Picture: House Water Committee leadership (left to right: Vaughn, Minnix, Howerton) sourced from KS Legislature live stream
Governor Laura Kelly signed into law Senate Sub for HB2302 on April 20th, adding $35 million in support of state water conservation efforts. The Kansas Water Office administers the State Water Plan and was previously funded through approximately $12 million in fees and $8 million in state transfers. However, the state transfers had routinely not been made in full over the past decade and resulted in over $80 million in statutory funding not occurring. If the state fulfills all its requirements going forward, the Water Plan will receive $55 million annually.
The House Water Committee has been tasked for the past three years to develop a solution to the growing water crisis, particularly concerning the aquifer declines in Western Kansas threatening the long-term economic and ecologic viability of the state. After a mega water bill failed to gain traction last year, this year's committee saw water veterans Jim Minnix and Cyndi Howerton become Chair and Vice Chair respectively. Returning was Ranking Minority Member Lindsey Vaughn and notable additions included Doug Blex, former wildlife biologist, and Kenny Titus, former KDA Chief Counsel and water law expert. With the support of their fellow committee members, the Water Committee was a devout, nonpartisan group which delved into hours of presentations from water experts around the state, including members of Kansans for Conservation (KFC).
Led by Rep. Blex, the committee developed and passed HB 2302. The bill would be amended and eventually replaced by a Senate Substitute, but throughout the process a remarkably diverse bloc of proponents joined KFC to push legislators into taking action on a much overdue measure. During final negotiations between the House and Senate, the House conferees (Minnix, Howerton, Vaughn) advocated for a compromise that would have provided $60 million in new funding to water conservation, in alignment with a KFC recommendation. Minnix remarked that although he regards himself as one of the more fiscally conservative members of the legislature, this was too important of an issue to not fund properly. Unfortunately, Senate politics blocked any increase from the Senate position of $35 million and the House had to concede or risk not passing the bill. Although the final dollar amount falls short of the 2023 KFC priority, we applaud the legislature for the action it took and look forward to continuing to advocate for water conservation funding.
The provisions of the enacted law include the following:
$35 million in state general fund transfers to the State Water Plan Fund (SWPF)
Establishment of a Water Technical Assistance Fund to program planning and application aid to municipalities and other political units, receives $5 million annually from SWPF
Establishment of a Water Project Grant Fund to provide construction or upgrades of water infrastructure, receives $12 million annually from SWPF
Requirement that the Kansas Water Authority encourage requests for funding that include non-profit collaboration, nature-based solutions, and non-state funding
Please join us in thanking the members of the House Committee on Water and Senate Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources for the passage of HB 2302 and their continued support of conservation.
Rep. Jim Minnix, Chair
Rep. Cyndi Howerton, Vice Chair
Rep. Lindsey Vaughn, Ranking Minority Member
Rep. Doug Blex, HB 2302 Lead Author
Rep. Kenny Titus, HB 2302 Key Contributor