Archive for Sunday, May 31, 2015

Lawmakers advance abortion, election law tweaks on 100th day

May 31, 2015

— The Kansas House approved a bill Saturday aimed at allowing the state to enforce a ban on what critics call "webcam" abortions.

Across the rotunda, the Senate approved a bill tweaking election laws and rejected a proposed budget for the judicial branch as legislators ran through the 100th day of their annual session.

The abortion bill passed the House on a 109-2 vote and will now go to the governor.

The measure modifies a provision of a 2011 law requiring a doctor who provides an abortion-inducing drug to be in the same room when a patient takes it. It creates an exception for medical emergencies.

The following is a look at significant actions taken by the Legislature on Saturday:


Abortion

The abortion bill makes technical changes to a law enacting health and safety regulations specifically for abortion providers. It was aimed at preventing abortions in which patients only interact with doctors through a webcam connection, although advocates have said no cases of such abortions have yet occurred in Kansas.

The state hasn't been able to enforce the law because two providers filed a lawsuit in Shawnee County District Court against it.

The Senate passed the measure unanimously last week and it now goes to Gov. Sam Brownback.


Election laws

The Kansas Senate voted 27-11 to approve an array of changes to state election laws dealing with the use of social media by campaigns and regulations on political signs.

The bill would waive the mandatory note indicating a political message was paid for by a campaign when it appears on a social media platform that limits messages to 200 characters or less.

State political campaigns have had difficulty including the note when tweeting because Twitter allows a maximum of 140 characters.

The bill also would bar cities and counties from enforcing restrictions on the placement of political signs during the 30 days before an election and the seven days following it.


Judicial budget

The Kansas Senate also rejected a proposed $97 million budget for the judicial branch for the fiscal year beginning July 1, sending it back to negotiations between members of the House and Senate.

Democratic Sen. Laura Kelly from Topeka said she was concerned because the budget contained a clause that says if a court strikes down any part of it, the whole thing is void.

Parts of last year's budget are being challenged in a state district court lawsuit. Kelly said she believed the clause could be the Legislature's way of holding a "gun to the head of the Supreme Court" and potentially eliminate the branch's funding in the event of an unfavorable ruling.

Republican Sen. Jeff King from Independence said that the clause was important for keeping policies in the budget consistent year to year.


Long session

Legislators expected their annual session to run through at least Monday, its 102nd day. That's 12 days more than legislative leaders traditionally schedule, at a total cost of more than $40,000 for each extra day.

Only two sessions have lasted longer. In 2002, lawmakers set a record, with 107 days. The 1991 session lasted 103 days.

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