Lawmakers Advance, Delay Transportation Bills


By John Celock

Kansas lawmakers advanced two transportation bills while sending one to another committee for additional review.

The state House of Representatives voted to move ahead on legislation that would increase fines for driving without a seat belt to provide additional funds for an education program and to create license plates for autism awareness and 4-H. The House also voted to send a bill allowing school districts on school buses to record cars that overtake school buses to the House Judiciary Committee for additional review.

“We want to do this right,” Rep. John Carmichael (D-Wichita), the top Democrat on the Judiciary Committee, said of sending the bill to the committee for additional review. “We don’t want to give people a defense or cause of action against the sate that they were not driving the car.”

Carmichael said that the additional review would allow for lawyers on the committee to make sure any legal questions regarding what is caught on a school bus camera area addressed. He noted that the camera would only catch a license plate but potentially not the driver, opening up a driver to a legal defense.

“Let’s do this right,” Carmichael said.

While a move to send the bill to the Judiciary Committee would normally kill it for this year, due to a deadline later this week for most bills to leave the chamber of origin, Carmichael asked House Speaker Ron Ryckman (R-Olathe) to “bless the bill” to give it additional time. Under the blessing process, Ryckman can temporarily reassign the bill to the House Appropriations Committee this week which would mean it could leave the House of Representatives this year.

House Transportation Committee Chairman Richard Proehl (R-Parsons) made the motion to send the bill to the Judiciary Committee, noting that while his committee put work into the bill, it needed the additional legal review.

The seatbelt safety bill would put an additional $20 fine in place for non use of seatbelts. The funds would go to fund the Seatbelts Are For Everyone program, a teen based peer education program on seatbelts and safe driving that occurs in Kansas high schools. The program was founded after a group of teens in southeast Kansas were killed in a traffic accident.

“If this can do anything to save lives for a $20 fine. It has children that are learning how to drive buckle up. It is awareness,” Transportation Committee Ranking Minority Member Adam Lusker (D-Pittsburg) said. “They learn it while they are learning how to drive. This $20 fine will go a long way to prevent teen accidents.”

The autism and 4-H license plate bills would create new plates that would allow funds to be raised for both of these causes. The autism funds would help fund autism programs in the southeast part of the state.

Rep. Keith Esau (R-Olathe), who has opposed specialty license plates in the past, objected to the license plate bill, saying he did not think the state should be in the advertising business. He also questioned if police could keep up with the 100 different specialty plates the state issues, along with potential difficulty for license plate readers.

“It is a nice idea in some respects but I don’t think the state should be in the advertising business,” he said. “I will be against specialty license plate business.”

Lusker said he did not see any problems, noting that all the plates have Kansas on them and that the state have hundreds of personalized plates in addition to the specialty plate.

Rep. Shelee Brim (R-Shawnee), who was carrying the license plate bill, noted that as a teacher she has worked with children with autism and can see the impact the plates can have.

“I have had autism students and I told them about this bill and they were excited that we were bringing awareness to their community,” she said.