- Associated Press - Friday, May 13, 2016

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) - Kansas is lessening some of its penalties for marijuana possession, specifically prohibiting nurse midwives from performing abortions and strengthening its gun rights laws.

The new policies were included in bills that Republican Gov. Sam Brownback signed into law this week. His office announced his actions Friday.

Brownback also signed a bill that will prohibit minors from using tanning salons and punishing their owners if kids do.

Significant bills signed by Brownback this week:

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MARIJUANA PENALTIES

The state’s lesser marijuana penalties will take effect in July.

The new law , signed Friday by Brownback, reduces the penalty for first-time marijuana possession, which can now result in up to a year in jail, to no more than six months.

The penalty for a second offense would be reduced from a low-level felony to a sentence of up to a year in jail. Subsequent offenses could result in 10 to 42 months in prison, which is the current punishment for a second possession offense.

The measure also increases prison time for burglarizing an occupied dwelling to a minimum of 38 months. Currently, the offense could result in at least 31 months in prison, or probation.

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ANTI-ABORTION MEASURE

Starting next year, nurse midwives will be specifically prohibited from performing abortions or administering abortion-inducing drugs.

The prohibition was part of legislation Brownback signed Friday that rewrites laws regulating multiple health care professions.

The changes will allow nurse midwives to practice independently within a limited scope of care starting next year instead of requiring an agreement with a licensed physician. The changes also establish new rules for acupuncture.

The anti-abortion group Kansans for Life pushed for the language prohibiting midwives from terminating pregnancies.

Some legislators noted the scope of care that independent midwives would be allowed to provide was limited to services associated with normal, uncomplicated pregnancies and deliveries.

But Kansans for Life said the language still was broad enough that abortion providers could argue that it covered ending pregnancies.

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PROMOTING GUN RIGHTS

State agencies, cities and counties in Kansas will not be allowed to bar workers from carrying concealed guns while performing duties outside their offices, starting in July.

Brownback signed a gun rights bill Wednesday that includes the provision affecting government workers. Agencies still could limit the carrying of concealed weapons in public buildings.

The measure also creates an exception to a state law requiring students to be expelled if they bring weapons to public schools so that school groups can have organized activities involving air guns, such as BB rifles.

The Kansas State Rifle Association said the new law recognizes workers’ rights to defend themselves and allows schools to instruct students in handling firearms safely.

Critics said government agencies should be allowed to set their own policies.

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NO KIDS IN TANNING SALONS

Teenagers in Kansas who want a tan will have to get it outdoors starting in July because of a bill signed Friday by Brownback.

Under the new law, salon owners can be fined up to $250 and face disciplinary action from the state Board of Cosmetology for allowing people younger than 18 to use tanning salons.

Supporters of the measure said it would protect young people from ultraviolet lights that can cause the deadliest form of skin cancer. Critics argued the bill prevents doctors from prescribing tanning devices to treat seasonal affective disorder or eczema.

The National Conference of State Legislatures says more than a dozen other states also prohibit minors from using tanning devices.

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Follow John Hanna on Twitter at https://twitter.com/apjdhanna .

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