Kansas senator proposes job limits to avoid potential conflicts of interest in state government

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Other legislators file bills on school starts, birth centers, taxation and heritage sites

TOPEKA — Sen. Tom Holland introduced a bill that would forbid members of the Kansas Legislature from concurrently holding jobs in an executive branch agency and to block lieutenant governors from simultaneously serving as a Cabinet secretary or department head in state agencies.

Adoption of the Baldwin City Democrat’s reform bill would have implications for Sen. J.R. Claeys, a Republican who serves as senior advisor to Attorney General Kris Kobach, and Democratic Lt. Gov. David Toland, who also works as secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce.

“I am concerned about the appearance of a conflict of interest,” Holland said.

Toland was Gov. Laura Kelly’s campaign treasurer in 2018, became commerce secretary in 2019 and was appointed lieutenant governor in 2021. Claeys lost a GOP primary campaign for secretary of state to Kobach in 2010, but was elected to the House in 2012 and the Senate in 2020. He was campaign manager for Kobach’s successful 2022 race for attorney general, and took the advisory role in Kobach’s office early last year.

Under Senate Bill 328, any member of the Legislature who accepted a job in the executive branch would be compelled by law to resign from the House or Senate. The prohibition wouldn’t apply to legislators also working at universities under management of the Kansas Board of Regents.

Holland, who said he wouldn’t seek reelection to the Senate in 2024, said Department of Commerce secretaries had authority to shape economic development deals valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. He said that work should be guided by the best interests of taxpayers, not the potential political benefit derived by a governor.

Similarly, he said Claeys was in a position to vote, and influence votes of peers, on policy or budget bills of interest to his boss in the attorney general’s office.

Claeys said he cleared in advance his advisory appointment with the Kansas Governmental Ethics Commission. Kelly, who appointed Toland to the post of lieutenant governor, dismissed the idea workplace conflicts of interest would arise from his service in dual roles.

Holland’s was among about a dozen new bills filed ahead of Monday’s opening of the 2024 legislative session at the Capitol. Given the two-year legislative cycle, bills introduced during the 2023 session would remain available for consideration this year at the statehouse.

Delay school starts

Republican Reps. Bill Rhiley of Wellington, Randy Garber of Sabetha and Sandy Pickert of Wichita proposed House Bill 2475. It would prohibit Kansas public school districts from starting the academic year prior to Labor Day. In 2024, the national holiday marking end of summer will be Sept. 2. Many districts in Kansas open schools in August.

Another bill would mandate every public school district in Kansas hire a specialist to work on behalf of students with ADHD, or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Olathe Republican Rep. John Resman proposed the change in House Bill 2480. He would need 63 affirmative votes in the House, 21 yes votes in the Senate and the signature of the governor for his idea to become law.

Rep. Brett Fairchild, R-St. John, and 15 colleagues sponsored a bill requiring the Legislature to assume a role in administering national heritage areas or national heritage trails in Kansas. Under House Bill 2476, state funds couldn’t be spent for heritage sites unless specifically appropriated by the Legislature.


Scenic and historic trails are determined by Congress with oversight through the National Park Service, U.S. Forest Service or the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. These places celebrate natural, cultural and historic elements of the nation’s heritage, but sponsors of the House bill said the federal designations had the potential to interfere with property rights.

“The state of Kansas and private property owners have no ability to remove their property from this designation,” the bill said.

Rep. Pat Proctor, a Republican from Leavenworth, submitted House Bill 2478 for consideration. It would give birth centers — these aren’t hospitals — offering childbirth services in residential settings through midwives an opportunity to secure professional liability insurance through the state health stabilization fund. Insurance companies have withdrawn malpractice coverage from independent midwifery operations, leaving expectant mothers with fewer options for delivery of a baby.

Ending investor tax credit

Holland, the Democrat in the Senate, also introduced Senate Bill 329 to discontinue the state’s angel investor tax credit program as early as 2024. The state Department of Commerce program gives deep-pocket investors a state income tax credit for providing capital to certain Kansas start-up companies.

“The way it’s being used today is not optimized,” said Holland, who viewed his bill as a way to start a dialogue among legislators about the tax benefit. “That’s one I want to have conversations about.”

In 2020, the Kansas Legislative Post Audit Division reported the angel investor initiative provided $20.2 million in income tax credits to businesses investing $51.5 million in Kansas from 2015 to 2018. Investments were concentrated in eight of the state’s 105 counties. Auditors said businesses aided by angel investors earning the tax break stayed in operation for three to five years about as often as nonparticipants.

Holland also offered Senate Concurrent Resolution 1613 to amend the Kansas Constitution so the property tax assessment rate for residential real property would be reduced to 10.5% in 2025 and 9.5% for 2026. The current rate is 11.5%.

“My No. 1 message from northeast Kansas constituents is people are really concerned about continued significant increases in residential property taxes,” the senator said.

Kansas Reflector is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Kansas Reflector maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sherman Smith for questions: info@kansasreflector.com. Follow Kansas Reflector on Facebook and Twitter.

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