Two key bills pass both houses, expected to go to conference committees next week

Two highly touted, and somewhat controversial,  Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism bills have won priliminary approval in both houses and expect final actions next week.

Both bills have changed quite a bit in recent days.

“It’s gotten complicated, but it’s always complicated this time of the year,” said Robin Jennison, Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism secretary, of the end of the current session.

The agency may have to give some concessions to get the main portion of their bills passed.

A bill that would no longer make senior citizens exempt from buying hunting and fishing licenses passed the senate earlier, but was modified before it passed house general orders on Friday. Final house action is expected, as is a senate/house conference committee to review the changes, next week.

The basics of the bill would require seniors to pay half-price for hunting and fishing license through the age of 74, or purchase a life-long combination senior  combination fishing and hunting permit for $40. As well as the initial revenue, the sales of such permits would qualify Wildlife and Parks for substantial federal money gained from national excise taxes on the sales of hunting and fishing equipment.

As passed through the house Friday, though, the bill would also allow the use of crossbows by all archery deer hunters, create a pre-November firearms season for antlerless whitetail  and create a combination permit/tag so non-residents could shoot a buck and a doe.

Wildlife and Parks opposed those amendments throughout the session. The Kansas Wildlife, Parks and Tourism Commission recently passed a regulation that would allow the use of crossbow by those 55 and older and 16 and younger during archery deer seasons.

Jennison said Wildlife and Parks now probably will not oppose the amendments if it means getting the licensing exemption for senior citizens removed.

A bill that would allow the sale of annual state park vehicle permits through county clerks when vehicle registrations are paid passed the house earlier and was passed by the Senate on Friday, with a slight adjustment for seniors and those with disabilities.

The bill would basically allow Kansans to buy the annual permits for about $15.50 when registering their vehicle, or get them for about $25 at regular permit vendors. Friday’s change to the bill would allow seniors and those qualifying for disabled park permits to purchase them from vendors for about $14.

Jennison expects it will pass a house/senate committee hearing to review the amendments next week.