May 1, 2023
The last weeks of April have been busy at the Kansas State Capitol in Topeka. Here’s a quick roundup of some of the bills Kansas farmers and ranchers have been watching.
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly signed several bills the last weeks of April, including:
Apprenticeship programs. House Bill 2292 creates a tax credit for Kansas businesses, nonprofits, health care organizations and public schools that create apprenticeship programs to boost the Kansas workforce. It also creates new grant programs that will support apprentices pursuing careers in education and health care, and provides matching grants for engineering student scholarships and engineering program development.
Water. Senate Bill 205 clarifies law pertaining to eligible participation in water banks and multiyear flex accounts. This clarification will help water right holders manage their water allocations with more flexibility, so long as that management doesn’t have a long-term negative effect on the water supply source. Senate Substitute for House Bill 2302 is a bipartisan bill that increases funding for the state water plan by $18 million on top of the annual $8 million already allocated to the plan. It also adds $17 million for the water technical assistance fund and water projects grant fund. And the bipartisan House Bill 2279 will require the state’s five groundwater management districts to submit annual reports to the Legislature outlining expenditures for their water conservation efforts and stabilization of agricultural consumption. It also requires updated water conservation and stabilization plans submitted to the Kansas Department of Agriculture.
Education. Senate Bill 66 is a bipartisan bill that allows Kansas to join the Interstate Teacher Mobility Compact, thus allowing licensed educators from states in this compact to move to and work in Kansas. Supporters say this will help address teacher shortages, especially in rural communities, while preserving the existing state licensure system. Senate Bill 123 expands the Promise Scholarship Program to students pursuing elementary and secondary education degrees. It also creates the Adult Learner Grant Act and allows veterans and their families, who were previously stationed in Kansas, to qualify for in-state tuition.
Short-line railroads. House Bill 2335 invests an additional $5 million a year to improve and maintain short-line railroad track in the state. The Rail Service Improvement Fund Program will now total $10 million, and short-line railroads will now qualify for improvement and upgrade funds.
Cotton transportation. House Bill 2160 clarifies and exempts cotton bales from secured load requirements in-state for farmers and gin personnel.
Concealed carry fees. HouseSub for Senate Bill 116 removes the fee for obtaining a license to carry concealed handguns.
State budget, House Bill 2184
Kelly also signed the state’s budget, House Bill 2184, with some line-item vetoes. The budget allocates funding for fiscal years 2023, 2024 and 2025. Among its highlights:
Rainy Day Fund. The budget adds $600 million to the fund, making the balance a record $1.6 billion. According to the governor’s office, when Kelly first took office in 2018 the Rainy Day Fund was empty.
Debt payoff. The budget earmarks funds to pay the remaining $53 million of reservoir debt at Milford and Perry Lakes, saving nearly $30 million in future interest payments. It also pays cash for the state’s share of the proposed new veterans home in Topeka, saving nearly $10 million in interest.
Office of Registered Apprenticeship. HB 2184 funds the new office and invests in a college internship program to encourage the next generation of Kansans to stay in the state after they graduate.
Higher education investment. The budget allocates more than $20 million in new funding for need-based scholarships for Kansas students. It appropriates a historic $14 million in community colleges to advance technical education and grow partnerships with Kansas businesses. More than $150 million in new funding is allocated for state universities to advance initiatives targeted at building the state’s economy and workforce — including new manufacturing training facilities at Kansas State University and Pittsburg State University, cybersecurity and teacher training at Emporia State University. and funding the joint Wichita Biomedical Campus at Wichita State University and the University of Kansas.
Affordable rural housing. There’s $20 million earmarked for the Housing Revolving Loan Program to expand housing stock in the state, but especially in rural Kansas.
Health care. The budget lowers out-of-pocket health-care costs for KanCare recipients of some procedures and includes $100 million to the current program to eliminate service disparities for low-income Kansans. It adds funding for mental health, improves elderly care and supports network capacity by filling in gaps not covered by Medicaid.
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