A Senate panel on Monday overhauled and advanced legislation that would hasten the process for receiving a professional certification or license for individuals moving to Kansas from out of state, as well as soldiers, their spouses and veterans.
The idea is to address a shortage of skilled workers by making it easier to obtain a license in a wide variety of career fields, including accounting, barbering, cosmetology, dentistry, education, optometry, healing arts, mortuary arts, nursing, pharmacy and real estate.
The Senate Commerce Committee adopted a bill amended by Sen. Gene Suellentrop, R-Wichita, that forces licensing boards to process applications more quickly than before and expands the ways someone can qualify for a license. A background check by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation would no longer be required before granting a license.
Suellentrop said the changes are needed to address workforce issues in the state.
"That's really the sole rationale behind this — to allow more standardization of procedure and a more rapid and friendly application process,“ he said.
The bill would require boards to issue a license for military service members and their spouses within 15 days after an application is completed. For veterans and individuals moving into Kansas, the time frame would be 45 days. The current standard is 60 days.
Applicants could qualify for a license by holding credentials in another state or having work experience in the occupation. If the license is revoked in another state, the individual also loses the license in Kansas.
The Senate panel advanced the motion with a favorable recommendation on a voice vote without opposition. Similar legislation already advanced in the House.
Senators also advanced legislation that would allow teachers and other public employees who voluntarily join a union to leave the union at any time.
Some unions require a one-year membership, with dues taken out of paychecks throughout the year. Under the proposed legislation, employees would have to verify multiple times that they want to pay dues. Employees then could halt payment immediately by sending a single email to their employer.
“It’s really an employee freedom bill,” said Sen. Julia Lynn, a Republican from Olathe and chairwoman of the committee.
Elsewhere in the Statehouse, representatives voted down a bill that would reduce three or more marijuana possession charges from a felony to a misdemeanor.
Rep. Russ Jennings, R-Lakin, introduced an amendment to eliminate retroactive provisions of the bill, meaning misdemeanors would be granted only on future charges. Supporters of the bill felt the amendment may improve chances of passage.
“I think the amendment is a wise one, although I would like to see us continue to deal with the regulation of marijuana in what I consider to be a reasonable way,” said Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita. “Leaving the retro activity provisions in this bill lessens its chances of passage not only in this committee but also on the floor.”
The committee adopted the amendment unanimously, but the bill failed in a 7-4 vote.