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Kansas Legislature approaches turnaround

Next Friday marks the official halfway point of the 2014 session, which we refer to as turnaround. All bills, aside from some exempt bills, must be passed by their chamber of origin by turnaround in order to be considered on the back half of this year's legislative session. If a non-exempt bill is not passed by its chamber of origin prior to this day, then it cannot be considered.

Committees are working hard to pass final pieces of legislation that need to be studied this year. Next week, we will spend a considerable amount of time on the Senate floor to discuss bills passed by committees in order to send them to the House for deliberation.

Recently, Green Landscape rated Kansas among the top seven places in the world to watch the sunset. Falling fourth behind Greece, Cambodia and Finland, Kansas provides one of the few places in the world where you have unobstructed views of the entire sky settled in the Flint Hills. The website says, "Watching the sun go down can be a mesmerizing sight. When you're planning your summer trip, take into account these seven places with the most stunning sunsets in the world."

Of course, we don't need Green Landscape to tell us how beautiful our state is, but it's great the rest of the world has the opportunity to see the best our state has to offer.

What's going on

The Legislature debated 20 bills that were passed on final action and sent to the House for further consideration after turnaround. The topics discussed this week covered a range of issues from allowing the Kansas State Fair to purchase event insurance for entertainment acts (SB 315), to extending the sunset of various fees charged by the Kansas Department of Agriculture (SB 286).

For some, these topics won't affect their daily routines, but one notable piece of legislation will allow you to add your cellphone number to the National Do Not Call Registry. As technology is changing, consumers are seeing more and more calls from telemarketers to their personal cellphones. SB 308 will allow Kansans to add their cell number to the national list and also allow the Kansas Attorney General to enforce current law against telemarketers who call consumers' cell numbers listed on the registry. SB 308 passed the Senate 38-0 on Thursday.

Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell, represents

the 40th District.

ralph.ostmeyer@senate.ks.gov

ALSO: The Senate also considered two bills, SB 354 and SB 355, which strengthen laws for the financial mistreatment of an elder adult or dependent. Primarily, SB 354 gives prosecutors additional tools to indict anyone who takes advantage of a senior. Adult Protective Services identified one in nine seniors has reported being abused, neglected or exploited. If enacted into law, offenders convicted of monetary abuse of a person older than 60 could be prosecuted under the Kansas Consumer Protection Act.

SB 355, the sister bill to SB 354, strengthens Kansas' Power of Attorney law to include more protections for anyone who is not acting in the best interest of their dependent. The Power of Attorney, if abusing their power, could be terminated and face criminal prosecution under the proposed law. Both bills passed the Senate on a vote of 38-0.

This past fall, the governor called the Kansas Legislature back to Topeka to convene a special session for the purpose of amending Kansas "Hard 50" sentencing procedures. The changes made during the short two-day session changed sentencing laws for a defendant convicted of premeditated first-degree murder to ensure a jury determines, not a judge, the evidence on whether a 50-year sentence should be imposed. The changes were needed after the U.S. Supreme Court issued an opinion in a Virginia case that juries must decide sentencing. Senate Substitute for HB 2387 establishes mandatory minimum of 50 years, if a defendant is convicted of premeditated first-degree murder. \ Kansas law states a defendant convicted of premeditated first-degree murder serves at least 25 years unless a jury recommends otherwise. The bill passed the Senate, 35-3.

* Next week, the Senate will debate a considerable number of legislation as we approach the Friday deadline. We typically consider items on General Orders on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays to allow committees time to complete their work. We will spend most of our time on the floor completing debate on bills previously passed out of committees. Monday and Tuesday also will be the last days for committees to meet until March.

As always, I'll keep you updated on the items under consideration in the capitol, and I encourage you, as questions arise, to contact me.