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Minutes for HB2062 - Committee on Agriculture

Short Title

Relating to the applicability of conditions for operating recreational trails.

Minutes Content for Wed, Jan 30, 2019

Chair Highland opened the hearing on HB2062 at 3:30pm.

Kyle Hamilton, Assistant Revisor, Office of The Revisor of Statutes, provided an overview of HB2062 and the statutes that it affects.  (Attachment 1)  There is a Fiscal Note for HB2062.

PROPONENTS  

Tracy Presnell, McPherson KS, appeared before the Committee in support of HB2062(Attachment 2)    The bill proposes minor wording additions to what is referred to as the Kansas Recreational Trails Act (or KRTA). The Act sets out the compulsory requirements for entities that have taken on the role of responsible party for recreational trails created pursuant to Federal statute 16 USC 1247(d), generally referred to as rail-trails. The Act also sets out the oversight responsibilities for counties and/or cities through which these trails pass.

The reasoning behind the word additions is simple, sections of the Act are ambiguous and have led to interpretations inconsistent with legislative intent. The appellate and supreme courts have routinely held that when a statute is plain and unambiguous, there is no need for the courts to speculate as to the legislative intent behind it. A statute is ambiguous where it is open to two or more interpretations. The KRTA as it was recently interpreted by a district court judge, revealed ambiguities in the statutory language that resulted in interpretations inconsistent with the legislative intent of the Act.

For section 58-3212 of the Act, the judge concluded that the provisions of the section did not apply to the responsible party for a trail. That same judge also concluded that section 58-3213 applied to an entity that was not the responsible party for the same trail.  These interpretations by the court reveal that the statutory language may lack clarity. It seems prudent that when vagueness, ambiguity or lack of clarity is revealed in statutory language that the legislature, upon becoming aware of it, act to resolve it.

By adding the words,"to the responsible party" to sections 58-3212 and 58-3213 as proposed in this Bill, ambiguity is removed to ensure that the Act will be read to not apply to entities that merely received permission to negotiate a transfer deal with a railroad, but only apply to entities that become the responsible party as defined in the Act.  

Mr Presnell stood for questions from the Committee.

Larry Patrick, Wichita KS, submitted written only testimony in support of HB2062(Attachment 3)

 

OPPONENTS

Doug Walker, President, Kanza Rail Trails, appeared before the Committee in opposition of HB2062.  (Attachment 4)    We are unsure of the intent of the language addition to the Kansas Recreational Trails Act. We believe the intent is an attempt to bring the Central Kansas Conservancy’s trails under the trails act. Their trails were rail-banked prior to passage of this act and theoretically are exempt from its requirements.  If it is for “clarification” we ask what is it clarifying and for what reason and who would it apply to and who specifically is requesting this change. These questions need to be answered before you  proceed. 

It’s time to take a serious look at the entire statute.  I have provided a “balloon” of suggested changes to the statute.  Among other things these changes provide for a safe, maintained trail which requires noxious weed control, litter control, prevents hunting & trapping from the trail, easements for adjacent property owners to cross the trail. It requires that all governing bodies with trails going through their jurisdictions be informed of the plans, progress of trail development and maintenance. It protects adjacent landowners from liability and removes property tax liability to adjacent property owners who may own property under the existing right of way.

These changes are extensive enough that if the Committee desires to proceed, a separate hearing may be useful to fully discuss and understand. We are willing at any time to discuss these changes with the Farm Bureau and other trail opponents.

Mr Walker stood for questions from the Committee.

Michelle Cullen, President, Central Kansas Conservancy (CKC), appeared before the Committee in opposition of HB2062.  (Attachment 5)    CKC is working to complete a 12-mile section between McPherson and Lindsborg, the Meadowlark Trail which was rail-banked in 1996. Six and one-half miles are complete and open to the public. We also have the Sunflower Santa Fe trail which is 33 miles in length stretching from just east of McPherson to Marion.

Work continues but not without controversy and litigation. Trail volunteers have been continually harassed and threatened. Contractors doing work on the trail have been threatened with litigation by two adjacent property owners. Gunshots have repeatedly been fired in the direction of volunteers and law enforcement has been involved multiple times. Despite property surveys and multiple court decisions affirming CKC’s right to develop this trail, and court orders to remove all barricades, these two adjacent property owners on multiple occasions continue to block trail access with equipment, illegal fences and threaten volunteers with gunfire. Contempt of court proceedings against the property owners are underway as we speak.

As a result of repeated court losses, we believe the change requested in HB2062 to the Kansas Recreational Trails Act is an attempt by these trail opponents to improve their chances in court of stopping this trail development.

My concern is, if this act is rewritten as it has been presented, it will create more difficulties for organizations such as ours to build trails. The creation of more difficulties will not be good for the people or the economy of Kansas. 

Ms Cullen stood for questions from the Committee.

There were no neutrals of HB2062.

The hearing on HB2062 was closed at 4:00pm.