would be limited in each tax year to $3,000 for individuals and $6,000 for a married couple filing a joint return. The deposits would be capped for all tax years at $24,000 for individuals and $48,000 for a married couple filing a joint return.
  29. Gadsden license plate: Enacted. The Legislature passed a bill authorizing the Gadsden flag — known for its coiled snake and “Don’t Tread on Me” motto — as a distinctive state license plate. The bill became controversial after some lawmakers objected to the background of the flag’s designer, Christopher Gadsden, a South Carolinian who owned two rice plantations with slaves but played a prominent role in the American Revolution. The bill not only authorized the Gadsden flag but also distinctive Braden’s Hope for Childhood Cancer license plates, proud educator license plates, Alpha Kappa Alpha license plates and Delta Sigma Theta plates. The bill passed 81-41 in the House and 29-5 in the Senate. The Senate voted 26-11 against removing the Gadsden plate from the bill. The governor vetoed the bill but was overridden 28-12 in the Senate and 86-37 in the House.
  30. Healthcare Access: Governor signed legislation extending various measures for responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, including the expanded use of telemedicine and  the authority of the Board of Healing Arts to grant certain temporary emergency licenses. The bill also extends the suspension of certain requirements related to medical care facilities and immunity from civil liability for certain health care providers and certain persons conducting businesses in Kansas for COVID-19 claims. The bill passed 96-28 in the House and 30-10 in the Senate.
  31. Indigenous persons: Enacted. The Kansas Legislature passed a bill authorizing the attorney general to coordinate law enforcement training in dealing with missing and murdered Indigenous persons. The bill passed unanimously in the House and Senate. It’s been signed into law by the governor.
  32. Infrastructure trespassing: Gov. Laura Kelly signed a bill intended to protect critical infrastructure from destructive protests and criminal damage. The bill increases penalties for trespassing or damaging critical infrastructure. It passed 82-42 in the House and 37-2 in the Senate. The bill was backed by the petrochemical industry, which said in testimony the increased penalties are essential to safeguarding sensitive infrastructure critical to the economy. Critics said it would outlaw peaceful protests.
  33. Kathleen VonAchen appointment to the KPERS board: The Kansas Senate deadlocked at 19 on the nomination of Kathleen VonAchen to the board of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. VonAchen is the chief financial officer for the Unified Government in Kansas City, Kansas. The confirmation was rejected after questions were raised about her work in Stockton, California, which declared bankruptcy but had been in financial trouble before she arrived.
  34. Labor Department oversight: Enacted. The Kansas Legislature passed a bill creating a committee to provide more oversight of the Kansas Labor Department, which has faced criticism in recent months over how it handled a flood of unemployment claims during the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill also would put at least $250 million into the unemployment trust fund that would cover any unemployment fraud, which is estimated at somewhere between $300 million and $600 million. The bill potentially allocates another $250 million depending on how much fraud an independent audit finds. The bill passed unanimously in both chambers. The governor signed the bill.
  35. Late bill help: The Kansas Legislature adopted budget language to help Kansans who may have fallen delinquent on their bills because they couldn’t get timely unemployment benefits from the state Labor Department. Lawmakers inserted language into the budget requiring the Department of Labor to prepare reports for Kansans to send to their creditors if they didn’t get unemployment benefits in a timely manner. Kansans could take the Labor Department statements to their creditors to try to get bad marks removed from their credit history
  36. Mask mandate for House members: The House voted down a proposal requiring lawmakers to wear masks covering their mouths and noses when in the House chamber and during House committee meetings. The House voted 75-46 against the rule.
  37. Medicaid expansion: Efforts to expand Medicaid this session fell short in the House and the Senate. Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes tried to amend a bill to expand Medicaid, but it was defeated 23-12. Democratic Rep. Brett Parker tried a similar approach in the House, but his proposed amendment to the state budget was voted down 78-46.
  38. Medical marijuana: A bill legalizing medical marijuana passed the House 79-42. It died in the Senate.
  39. Meditation room:  The Legislature opted not to override the governor’s veto of language in the budget that would have reclaimed a room for meditation on the second floor of the Capitol that the governor now uses for constituent services. It is believed that the Legislative Coordinating Council still has the power to take the room back.
  40. Mental health: Gov. Laura Kelly signed a bill establishing a new model for providing behavioral health services — the Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic, also known as a CCBHC. The governor’s office said it makes Kansas the first state to pass legislation identifying the CCBHC model as a solution to mental health and substance-abuse issues. The bill sets a new designation of Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinic for Community Mental Health Centers to achieve, which would open the door for more federal money and more services for those in need. There are currently 26 Community Mental Health Centers in Kansas, of which six are now working toward the new designation. Eventually, it is expected that all 26 Community Mental Health Centers will receive the new designation. The bill passed 34-4 in the Senate and 120-2 in the House.
  41. Nursing home liability: Gov. Laura Kelly signed into law a bill that provides immunity from civil liability for COVID-19 claims for adult care homes, community mental health centers, crisis intervention centers, community service providers and community developmental disability organizations. The House approved the bill 85-37. The Senate approved the bill 30-7.
  42. Nursing home visitation:  Bill would have prohibited state and county officials from
    restricting visitors to county-owned homes caring for seniors or patients in county-owned hospitals. The bill also would have allowed residents and patients to waive city, state or federal restrictions of visitors that were imposed to control transmission or prevention of an infectious disease. The bill did not advance out of committee.
  43. Occupational licensing: Enacted. Kansas lawmakers passed a bill making it easier for members of the military or their spouses to get occupational licenses when they move to Kansas. The bill requires state licensing agencies to issue the appropriate credentials to a military service member or their spouse — who are already licensed out of state — within 15 days from the date of the submission of a “complete application” or within 45 days for all other nonmilitary applicants from out of state. Currently, credentials are to be issued to military service members and spouses within 60 days. The bill passed the House 105-17. The Senate approved the bill on a 35-4 vote. The governor signed the bill.
  44. Parks & Wildlife surveillance: The House rejected a bill prohibiting law enforcement personnel from the Kansas Department of Parks, Wildlife and Tourism from conducting surveillance on private property unless authorized by a search warrant.
  45. Phone tax: A bill imposing a monthly surcharge of 50 cents on cellphone users and landlines to pay for mental health services for callers to a new national suicide hotline failed to get out of committee.
  46. Property tax transparency: Enacted. Gov. Laura Kelly signed a bill that puts limits on the longstanding practice of local governments collecting extra revenue without raising the property tax rate. The bill requires local governments to hold hearings and vote to accept extra revenues coming from increased property values even if the tax rate remained steady. The legislation eliminates the controversial property tax lid that the Legislature imposed in 2015 and started in 2017. The bill passed 30-5 in the Senate and 120-3 in the House.
  47. Public defender pay: A bill raising the salary cap for private attorneys who take on defense cases for the state passed the House and didn’t get action in the Senate. The bill would raise their pay from $80 to $100 through June 30, 2023, and to $120 after July 1, 2023. The bill passed the House 116-8. The Legislature put $3.6 million into the budget for fiscal 2022 to raise the salary to $100 an hour. The budget provision is intended to give the Legislature time next year to raise the salary cap. Here’s coverage explaining why the bill is needed.
  48. Promise Act: Enacted. The bill establishes a program to provide scholarships for students to attend any community college, technical college or independent not-for-profit postsecondary institution. Scholarships would be offered to Kansas graduates who agree to complete a certificate or two-year program in one of the state’s high-need areas for labor. Participating students must work part time or perform community service during their education and commit to remaining in Kansas post-graduation. The program would cost $10 million a year. The bill passed the House 118-4 and unanimously in the Senate. The governor signed the bill.
  49. Property tax breaks for seniors/veterans: A proposal freezing property taxes for Kansans 65 years and older as well as veterans with at least a 50% permanent disability rating died in the Legislature. It was part of a package of bills — including one exempting health clubs from property taxes — that was voted down in the Senate on a 27-11 vote. The maximum amount that could have been claimed under the bill was $5,000. Eligible homes must have been valued at $395,000 or less, and household income must have been $50,000 or less.
  50. Reamortization: Unlike in previous years, the Legislature did not vote on the governor’s request to refinance payments to the state’s retirement system in an effort to free up state general fund dollars for the budget. There were two bills — one in the Senate and one in the House — that didn’t go anywhere this year. The House tax committee advanced the bill without recommendation and was never acted on
  51. Robin Marx nomination for tax appeals board: The Senate voted 27-11 against Gov. Laura Kelly’s nomination of career appraiser Robin Marx to the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals.
  52. Rural emergency hospitals: Enacted. Gov. Laura Kelly signed a bill aimed at improving rural health care by putting Kansas’ rural emergency hospitals in position to benefit from higher Medicare reimbursements. The bill would allow existing facilities to provide around-the-clock emergency and outpatient services without having to provide inpatient care. Congress established rural emergency hospitals as a new Medicare provider type starting Jan. 1, 2023. They are defined as providers that furnish certain outpatient hospital services in rural areas that will be reimbursed at rates higher than those that might otherwise apply to services. The bill passed 34-4 in the Senate and 120-2 in the House.
  53. Rural opportunity zones: Governor signed a bill extending for two years a program that offers a mix of tax cuts and student loan assistance as a way of stanching the loss of population in rural Kansas. The bill would make any county with a population of up to 40,000 people eligible for the program. The bill would increase the number of eligible counties from 77 to 95. The House passed the bill 107-14 and unanimously in the Senate.
  54. Securitization: Gov. Laura Kelly signed into law a bill that creates a means for utilities to use ratepayer-backed bonds that could potentially expedite the retirement of coal-fired power plants. The bill also allows natural gas companies to issue bonds to cover their extraordinary fuel costs incurred during the deep freeze in February. It allows the gas companies to spread out repayments of their expenses and ultimately save ratepayers money. The House passed the bill 113-9. It passed the Senate 33-7.
  55. Social services reorg: For the second straight year, the Legislature rejected Gov. Laura Kelly’s proposal to bring together social services under one umbrella. The House voted 84-38 against combining the Department for Children and Families and the Department for Aging and Disability Services. Only one chamber needed to vote the reorganization down.
  56. Sports wagering: Died this year. The Senate voted 26-12 to pass a bill authorizing the state’s four casinos to contract with the Kansas Lottery to manage and operate a sports book on behalf of the state. It was very different from the House legislation that would have authorized betting at the state’s four casinos and 1,200 lottery retailers statewide. The House bill also would have allowed a revote on allowing slot machines at a defunct dog track in Sedgwick County. The House failed to pass a bill. Here’s a recap of what happened.
  57. Stalking: Gov. Laura Kelly signed a bill into law that imposes tougher penalties for stalking a minor and closes a loophole that could make it easier to dodge a conviction. The bill came in response to the case of a former Olathe elementary school teacher who  was charged with stalking a young female student in Johnson County.Detectives found hundreds of pictures and more than two dozen videos of the girl on the teacher’s phone and iPad when they conducted a search with his permission. The new law increases the stalking of a minor to a felony and removes a provision requiring victims to know they were being stalked. Bill passed unanimously in both chamber of the Legislature.
  58. Spousal battery exemption: The Legislature passed a bill removing the spousal exception for sexual battery. Supporters of the bill said it sends a message “that violence is no less harmful when it happens at the hands of someone a victim loves and trusts.” The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and 118-3 in the House.
  59. STAR Bonds: The Legislature renewed this tax incentive until 2026. The bill adds new business headquarters to the types of facilities eligible for the incentive. The bill also adds a “rural redevelopment project” to the list of eligible projects for STAR Bonds. A rural redevelopment project is defined as one that’s not in a city with a population of more than 50,000; has regional importance; has a minimum of $3 million in capital investment; and  would enhance the quality of life in the community and region. The Senate passed the bill 30-9. It was passed in the House 101-23. The governor has signed the bill into law.
  60. Statewide mask mandate: The House and Senate each voted to oppose Gov. Laura Kelly issuing a new statewide mask mandate after her COVID-19 related executive orders lapsed at the end of March. The House and Senate each voted on separate resolutions to oppose new executive orders for masks. The House vote 84-39 for its resolution opposing the mandate. The Senate also voted for its resolution opposing the mandate 29-11.
  61. Statewide school levy: The  Legislature extended the 20-mill property tax levy for school years 2021-2022 and 2022-2023. The bill would continue the exemption of residential property up to $20,000 of its appraised valuation from the 20-mill property tax levy for taxable years 2021 and 2022. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate and 108-3 in the House.
  62. Student-athlete endorsements: A bill allowing college athletes to profit from their names, likenesses and images died this session in the Senate The legislation was seen as vital for keeping Kansas college athletics competitive. Fourteen states have already passed similar legislation, including two signed into law last week. The laws take affect this year in six of those states. The Senate president tied the fate of the name-image-likeness bills to legislation banning transgender girl and women athletes from participating in interscholastic sports for females.
  63. Suspended driver’s licenses: Enacted. The Legislature passed a bill intended to help Kansans who have trouble paying fines and fees get back behind the wheel. The bill would allow drivers assessed a fine or court costs for a traffic ticket to petition the court to waive all or a portion of the costs. Drivers are also no longer barred from the Restricted Driver’s License program for being convicted of driving with a suspended license, even if their license expired during the suspension. It also eliminates a nonrefundable $25 fee for restricted driving privileges. The bill passed unnanimously in both chambers and signed by the governor.
  64. Taxes: Enacted. The Legislature passed a tax bill that could cost the state treasury almost $300 million over three years. The House voted 81-43 to approve the bill, while the Senate approved the legislation 30-10. The governor vetoed the bill. Her veto was overridden 30-10 in the Senate and 84-39 in the House. The measure allows Kansans to itemize on their state income tax return if they don’t itemize on their federal return. The bill also includes an exemption for income earned by foreign affiliates of U.S. companies from intangible assets such as patents, trademarks and copyrights. The bill increases the standard deduction to $3,500 for single filers, to $8,000 for married couples and to $6,000 for the head of household.
  65. Tobacco: A bill raising the minimum age from 18 to 21 to purchase or possess tobacco products, including cigarettes and electronic cigarettes, was not pased this year.. The bill would have brought Kansas in conformity with a federal law setting 21 as the new age for legally purchasing tobacco products. Kansas officials had said they couldn’t enforce the federal law because the state sets the age for buying tobacco products at 18. Without a state law, enforcement would be limited to the federal government or a handful of cities and counties across Kansas with laws establishing 21 as the age for tobacco purchases.
  66. Tourism reorg: The Legislature green-lighted Gov. Laura Kelly’s proposal to move tourism back to Commerce like it was before 2011, when former Gov. Sam Brownback shifted the department over to the Department of Wildlife and Parks. Commerce officials said it made more sense to have tourism be part of the Commerce Department. Commerce markets the state as a place to live and work. Tourism, in a separate department, markets the state as a place to visit. The Legislature allowed the reorganization to take place without a vote.
  67. Transgender athletics: A bill banning transgender girls and women from participating in interscholastic sports for females failed to pass The Kansas House voted 76-43 for the bill, and it passed 26-11 in the Senate. Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly, a staunch advocate of the LGBTQ community, vetoed the bill.
  68. Utility poles: Enacted. Lawmakers approved a bill requiring Evergy to do more to make the public aware of its plans to install “urban electric transmission lines” in Wichita. The bill came in response to controversy that stemmed from the installation of 105-foot towers in the front yards of low-income residents in northeast Wichita. The bill requires utility companies to provide the city of Wichita advance notice of their intention to install the transmission lines with preliminary plans including the locations and dimensions of equipment to be installed. It passed 122-2 in the House and unanimously in the Senate. The governor signed the bill.
  69. Utility relief: The Kansas Legislature passed a bill softening the financial blow that municipal-owned utilities suffered from soaring gas and electric prices during the February cold snap. The bill made available $100 million in loans to city-owned utilities so they could absorb the burden of high energy costs during a prolonged period of subzero temperatures in mid-February. The bill passed unanimously in the House and 37-1 in the Senate.
  70. Utility transmission charges: A proposal intended to limit power companies from recovering electric transmission costs from consumers and saving ratepayers money failed to get out of a committee. The bill would have limited utility companies from increasing or decreasing the surcharge for electric transmission delivery that appears on a customer’s bill. Here’s what happened during the committee hearing.
  71. Vaccines: A bill barring employers from requiring vaccines and restricting the state health secretary from requiring new vaccines for school kids died on the Senate calendar this year. The Senate voted 18-17 to defeat an amendment to a bill that would have prevented the health secretary from adding any new required vaccines.
  72. Vaccine passports:  The state budget also includes language prohibiting state agencies from requiring the public to be vaccinated before entering state facilities or receiving services. The budget says state agencies shall not spend any money on issuing vaccine passports, requiring people to use them or denying access “to a place accessible to the general public” without them.
  73. Wind turbines: Legislation that would have imposed a new series of regulations for wind turbines, including setback requirements as well as studies of sound and shadow flicker, failed to get out of committee in the face of fierce opposition.