The two largest issues still unresolved between the Kansas House and Senate are the fiscal years 2011 and 2012 budgets, as well as a compromise on paying off federal debt for the state’s unemployment insurance trust fund. State lawmakers negotiating on those two issues will face increased pressure to reach an agreement, which would allow for adjournment next week and avoid the session running longer than the allocated 90 days. KLA lobbying staff will continue to monitor these issues during the waning days of the 2011 session.

Several issues of interest were included in the conference committee report on SB 124. The original bill created the Lower Smoky Hill Special Access District, which would allow irrigators below Kanopolis Reservoir to purchase water storage owned by the state. Two other issues supported by KLA were included by the conference committee in the final version of SB 124.

One is language that would re-establish the Water Rights Conservation Program (WRCP). This would allow a water right holder to enter into an agreement with the chief engineer of the Division of Water Resources not to use water for a set number of years without abandoning the right due to non-use. The language also includes a $300 fee for entering into such an agreement.

In addition, the final agreement on SB 124 includes a provision that would utilize funds from state-owned oil and gas royalties under the Arkansas River bed to pay for the gages on the Arkansas River. This same funding source would be used to pay for auction market reports from Salina and Pratt, and the Bluestem Pasture Report, if adequate funds are available. Legislators tentatively have agreed to include the auction market reports in the final budget package if the oil and gas royalties don’t provide enough funding for all intended uses.

SB 124 passed the House 124-0 and the Senate 38-1. The bill is headed to the governor for his approval or veto.

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