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Economic Lifelines focuses on Kansas’s best highways

GUEST COLUMN, Shannon Francis, 125th District Representative

It’s been a busy week in Topeka with house folks at the Capitol for state meetings. It’s always wonderful to see someone from home. The best people in the world live in Southwest Kansas.

Karem Gallo, Corey Barnett and Tanya Colvin were in Topeka for meetings with the Kansas Board of Realtors Assoc. We had talked about the need for housing and the effect of rising interest rates on housing affordability. Karem also serves on the Kansas Creative Arts Industry Commission.

Mary Rose, our new county treasurer, was at the Capitol for a state meeting. I know Mary will do a great job. We covered HB 2148, described below, which directly impacts county treasurers.

Always good to see Sally Fuller, our Tourism Director. She does a fantastic job selling Liberal around the state as a place to visit or hold a convention. As a member of the Governor’s Council on Travel and Tourism, she has been an invaluable resource to me.

County Commissioners Scott Carr, Presephoni Fuller, County Administrator April Warden and Melinda Hoddy-Baker were in Topeka to meet with policy makers and attend legislative committee meetings.

I cannot thank the Seward County Farm Bureau enough for all the support they have given me year after year. Members are knowledgeable and passionate about nurturing and protecting our agricultural economy. They are a great group to get feedback from. Farm Bureau members Donna Walker and Starla Young visited me about the four-lane intersection of Highway 54 at Panhandle Road and the House Water Committee. Donna also makes delicious chocolate chip cookies!

This week, I and other transportation legislative leaders met with Economic Lifelines, the leading transportation base advocacy group in Kansas. I’ve talked about the need for four lanes on our major freight corridors, such as Highways 54 and 83. Once upon a time, liberal played a big part in economic lifelines. We need to restore that connection.

The house bills were approved this week

HB 2014 – Name a portion of State Highway 69 after Robert Lessen. Robert was a combat veteran of WWII and the Korean Wars. After his service, Robert continued to serve the Southeast Kansas community along the stretch of highway named after him.

HB 2033 – This bill clarifies and adds definitions for mental health and behavioral health crises to allow flexibility for crisis intervention. Intervention centers will now be better able to offer their services to children exhibiting extreme behavior who previously would not have received help as easily.

HB 2042 – Today, self-storage industry operators must go to government agencies to have a vehicle removed from their property if a customer fails to comply with the contract. This leads to traffic jams and hampers their ability to conduct business. With this invoice, they can autonomously carry out the towing with prior notice to the defaulting customer.

HB 2065 – Current law only permits a divorcing spouse to change their name to a previously used name or maiden name. This bill allows a spouse to select a different name if desired.

HB 2069 – This bill will help achieve greater consistency in courts across the state. When an offender is under surveillance for a committed crime and arrested for an alleged new crime, this legislation clarifies how time spent in prison is credited. Time is credited to the original case first and then to the new case if applicable.

HB 2070 – Bill expands and clarifies which offenders are eligible for non-prison drug treatment programs. This allows offenders suffering from addiction who have been convicted of property crime to have access to treatment as part of their sentence. The bill is supported by law enforcement agencies across the state who believe it could have a big impact in reducing future crime.

SCR 1602 – Disapproval of designation of the Lesser Prairie Chicken as a Threatened Species in Kansas by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. Simply put, Kansas knows what’s best for Kansas. Kansas farmers and ranchers already provide private efforts to protect the lesser prairie chicken that go beyond any measures the federal government is trying to impose. While this is a symbolic gesture, it is very important that we side with our Kansas congressional delegation against the designation of the lesser prairie chicken as a threatened species.

Transport Committee action this week

The committee worked on and approved the following bills:

HB 2014 – Designated a portion of US Highway 69 in Crawford County as the Robert Lessen Memorial Highway.

HB 2019 — Conditions established for when a driver is an independent contractor for a transmission network company.

HB 2020 – Provided that the employment status of a motor vehicle driver does not change as a result of the inclusion of safety enhancements on a vehicle.

HB 2146 – Increased penalties for driving a vehicle faster than 30 miles per hour over the speed limit.

HB 2149 – Allowed distinctive plates to be personalized plates.

The commission held hearings on:

HB 2148 – Increase certain registration and property taxes on vehicles for services provided by county treasurers and division of vehicles, decrease certain taxes related to administrative costs and disposal of those taxes, and eliminate division of vehicle surcharge vehicle modernization.

HB 2267 – Allow adult care homes to request special plates for the disabled.

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