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  • Writer's pictureJeff Pittman

Sen. Jeff Pittman's 2022 Legislative Update #7

Updated: Mar 15, 2022

Legislative Update #7 February 28, 2022 IN THIS ISSUE:

I am honored to serve as your Senator. My office is located in 124E. Please feel free to contact me at or . Also feel free to forward my email to someone who may be interested in subscribing.

WYANDOTTE UPDATE I was glad to be able to give a legislative update to interested citizens this past week in Wyandotte, alongside several other legislators and Sharice Davids' regional Chief of Staff Lauren. We discussed redistricting, election laws, labor, and other important issues to the area.

SENATE FLOOR WORK We are halfway through the regular legislative session. The Senate spent the week on the floor this week working almost 40 pieces of legislation, all of which received the constitutional majority required to pass. These bills now move on to the House for consideration. I will highlight some of the major pieces of legislation we addressed this week later on in this newsletter. The majority of the legislation we passed this week was non-controversial and good public policy. That said, there were points of contention on topics running the gamut from COVID to robots.

LIMITING LOCAL ELECTED OFFICIALS Last year, the Legislature passed the “Energy Choice Act,” a law that prohibits locally elected officials in cities from banning specific types of energy such as natural gas. I had voted against that provision because it prohibits local control. This week, SB 493 passed the Senate, further usurps local elected officials ability to make local decisions by prohibiting cities and counties from regulating plastic bags, cups, and a whole host of other consumable containers, carriers, and protection of merchandise, food, or beverages. This bill SB 493 is an unfair restriction of local control that takes away community's rights to regulate themselves as they see fit through their locally elected officials. This bill moves to the House for consideration.

ENABLING EXPECTANT MOTHERS ACCESS TO MATERNITY CENTERS On SB 399, we have had a birthing clinic closed down in Wyandotte in an area expiring much higher infant mortality rates than Kansas' average because of potential liability concerns. SB 399 helps these maternity centers by allowing access to the Healthcare Stabilization fund, an important backstop for risk which will allow them to continue operations and provide important access to expectant mothers. I was glad to support this bill.

TRAINING FOR CORRECTIONS OFFICERS Too often we treat our Corrections Officers as second-tier law enforcement officers. I was glad to support SB 419 which brings Corrections Officers correctly in line with other law enforcement officers when it comes to access to specialized training.

BIOLAB HYPER-REPORTING REQUIREMENTS SB 441 was introduced by someone outside the state and possibly outside the country. This bill mandates very specific reporting for commercial or research facilities on spills and near spills. K-State provided opponent testimony to this bill due to the increased regulatory burden it would cause, unclear and inconsistent definitions in the bill, unclear guidance and reporting, and duplication of efforts, as well as the risk for increased noncompliance and decreased public trust. The Senate was split in its support for the bill, which narrowly passed by a vote of 21 to 19. I voted NO because it is unnecessary and gives Kansans the false impression that these labs are dangerous, which creates opportunities for insidious public health misinformation to grow and spread. This bill moves to the House for consideration.

1/2 TON DRONE VEHICLES ON YOUR SIDEWALKS SB 161 was introduced at the request of Amazon and FedEx, and led to much debate about the future of Kansas, automation’s impact on jobs, and local control. Amazon and FedEx have delivery robot programs with mixed reviews in other states that they’d like to expand to Kansas. Opponent testimony suggested that these delivery robots would jeopardize the combined 11,000+ Amazon and FedEx jobs in Kansas, and there were many questions about cities' ability to regulate these robot vehicles on the Senate floor. It also continues to give our local retailers a disadvantage potentially. Given the breadth of concern expressed, I voted to send the bill back to committee to work out the issues. This bill moves to the House for consideration.

PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS I also voted Yes on SB 395, which prohibits Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks employees from conducting surveillance without owner permission on private property unless authorized by a warrant, court order, subpoena, or the US Constitution. The exception to this law is when KDWP employees are attempting to locate and retrieve a missing person.

CONSTITUTIONAL RIGHTS AFFRONT Defending constitutional rights has become a theme it seems. Some bills seem innocuous but actually present real challenges to our rights. SB 150, which was introduced at the request of the Kansas State Chamber in what appears to be a slap to Kansas Trial Lawyers who often defend victims. It would limit legal services advertising practices. A similar bill passed in West Virginia was ruled unconstitutional on First Amendment grounds, and yet the Kansas Senate voted to pass the bill anyhow, landing us in inevitable legal proceedings that we could avoid. I voted No, but the bill now moves to the House with a 21-19 vote.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES While I supported many of the Judiciary bills this week, which ranged from requiring registration as a sex offender by those who propagate child pornography to criminalizing “porch pirates” who steal Amazon packages from your home, I was disappointed that the work of the judiciary has been largely to ratchet up crime penalties to appear “tough on crime” . There are a lot of bills not find worthy of discussion by that committee, including Sheldon’s Law, criminal justice reform, racial justice commission recommendations, and protections for domestic violence and child sex abuse survivors, reform of how rape kits are handled, and even a more holistic look at criminal penalties in comparison to the nature of the crimes and possible alternate methods of rehabilitation... all these were left on the table this year, which is unfortunate for those of us who strive for a more equitable and just Kansas.

DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION ANNOUNCES MORE THAN $5 MILLION TO IMPROVE BRIDGE PROJECTS This week the administration announce 29 bridge projects across Kansas will receive more than $5 million as part of the Kansas Local Bridge Improvement Program (KLBIP). The KLBIP is a state-local partnership initiative that provides funds to replace or rehabilitate locally-owned deficient bridges to improve the Kansas infrastructure. The KLBIP is a state-local partnership initiative included in the Kelly Administration’s bipartisan, 10-year Eisenhower Transportation Legacy Program, or IKE. The Kelly administration reinstated KLBIP in 2019 to assist cities and counties by providing up to $150,000 toward the replacement or rehabilitation of a bridge on the local roadway system. For this recent round of KLBIP selections, a total of 62 applications were received with requests for $10.5 million in funds. There are approximately 19,300 bridges on Kansas’ local road systems. About 26% – or 5,000 – of those bridges are in poor condition or unable to meet today’s weight and vehicle requirements. The KLBIP targets bridges 20-50 feet in length and a daily vehicle count of less than 100. Locally we received one of those grants, specifically 1.25 miles north of K-192 on 255th Street over Dawson Creek in LVCO.

"BLESSED" BILLS Any Senate Bills introduced in committee that have not passed out of the Senate at this point are considered dead unless they go through a special procedure, by design. Bills introduced in or referred to the Assessment & Taxation, Federal & State Affairs, and Ways & Means committees are considered “blessed” – referred from their original committees to one of those exempt committees – and means that they they may end up continuing per the intent of the conservative leadership. These bills, which have not made it to the Senate floor yet, include: ● ATTACKS ON PUBLIC SCHOOLS: Elections have consequences, and unfortunately for our state, Kansas elected a lot of legislators in recent years who want to dismantle public education. One example is SB 455 which would allow K-12 students to transfer to and attend school in any school district in the state, which would disproportionately harm poorer districts with more vulnerable students. Another bill, SB 496 capitalizes on national social media manipulation of parents’ anxieties around learning by suggesting that our public schools – which are subject to strict oversight by the state – are hiding nefarious materials used to brainwash our children. This “Parents’ Bill of Rights” co-opts civil rights language in order to undermine our public school teachers and districts that teach and care for Kansas kids. The House has had a similar bill go from the K-12 Ed Budget committee to the Appropriations committee... ● SOCIAL SAFETY NET: SB 501, puts hurdles in place for people to get food assistance, the timing of which couldn't be worse as we come out of a once-in-a-generation pandemic and food prices rising significantly. They also blessed SB 478 (Utilities), SB 340 (Education), SB 341 (Education), and SB 152 (Judiciary). Other bills not listed are still able to continue moving, including some oppressive Elections bills that erode access to voting. Stay tuned!

LOCAL MANUFACTURING INVESTMENT EARNS NATIONAL AWARD Business Facilities “Impact Awards” had 14 categories, each to acknowledge an organization’s investments in its state and community. Investing in LVCO, Hill’s Pet Nutrition and the Kansas Department of Commerce received a national award for economic development. Hill’s Pet Nutrition and the Department of Commerce were presented with this award in the Specialty Manufacturing category because of Hill’s expansion and investment in Tonganoxie.

In June 2021, Hill’s reported plans to build a new, sustainable pet food manufacturing plant in Leavenworth County. Plans are to invest more than $325 million and build a 300,000 sq. ft. facility at the Tonganoxie Business Park, creating at least 80 new jobs for the community by 2025, which would make Hill’s one of the largest employers in that community.

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