Approved bills summarized

    TOPEKA -- The Kansas Legislature completed the 2005 Session on May 1 with a number of laws affecting the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Parks. The following is a summary of bills approved by the legislature.
    Senate Bill (SB) 59 -- This bill was one of KDWP's initiatives and gives the department secretary the authority to join the Wildlife Violator Compact, to which 20 other states currently belong. The compact would prevent wildlife-related lawbreakers from hunting or fishing in Kansas if they have been convicted of hunting or fishing violations in another compact-member state. The bill passed both houses of the legislature and was signed by the governor on April 6. It will become law on July 1.
     SB 194 -- This bill allows the Kansas Wildlife and Parks Commission to authorize commissioner permits to take big game. These permits will be available only to nonprofit organizations that actively promote wildlife conservation and the hunting and fishing heritage. Organizations that oppose hunting and fishing will not be eligible for the award of a commissioner permit. The organization awarded the permit could then auction the permit as a fundraiser. KDWP did not oppose the bill. It passed both houses and was signed into law by the governor on April 8.  It will become law on July 1 and the permits will be available in the fall 2006 season.
    SB 195 -- This bill concerns the disposition of firearms seized by the Kansas Department of Revenue in the course of criminal investigations. The bill provides for a number of disposal options, but the part relevant to KDWP is that it would allow the Department of Revenue to transfer appropriate firearms to KDWP for use in operations and the Hunter Education Program. This bill was jointly sponsored by the Department of Revenue and KDWP. The bill was amended to include provisions that make laws regarding the transporting of firearms in the state more uniform by limiting the ability of cities and counties to restrict the storage and transport of guns. Also, the bill calls for allowing retired law enforcement officers to carry firearms. The bill passed both houses and was signed into law by the governor on April 15.  It will become law on July 1.
    HB 2116 -- This bill was one of KDWP's initiatives and protects the federal funds contained in the Wildlife Conservation Fund (federal), Wildlife Fee Fund (federal), and Boating Fee Fund (federal) from being diverted to purposes other than those given to KDWP in statute. Both houses passed the bill, and the governor signed it into law on  May 9.  It will become law on July 1.
    HB 2253 ? This bill imposes minimum fines and jail sentences for various violations of KDWP laws and regulations, and becomes law on July 1.
    HB 2466 ? This bill repeals KDWP?s authority to issue commercial guide service permits, and makes permanent the hunter education exemption on controlled shooting areas.  The bill becomes law Jan. 1, 2006.
    Because revenue to the Park Fee Fund has been below estimates, and additional funding is needed to finance the approved Fiscal Year (FY) 2005 (fiscal year ending June 30, 2005) budget, the legislature authorized KDWP to use money from the Bridge Maintenance Fund to finance salaries for KDWP employees in the Parks and Administrative Services divisions. This money will be repaid to the Bridge Maintenance Fund when adequate revenue is available in the Park Fee Fund. The legislature also approved transfer of $170,000 from the State General Fund to the Bridge Maintenance Fund to compensate for monies transferred previously from this fund to the State General Fund.  
    To meet the shortfall for FY 2006 (July 1, 2005 through June 30, 2006), the legislature appropriated $717,000 from the State General Fund and $300,000 from the KDWP Access Road Fund to pay Parks and Administrative Services division employee salaries. When adequate revenues are available in the Park Fee Fund, the $300,000 will be returned to the Road Fund.
    The legislature appropriated $266,000 from the State General Fund to continue the program that provides free park permits and hunting and fishing licenses to active members of the Kansas National Guard.
    The legislature took action to prohibit KDWP from acquiring, operating, or maintaining the Circle K Ranch in Edwards County.  Gov. Sebelius did not veto that restriction but stated:
    The State of Kansas has a clear public interest in slowing the rate of aquifer depletion in western Kansas, in restoring a more adequate flow to the Arkansas River, and in enhancing public recreation to diversify rural economies.
    Acquiring the Circle K Ranch serves all three of these interests, which is why I sought the budget authority to acquire this valuable property.  The natural resources of our state are precious and often at risk.  As governor, I must be a strong steward of these resources, to ensure their wisest possible use.
    I look forward to working with the Legislature and all affected interests to make sure that Kansas acts in a responsible and far-sighted way as we address all the issues that surround the acquisition of the Circle K Ranch.?
    KDWP will be required to spend not less than $6,000 to maintain a herd of bison in Crawford County from existing Wildlife Fee Fund appropriations.
    The legislature appropriated $31,250 to the State Conservation Commission for conservation easements to match federal funds received from the Natural Resources Conservation Service Farm and Ranch Lands Protection Program.
    KDWP will be required to purchase or acquire seed, forage, or mulch that is certified by the Kansas Department of Agriculture and meets the standards set forth in the North American Weed Management Forage Program.
    The KDWP website contains a summary of 2005 legislation affecting the agency.