Kansas legislators reconvene this week and could lower the age for carrying concealed guns and grant legal protections to faith-based adoption agencies that refuse on religious grounds to place children in LGBT homes.
Fiscal issues also are on lawmakers’ agenda when their annual spring break ends Thursday. They expect to fix a flaw in a new education funding law that would otherwise cost public schools $80 million, and they could debate income tax cuts.
Lawmakers could meet for up to 10 days. Here are key issues they face.
LGBT-rights groups still hope to block passage of the adoption legislation in the House after the Senate approved it with the strong support of the state’s Catholic bishops and backing from Republican Gov. Jeff Colyer’s administration.
The bill would allow state foster care contractors to do business with agencies refusing to allow children to be adopted into homes that violated the agencies’ “sincerely held” religious beliefs.
Lawmakers are considering a proposal to drop the age at which a person can carry a concealed gun to 18 from 21 as part of a bill designed to make it easier for people holding permits from other states to carry concealed in Kansas.
The House added the age-lowering provision to the bill, while the Senate stripped it out. Negotiators for the two chambers must draft the final version.
POUR BEER YOURSELF
A bill that would allow self-service beer taps in bars and restaurants — something legal in most other states — awaits action in the House after passing the Senate. It’s spurred by plans for a new restaurant in downtown Topeka, not far from the Statehouse.
Kansas legislators are moving toward setting a minimum age for running for governor in the future after underage candidates for this year’s election gained national attention. But the House approved a bill setting the age at 18, and the Senate’s version makes it 30. Negotiations are next.
Colyer is pushing legislators to follow up their passage of a public school funding bill earlier this month with a second measure to ensure that the state phases in a $534 million increase in spending over five years as intended.
While some Republicans argued that the increase would be too large for the state to sustain without a tax increase, Senate President Susan Wagle, a GOP conservative from Wichita, said Wednesday that she expects a fix to pass.
Lawmakers were trying to satisfy a state Supreme Court ruling in October that education funding must increase.
Wagle has called on her colleagues to return an unanticipated revenue “windfall” to taxpayers resulting from changes in federal income tax laws made late last year. Among other things, the federal changes limited itemized deductions.
The GOP-controlled Senate has passed a bill that actually goes further in cutting income taxes, and it awaits action in the House.
The House’s GOP leaders made passing a school safety plan a priority following a mass Valentine’s Day shooting at a Florida high school, but senators have yet to act on it.
The measure includes $5 million for security upgrades at schools, in addition to a $10 million pilot project for improving mental health services for students included in the education funding law.
Skeptics argue that the new funding isn’t enough to meet schools’ needs and that Republican leaders are pushing their package to avoid a debate on gun control.
Legislators are considering changes to the $16 billion-plus budget they approved last year for the fiscal year that begins in July. The Department for Children and Families is seeking new spending totaling $24 million over the next three years to give child welfare workers pay raises and improve its information technology systems to help address problems in foster care.