- Associated Press - Monday, May 11, 2015

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - A group of Kansas legislators agreed Monday to move local elections to the fall in odd-numbered years as a part of broad reform on local polls.

Representatives from the Senate and House came to the elections compromise after each chamber passed different versions of the same elections reform bill earlier in the session.

Lawmakers must wrap up their business for the year within a week to avoid having their annual 90-day session go into overtime. Here’s a look at some of the significant issues taken up by state lawmakers Monday:

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LOCAL ELECTIONS

Republican Rep. Mark Kahrs of Wichita says the move would boost turnout to between 30 percent and 40 percent - more than double the turnout in most recent local elections.

The bill also would cancel presidential primaries in the state and bar general election candidates from dropping out of the race unless experiencing “severe medical hardship.”

Legislators have canceled the past five primaries because of their cost. The Republican and Democratic parties have instead held presidential caucuses and covered the cost themselves.

The bill must still be approved by both full chambers and signed by the governor to become law.

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PENSIONS

The House Commerce and Economic Development held a hearing Monday on a bill that would allow local and state employees hired before 1993 to accumulate only 240 hours, or about 30 days’ worth, of vacation and sick time to be used for the purpose of pension payment calculations.

Large amounts of accrued vacation and sick time translate to higher payments under the current system.

Republican Rep. Jerry Lunn from Overland Park told the committee the change would improve the long-term stability of the pension fund, but Chairman and Republican Rep. Mark Hutton from Wichita said the proposal needs more work and indicated it may not be brought up again this session.

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UBER NEGOTIATIONS

Republican Sen. Jeff Longbine from Emporia said Monday that he and representatives from the insurance and banking sectors continue to negotiate with ride-hailing service Uber after it announced May 5 it was leaving the state.

The company said it decided to immediately cease operations in Kansas after the Legislature overrode Gov. Sam Brownback’s veto of regulations it found excessive. A spokeswoman for the company did not immediately respond to a request for comment Monday.

Longbine said the sides will likely have to come to agreement by Tuesday in order for the Legislature to have time to pass any changes to the earlier regulatory bill.

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LEGISLATIVE SCHEDULE

Monday was the 85th day of the Legislature’s annual session. Following tradition, legislative leaders schedule 90-day sessions each year, though the state constitution doesn’t limit the length in odd-numbered years.

The 90th day would be Saturday, and legislators have remained in session more than 90 days in 29 of the past 40 years. Lawmakers still must draft a plan for raising taxes to close a budget shortfall and deal with a full plate of other issues.


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