Hearings will begin today on the Kansas Business Coalition’s labor-friendly immigration bills. Under HB 2712 and SB 399, Kansas would establish a program to manage the undocumented population in the state by granting work authorization to program participants, rather than incarceration or deportation. Persons not on the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) “deportation priority list” would be able to enter the program and be hired by local businesses. Eligible businesses would be those the state determined to have significant worker shortages. Program participants would agree to work toward English proficiency, undergo DHS biometric testing (fingerprints, background checks, etc.) and show proof of presence in Kansas since 2007. Once these guidelines were met, the participant could apply for a Kansas driver’s license or a non-driver’s identification card and receive work authorization. KLA, a business coalition member, supports HB 2712 and SB 399.

KLA staff is providing input on a number of other bills, all of which will be discussed by members at the February 16 KLA Legislative Meeting in Topeka.

Wind erosion statutes - KLA staff testified on SB 357, which would rewrite a 1930s-era statute that gives county commissioners nearly limitless authority to curb wind erosion. KLA’s testimony urged Senate Ag Committee members to adopt a compromise amendment, negotiated by KLA, to add private property right protections and ensure any actions taken by county commissioners would be guided by sound science.

Misclassification of employees - KLA staff submitted testimony on SB 285, which would increase the penalty on employers for misclassifying an employee as an independent contractor. The bill would raise the penalty from a misdemeanor to a felony. KLA opposes the bill because such classifications are highly reliant on the specific facts of individual situations. Increasing this penalty could drive employers to classify legitimate independent contractors as employees, costing businesses unnecessary expense.

Water - KLA has testified in support of five water conservation bills this session. Hearings were held last week on several of these bills. The House Ag and Natural Resources Committee held a hearing on SB 272, which would amend the state’s multi-year flex water usage law by giving users more latitude to use increased water in certain years. Following the hearing, the committee advanced the bill to the full House. The same committee also held hearings and passed HB 2516, a bill that would extend the law allowing the creation of water banks. This measure already has passed the Senate. In addition, the House committee passed HB 2517, which would extend water law authorizing the state to purchase and retire water rights, subject to the availability of state funding. The Senate Ag Committee heard testimony on HB 2451, which would repeal the use-it-or-lose-it law for areas of the state that are closed to appropriation. The House previously passed HB 2451.

For more information visit www.kla.org.