There hasn’t been a lot of activity, which might not be a bad thing. One of the issues that has garnered some attention is transparency. This week, at least one bill has been introduced to make the legislative process more transparent. Through the years, the Legislature has invested dollars into giving access to those outside of committee rooms to hear what is going on. In fact, the 2018 session will be historic in that all committee rooms are audio live streaming meetings.
In addition, the House chamber is set to be video live-streamed this session. Currently, there is a temporary camera that allows for viewing after the daily session is completed. A permanent camera to show the session live should be in place in the near future. The speaker directed that committee chairs implement the following transparency measures. Bills requested for introduction must have an RS number, meaning the proposed language must be prepared by the revisor’s office before being brought to a committee. In addition, the committee minutes will reflect who requested the bill, such as the individual and in some cases, the organization they represent. The speaker is working with legislative staff on a request to have each individual bill’s webpage have a notation as to who requested its introduction.
Also, current legislative practices provide more transparency on the Legislature. Committees provide public hearing notice, which is posted in the building, emailed to distribution lists and placed in the daily calendars. The Legislative process is more transparent, with lobbyists and the press reporting daily on social, print and television. Many of the state’s largest newspapers have a daily presence in the Capitol, including the Kansas City Star, the Wichita Eagle, the Topeka Capital-Journal and the Lawrence Journal-World. And, many local newspapers publish articles and columns from legislators and other interests. Many of the television media stations also cover the Capitol. Other organizations provide legislative updates that reach a broader audience, including the Associated Press, Kansas Public Radio, Kansas News Service and Hawver’s Capitol Report. Lobbyists reflect a variety of constituencies in Kansas, from social workers to small business, and to more generally, taxpayers. You also can call or email me, and I will share what is going on and explain the process if you have questions or concerns.
Along with the State of the State, one of the other annual events which takes place in the early days of the Legislature is the State of the Judiciary Address. On Jan. 17, Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss addressed the Legislature. He reiterated the need to increase funding for the judicial branch and touched on other points he had stressed during the previous State of the Judiciary. In the judiciary’s budget, they requested enhancements of $19.6 million — that request was not included in the governor’s budget. This includes a request to construct two new Court of Appeals judicial suites and to improve judges and support staff salaries. The chief justice also outlined the benefits of e-filing and their long-term eCourt plan, which first was conceived in 2011 and has improved case processing and operational efficiency for the branch. It does not look too promising for his request to be approved, but as in years past, we will work for finding ways to show appreciation in the form of enhancements for the support personnel of the judicial branch.
Another issue that is moving slowly through the process is hemp. Last week, the Health and Human Services Committee had an informational hearing on hemp CBD oil. Officials from the company Folium Biosciences, based in Colorado Springs, Colo., spoke before the committee, described their products and explained their business model. They also articulated that they grow hemp that has been bred to contain high levels of CBD (cannabidiol) and THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), of which such oils contain less than 0.2 percent THC upon extraction. The Folium Bioscience officials claimed they grow “medicinal hemp,” that THC is the only psychoactive agent found in nature, and with their selected breeding process, they have lowered the THC traces found in their products to a marginal level. They also argued CBD oil is an opportunity to help veterans with PTSD/PTSI and other individuals suffering from Dravet syndrome. It seems there are three groups when it comes to hemp — those who want to research it, those who want to grow it now and those who want nothing to do with it. We will see if it goes anywhere. I do not believe the issue of legalizing recreational marijuana use in Kansas will come up; however, there might be an attempt for medical marijuana, but I don’t think either have the support to move forward.
Ken Rahjes, R-Agra, represents the 110th District in the Kansas House.