TOPEKA, Kansas — All veterans, active duty members of the U.S. military and their families will have access to in-state tuition at Kansas universities under a bill signed into law Friday by Gov. Sam Brownback.
Brownback also signed a bill rewriting rules for public workers who return to work after retiring and the House approved an array of changes to the state's liquor laws.
The bill on military benefits also would allow employers to show a preference toward qualified veterans when hiring and would protect the jobs of military members who are temporarily called to active duty.
Following is a look at significant actions taken by the Legislature Friday:
Brownback said the military reforms could help persuade the Pentagon not to reduce troop levels at Fort Riley in Junction City as a part of an across-the-board downsizing. The Army plans to downsize personnel from a war-time high of 570,000 to 450,000 at the end of 2017.
"We want to send a clear signal to the military that we want military personnel here. We're going to do everything we can to care for the military personnel after retirement," Brownback said.
Fort Riley employs more than 25,000 military and civilian workers, and fort officials have said that as many as 16,000 could be dismissed or redeployed elsewhere.
Kansas Adjutant General Lee Tafanelli said at the bill signing that such legislation "does go a long way in terms of competing with the other bases around the country."
WORK AFTER RETIREMENT
Brownback also signed a bill Friday that rewrites the rules for teachers, school administrators and other public employees who return to work after retiring.
Public employees currently are allowed to retire but return to work and earn up to $20,000 a year while drawing their pension benefits.
The changes are designed to prevent workers and employers from setting up post-retirement jobs before a worker retires. Also, workers would be allowed to earn $25,000 in their post-retirement jobs, but those limits would not extend to law enforcement or nurses employed at state hospitals.
Brownback said this is meant to encourage workers to stay on at facilities experiencing staffing problems, singling out Larned State Hospital as a location that has "a long-term issue and problem" with attracting qualified personnel.
The Kansas House voted 90-30 Friday to send a bill to the governor that would allow alcohol at state events at the Capitol and adjusts a number of liquor permit processes.
The bill also would allow patrons of art galleries to bring their own bottles of wine to painting sessions, and alcoholic beverages could also be consumed at farmers markets, state fairs and catered events on public property.
It also would allow alcohol distributors to provide samples and let vineyards sell wine on their property.
The Legislature is scheduled to meet through the weekend and Sunday will be its 101st day of the session. It traditionally meets for no longer than 90 days.
Only two sessions in the history of the Legislature have run longer than 101 days.
In 1991, legislators met for 103 days, and in 2002 the session went on for 107, according to legislative researchers.
Kansas Legislature: http://www.kslegislature.org