TOPEKA, (KSNT)— Lawmakers are returning to the Kansas statehouse next week after an overnight session extending into early morning hours on Thursday.
Another busy week lies ahead, kicking off Monday morning, as legislators work through different House and Senate bills in conference committees.
Bills that have recently passed could change, and other big election year items, like sports betting and eliminating the state’s food sales tax, could gain traction in the weeks ahead.
“AXE THE FOOD TAX”
Governor Laura Kelly has pushed for a full elimination of the state’s food sales tax, touting her “Axe the Food Tax” plan in recent weeks. However, Senate and House plans for addressing the issue have shifted from the original proposal.
While the House is considering a gradual reduction, one Senate plan is pushing the date for a full elimination to go into effect to 2024. The governor’s original proposal would have eliminated the food tax by this summer.
Senator Ethan Corson, a democrat from Fairway, sits on the Senate committee that voted to pass out the plan. In an interview with Kansas Capitol Bureau, Corson said while he’s excited to see a bill that completely eliminates the tax, he’s hoping there will be room for negotiation once the bill moves to the floor.
“Part of the conversation should this bill get to the floor will be about what the right implementation date is,” Corson said. “I would favor an implementation date of June of this year.”
SPORTS BETTING BILLS
Sports betting is another bipartisan issue that’s made a comeback this year. Sen. Rob Olson, R-Olathe, who chairs the Senate committee on Federal and State Affairs, said the Senate is weighing options, like including “apps” for smart phones in their version of the bill.
“It’ll be the best benefit for Kansans that are using it. They’ll be able to have that app on their phone…the young people have kind of gone this modern way…” he said.
The House is also looking at their own version of the bill, House Bill 2740. In a hearing Tuesday, the bill received strong support from casinos, but pushback from the greyhound industry. Lawmakers in the House and Senate will have to reach an agreement to get something passed to go over differences in the bill.
“We’ll see if we can’t work ’em out, but we got to see what passes before because there could be additional amendments put on,” Olson said. “But, I think it’s a bill that when me and the House get together we’ll be able to hash out the differences.”
LEGALIZING MEDICAL MARIJUANA
Other popular items, like medical marijuana, could also gain some traction.
Several days of hearings were held, as lawmakers heard from many supporters of a bill allowing medical marijuana sales and regulation.
The bill is still in committee, but in an interview, Sen. Cindy Holscher, D-Overland Park, who also sits on the Senate Fed and State committee, said supporters have helped push the issue forward.
“People are helping push this along to the point that conservative leadership feels that something needs to be done as far as addressing the topic,” Holscher said.
Proponents of the bill urged lawmakers to pass something this year.
“Let’s not let perfection be the enemy of this bill,” R.E. “Tuck” Duncan, representing the Kansas Cannabis Industry Association, said during the first day of hearings.
The lawyer and lobbyist said lawmakers will have to get “into the weeds” to make progress, touting that the bill has been “well-vetted.”
“This thing has been worked on for two years. There’s been lots of input, lots of conversations, huge conversations in the House…” Duncan said, mentioning a strong majority of lawmakers voting in favor of similar legislation last year.
According to Senator Rob Olson, R-Olathe, who chairs the committee, the measure is likely to gain support on both sides of the aisle.
“Almost every state in the country has passed some form of medical marijuana. I think there’s a good possibility that we come up with a bill that will pass out,” Olson said.