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Greetings from your Kansas Statehouse.  Veto session has picked up this week with a fair bit of action on both sides of the dome but little progress towards finding the solution for the big issues of budget and taxation. 

 

This week brought several conference committee reports to the House on a number of topics. Many focused on health care issues with a smattering of fantasy sports and open government thrown in for good measure.  The House approved measures in all areas including ones that legalized fantasy sports, set out the rules for non-profits to hold raffles—as allowed by last fall’s constitutional amendment—and gave the Attorney General new powers to aid in the enforcement of the Kansas Open Meetings and Open Records Acts. 

 

The House also went on general orders this week.  That is the process by which we act as a large committee, debating, amending, and working bills through the process. This is a little rare this time of year because amendments tend to sprout like dandelions.  On Thursday we took up ten bills including ones that addressed veteran’s courts, military discipline, child support enforcement and two big issues; the renewable portfolio standards and marijuana penalties.

 

The House approved a compromise on the renewable portfolio standards which set mandated targets for the use of renewable energy like wind and solar.  The compromise was reached between the wind energy sector and other business interest groups that had been opposed to the RPS.  This will end four years of political warfare that has left many companies and banks reluctant to invest in wind power projects in Kansas because of the lack of stability.  It also closes the door on a proposed excise tax on wind power that would have devastated existing power agreements and brings tax parity to the wind sector.  The end result should be more investment in wind energy in Kansas, resulting in more jobs, cleaner air and more opportunities for our state.

 

The House passed a bill that reduced criminal penalties for first and second time marijuana possessors.  The bill was amended twice on the floor.  The first added an exception for hemp oil that does not contain high levels of the intoxicant THC. The oil has shown some limited effectiveness in treating seizure disorders in children.  The other amendment allows for the growing of industrial hemp as a crop.  Hemp has very little THC and cannot be used as a drug.  Critics of bills argued that it was a first step toward decriminalization of marijuana and that the amendments created difficulties for law enforcement regarding possession and differentiation of the two plants.  It will be interesting to see whether this bill receives any hearing or work in the Senate.  This late in the session and given its controversial nature it may not.

 

I expect work to pick up next week on tax and budget issues as we approach the 90 day mark of the session next Saturday, May 16th.  I’ve heard from many of you with your thoughts on these issues and I thank you for keeping in touch with me. I welcome your thoughts at blaine.finch@house.ks.gov and 785-296-7655 and thank you very much for the honor and privilege of being your representative.