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Doc Eplee’s House Calls

Committees completed their work this week and we will spend the next week debating legislation on the House floor ahead of the March 5 Turnaround deadline. I have been actively working on a number of pieces of legislation on behalf of our community. As with every session, some of it has been met with more resistance than others, but I am optimistic that we can get some good things accomplished.

With all of the action on the House floor next week, I encourage you to watch the Legislature’s YouTube page, where you can see the full debates on many issues impacting our community.

Thank you, again, for the opportunity to serve you and your family. If I can ever be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

State Capitol
300 SW 10th St., 352-S
Topeka, KS 66612
Office: 785-296-8621
Cell: 913-367-5910
john.eplee@house.ks.gov
kansansforeplee.com

Increasing the legal age for tobacco use

On February 16, I provided testimony to the House Federal and State Affairs Committee on HB 2340, a bill to increase the legal age of tobacco usage to 21. I have worked on this initiative for several years. The federal government increased the legal smoking age to 21 in December of 2019 and we need a state conformity bill to allow Kansas to continue receiving full funding for grants awarded by the federal government for mental health, addiction, etc. The bill has passed out of committee and is headed to the full House of representatives for consideration.

State Energy Plan Task Force

The rolling blackouts and the bitterly cold weather has made energy a hot topic among legislators. Kansas is a member of the Southwest Power Pool, which covers much of the midwest from North Dakota to Texas. As the weather got cold last week and the demand on the energy grid increased, utilities tired to manage the load via rolling blackouts for parts of the pool.

If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that we need to be prepared for the unexpected and we need to ensure our state’s infrastructure is ready to evolve with the changes in the energy industry. The Legislature has proposed the State Energy Plan Task Force. HB 2381 creates the task force and tasks them with developing a comprehensive state energy plan. I look forward to having this debate and helping prepare Kansas for the future.

Liquor Licenses in Kansas

For several years, I have been working to pass legislation that would allow a manufacturer/distiller of alcohol to hold a liquor license in Kansas. HB 2057 accomplishes that by allowing a manufacturer to hold one license, where the point of sale is within two miles of production. The bill will allow local business owners an opportunity to expand their operations and further contribute to the local economy.

This week, HB 2057 passed unanimously out of the House Commerce Labor and Economic Development Committee. It now goes to the full House of Representatives for consideration.

Joint Committee on Child Welfare System Oversight

Several years ago, the legislature established a Child Welfare Task Force to review the disturbing news coming out of our state’s foster care system. The task force identified many gaps in our foster care system including coordination of mental health, education, interaction with juvenile justice and aging out of the system, all of which need further research. One of the key recommendations from the task force was the need for legislative oversight to help get things on track. I voted Yea on HB 2115.

Truth in Taxation

Property tax is the least liked tax and least transparent tax. Several years ago, the Legislature adopted a property tax cap in an effort to curb increasing property taxes. However, the legislation was flawed, as it actually raised taxes on Kansans by allowing for an automatic increase in the CPI index. SB 13 seeks to repeal the tax lid and restore local control, while also establishing some important transparency requirements so the public knows when changes in property taxes will be considered. I plan to support this legislation when it comes to the House floor.

Updates to the Kansas Emergency Management Act

The first action the Legislature took this session was to extend the emergency declaration to March 31, 2021, to continue the response to the pandemic and allow adequate time to review any updates needed to the Kansas Emergency Management Act.

With the deadline fast approaching, the Judiciary Committee is hard at work reviewing the state’s response to the pandemic and if our current laws provide the flexibility and oversight needed to respond to future emergencies. The full House of Representatives will consider their recommendations in the next two weeks.

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