Six things you need to know from Thursday

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It was an extraordinarily busy day in the Kansas Legislature on Thursday. In case you misssed anything, let’s catch you up on news you may have missed but need to know…

Natural gas

The Kansas Senate late Thursday passed a bill prohibiting local governments from limiting access to natural gas. The bill would immediately affect Lawrence, which has an ordinance on the books that calls for going to carbon-free energy sources by 2035. The legislation now goes to the House for consideration.

School choice

Senate and House committees have approved legislation that would expand a program that gives state tax credits in exchange for donations to scholarships to private schools. The legislation renews a longstanding debate over school choice and to what extent that should be subsidized by the state.

Prisoner vaccines

The Senate passed a nonbinding resolution urging the governor to move COVID-19 vaccines for prisoners behind other parts of the population. State health officials have said that inmates are more vulnerable to contracting the virus because they can’t socially distance nor limit their contact with others. They also note that prisons can be a COVID-19 hot spot that can lead to the virus spreading throughout the community. Critics say it’s unfair to put inmates ahead of law-abiding Kansans.

Public safety vs. property rights

Law enforcement came out in force on Thursday to oppose a bill that would prevent surveillance on private property without a warrant.

The debate saw a rather unique alliance between the legal arm of the conservative-leaning Kansas Policy Institute and the American Civil Liberties Union, which supported the bill.

Supporters of the legislation say it’s necessary to protect property rights.

Law enforcement says the bill would cripple their ability to protect the public.

Gender reassignment medical care

A bill introduced by four conservative Republican lawmakers that would ban gender reassignment treatment for anyone under 18 is apparently not going anywhere.

The chairwoman of the House health committee told The Associated Press on Thursday that the bill would likely not get a hearing because of the panel has too much other work.

The bill made it a felony for “unlawful gender reassignment service” and lose their medical licenses for unprofessional conduct.

The bill was sharply criticized by the Legislature’s first transgender legislator, two oopenly LGBTQ lawmakers and the executive director of the state’s leading LGBTQ-rights organization, Equality Kansas.

Highway funds

Gov. Laura Kelly and Transportation Secretary Julie Lorenz on Thursday announced the distribution of $84.6 million that the state received in COVID-19 relief funding for transportation.

Congress approved $10 billion for state highway and transportation systems in a coronavirus relief bill signed into law at the end of December.

Kansas received $94 million, including $9.1 million that is federally designated to go directly to the Kansas City and Wichita metro areas.

The state is distributing the remaining funds to cities and counties to restore motor fuel tax revenue losses, advance preservation work, and increase funding for popular local partnership programs.

Here is a breakdown showing where the $84 million is going.