In observation of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the Legislature and state offices were closed. The abbreviated week did not slow committees from introducing and holding hearings on proposed legislation. As of Friday, the senate has introduced roughly 50 bills in the first two weeks.

The only floor action last week was Tuesday when the Senate voted to confirm 17 governor nominated appointments.

We had two days of hearings on S.B. 263 in my Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee last week. This bill would create a program to research the use of industrial hemp. The Department of Agriculture, alone or in coordination with a state educational institution (Regent schools), could cultivate industrial hemp grown from certified seed and promote the research and development of industrial hemp.

In 2017, H.B. 2182 was passed in the house and allowed for the growth of industrial hemp across the state. In H.B. 2182, industrial hemp would not be considered a controlled substance or marijuana as defined by state law. Representatives from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and various law enforcement officer associations spoke in opposition to H.B. 2182 in 2017. They expressed concern the bill would provide a legal defense to the possession of marijuana by a person holding an industrial hemp license. The Kansas Bureau of Investigation testified neutral to S.B. 263 but were opposed to H.B. 2182. The Farm Bureau testified in support of S.B. 263 but was neutral to H.B. 2182.

In the Senate Ways and Means, we had a hearing on S.B. 262 which would authorize the construction of a statue honoring Dwight D. Eisenhower. State law requires legislation to be passed before any statue or memorial be placed on capitol grounds. The funds required for the installation and construction of the statue were raised through a private fundraising campaign and when approved the statue will be placed on the northwest quadrant of capitol grounds.

The State Finance Council was scheduled to meet Thursday to vote on a plan to rebuild Lansing Correctional Facility; however, Gov. Sam Brownback postponed the vote. According to a spokesman for the governor: “There are some questions that still need to be answered. It’s not dead.” The plan introduced would be a 20-year, $362 million contract that would finance, design, construct and maintain a new state prison in Lansing.

On Thursday, in the Ways and Means Committee, I introduced a bill on home-owned amusement rides and agritourism activities. This bill should have been read in and receive a Senate bill number either Monday or today. I will keep you informed as this bill progresses.

Once a committee completes hearings and votes on a bill, if passed, it will then make its way to the senate floor and the full body will begin to debate and vote on the measure. Floor debates and votes will begin in the coming weeks. If you’re interested in tracking our work, you can sign on to our website at www.kslegislature.org and click on the calendar tab at the top of the webpage to view the Senate’s daily schedule. You also can view live streams of the Senate sessions on the Legislature’s YouTube page by visiting www.youtube.com/channel/UC_0NO-Pb96CFABvxDwXAq8A.

A couple of hard facts:

Kansas has a record 1.4 million people employed. (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

“The most recent figures show just shy 86% of Kansas kids get their high school diplomas. That’s slightly above the national average, which is at a record high.”

After one year of Trump’s presidency: With the stock market at an all-time high, KPERS should report a $2 billion investment gain for 2017. This should bring the total asset level to approximately $19 billion and improve the funding ratio.

Sen. Rick Billinger, R-Goodland, represents the 40th District in the Kansas Senate.

rick.billinger@ks.senate.gov