Kansas senators approve nearly two dozen bills as leadership turns toward maps and budget

By: - February 23, 2022 6:35 pm

Once senators return March 1 from a short hiatus, Senate President Ty Masterson said the focus would be on maps and the budget, as well as advancing measures approved by their counterparts in the House. (Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Kansas senators backed a flurry of bills with a few close calls Wednesday, their final day before going on a weeklong hiatus.

Of note among the nearly two dozen bills considered and later approved were a measure allowing autonomous delivery robots to operate in the state, an effort to curb deceptive legal advertising and a provision increasing oversight of state labs. Following the debate on 23 bills, Senate President Ty Masterson said top priorities after the break would be the redistricting process and finalizing the state budget.

“Maps and budget are my two priorities,” the Andover Republican said. “Also, I would like to finish the constitutional amendments … tax increases and judicial selection. I know the House passed a couple amendments, and I’d like to finish that job.”

Senators also debated when to provide law enforcement more authority and when to real it in.

Senate Bill 395 makes it illegal for any employee of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism to conduct surveillance on private property without a warrant. A second bill, Senate Bill 435, expands and clarifies where and when law enforcement can act.

Sen. David Haley, a Kansas City Kansas Democrat, said it was interesting his colleagues would approve two bills so at odds with one another

“First we voted to rein in duly authorized necessary police powers in 395 regarding Parks and Wildlife, then for quasi-police authorities across established jurisdictional entities to be expanded in 435,” Haley said.

He urged legislators to reject both measures and said Senate Bill 435 afforded dangerous flexibility in law enforcement jurisdiction.

Another measure raising the disclosure requirements of Kansas laboratories raised concerns about burdens on institutions into which the state has invested millions of dollars.

The act would require labs that deal with human pathogens or infectious diseases to report any accidents or close calls to the public.

“Opponent testimony which came from Kansas indicates the processes to spread the bill are already in place, and this would be redundant,” said Sen. Cindy Holscher, D-Overland Park. “Additionally, this bill has unclear and inconsistent definitions which erode public trust.”

Supporters said the bill was critical to protecting agriculture in Kansas from accidental exposure to a dangerous disease.

Senate Bill 150 restricts how law firms and attorneys can advertise lawsuits or disclose health information. Proponents said the measure was an effective and fair way to clean up law advertising, although they could not name an instance of the problem occurring in Kansas.

A Republican U.S. District Court judge found a similar measure to violate the First Amendment, said Sen. Ethan Corson, D-Fairway.

Sen. Molly Baumgardner, a Louisburg Republican who passed on the vote, said the Federal Trade Commission already had a system in place.

“I believe that we have action in place for those that read advertising and believe it’s not accurate,” Baumgardner said. ‘Just in case you did not know, all you have to do is call -1877-FTC-HELP and they will address any issues of misleading advertising.”

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Noah Taborda
Noah Taborda

Noah Taborda started his journalism career in public radio at KBIA in Columbia, Missouri, covering local government and producing an episode of the podcast Show Me The State while earning his bachelor’s degree in radio broadcasting at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. Noah then made a short move to Kansas City, Missouri, to work at KCUR as an intern on the talk show Central Standard and then in the newsroom, reporting on daily news and feature stories.