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Legislative proposals drive Senate talks

After losing two unplanned legislative work days recently, the Senate debated its first legislative proposals of the 2014 session. The Senate approved 19 bills and nine appointments. One of the duties of the Kansas Senate is to confirm various appointments made by the executive branch and other offices throughout state government.

Acting Agriculture Secretary Jackie McClaskey of Manhattan became the third female ag secretary in Kansas history with Wednesday's 40-0 vote. Additionally, committee meetings were in full swing in an attempt to catch up after last week's two snow days. This week, the Senate will be on general orders Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, and will be taking final action Wednesday and Thursday.

* The Senate resolved itself into committee of the whole to consider a number of bills recently passed by committees. An important issue facing the state, the Senate passed SB 276, a measure that would prevent the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service from listing lesser prairie chickens as threatened or endangered. If listed, the federal government would place significant restrictions on agriculture and energy industries, slowing economic growth for farmers and business owners. Since the birds are considered non-migratory, it's in the best interest for the state to decide how to manage these populations. The bill, on Wednesday, passed final action 30-10 and was sent to the House for consideration.

* On Wednesday, the Senate discussed HB 2389, which places a time limit on appeals for death-penalty cases. As of now, our state has one of the strictest laws on the death penalty in the nation, and since entering the Union in 1861, the state has executed only eight individuals. There are nine men under death sentences, and no execution date has been set because of the ongoing appeals process. The state has not performed an execution since 1965. The measure creates a three-and-a-half year time limit for appeals to be heard and decided by the court. It also sets limits on lengthy documents that can be filed in a death penalty appeal to the court, and requires the appeals to be placed ahead of pending cases. The bill, passed Thursday on final action by a vote of 27-13, now will be considered by the House.

* The Kansas State Treasurer's Office and the Kansas Department of Revenue have partnered to streamline the return of unclaimed property. In September, KDOR began reporting canceled tax return checks to the STO Unclaimed Property Division, where staff members work to locate and return lost money to rightful owners or heirs. Since the beginning of this collaboration, more than 34,000 outstanding canceled checks have been listed on the state's unclaimed property website, www.kansascash.com, in the amount of $8.2 million. Throughout the last five months, more than $3.8 million of that original amount successfully has been returned to respective owners. The Kansas State Treasurer's Office has more than $290 million in unclaimed property. Kansans are encouraged to search for their lost money by visiting www.kansascash.com or calling (800) 432-0386 or (785) 296-4165.

Sen. Elaine Bowers,

R-Concordia, represents the 36th District.

Elaine.Bowers@

senate.ks.gov