Agenda includes proposals to fight fentanyl deaths, organized retail crime activities affecting Kansas
TOPEKA – (January 26, 2023) – Kansas Attorney General Kris Kobach today outlined his legislative agenda for the 2023 session, focusing on measures that will increase public safety and protect the hard-earned finances of Kansas investors.
Kobach, who took office earlier this month, highlighted key priorities of his first term as Kansas attorney general. Those were increased penalties related to fentanyl trafficking and deaths, organized retail crime activities, and restrictions on investments that are oriented toward environmental, sustainable and governance practices that do not seek to maximize the financial interests of pensions.
ESG Investment Regulation
Lacking success at the legislative level, activists are turning to corporations to impose their radical agenda to change investment strategies to achieve their goals. State attorneys general and treasurers are uniquely positioned to counter these efforts.
In August, 19 attorneys general wrote a letter to BlackRock warning the company that its environmental, social and governance objectives may violate a number of state laws.
Kobach is proposing comprehensive legislation that requires state investments be invested solely for the purpose of earnings and not to advance any political position. The bill has been introduced by Sen. Mike Thompson, a Shawnee Republican.
“Global scale financial firms are imposing their personal beliefs and social agendas on us using arbitrary environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies,” Thompson said. “These policies are taking away our constitutional rights, circumventing elected office holders, and placing irresponsible restrictions on our investments, businesses, and jobs. ESG policies are also contributing to the meteoric rise in gas, electricity, and food prices. We must act now to protect Kansans from these capricious and pernicious ESG policies, before it’s too late.”
Kansas State Treasurer Steven Johnson supports Kobach’s efforts to protect retirees and their well-deserved pensions.
“I look forward to working with the Legislature and Attorney General Kobach to ensure our state’s investment decisions are made on making the best returns for Kansas taxpayers – and not based on political preferences,” Johnson said. “I hope the Legislature will enact a bill that keeps us focused on this fiduciary responsibility and prevents investment managers from targeting industries they disagree with politically, including firearms manufacturers and the agriculture and energy sectors critical to our state’s economy.”
Rep. Mike Murphy, a Sylvia Republican, has been working on a version of the bill in the House of Representatives and said a number of states are taking action to preserve the fiduciary rights of investors, while balancing other issues at play.
“We want to protect their rights while not stepping on the rights of others,” Murphy said.
On Thursday, Kobach joined a federal lawsuit with 24 others states over a U.S. Department of Labor rule which would allow 401(k) managers to direct their clients’ money to ESG investments without consent, a move that runs contrary to the laws outlined in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. The lawsuit was filed in Texas. The rule change affects millions of investors and more than $12 trillion in investments.
Fentanyl Death Enhancement
The attorney general will ask the Kansas Sentencing Commission to create a new sentencing enhancement specifically for the crime of distribution of drugs if a death results. Additional, stiffer sentences will be sought for other related crimes on the books. In addition, resources within the attorney general’s office will be deployed to provide maximum assistance to county attorneys prosecuting any case involving fentanyl.
In 2022, the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency reported recovering 50.6 million fentanyl pills and more than 5 tons of fentanyl powder. That’s the equivalent to 379 million deadly doses. In Kansas, Illinois and Missouri alone, DEA recovered 671 pounds of fentanyl in 2022, an increase of 41 percent from the previous year. This epidemic in fentanyl trafficking and subsequent deaths must be addressed and those who are responsible held accountable for their actions.
Tony Mattivi, the attorney general’s nominee to be the next director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, said resources would be reoriented to focus on the investigation and reduction of fentanyl-related crimes.
“We saw this happen with crack cocaine and then with methamphetamines how they destroyed lives and our communities,” Mattivi said. “We could be on the cusp of a tidal wave with regard to fentanyl.”
Organized Retail Crime
Organized theft rings are defined as criminal activities of two or more persons engaged in illegally obtaining items of value from retail establishments, through theft and/or fraud, as part of a criminal enterprise. The items then are frequently sold through other means, such as online marketplaces. A joint report in 2021 from the Retail Industry Leaders Association and the Buy Safe America Coalition estimated that nearly $70 billion in goods were stolen from retailers in 2019.
These thefts result in the loss of nearly $15 billion in federal and state tax revenue, not counting the loss of local sales taxes. This economic impact affects not only consumers but Kansas Main Street retail merchants struggling to survive amid high inflation and snarled supply chains that impede their operations. Kansas has ranked among the top 10 states in organized retail crime activities in recent years.
Kobach is asking legislators to create a task force focused on organized retail crime, as well as put into statute that the attorney general has prosecutorial authority whenever two or more jurisdictions are involved.
Mattivi said he was excited about the prospects of the public/private aspect of the task force to get the assistance of Kansas retailers to assist law enforcement in stemming the increase in organized crime activities.
Kobach said he was also introducing legislation that would prohibit foreign ownership of land in Kansas, as well as a measure to eliminate the fees charged by the attorney general’s office for obtaining a concealed carry license.
“You should not have to pay the state in order to exercise a constitutional right,” Kobach said in regard to ending the concealed carry fee. “Reporters should not have to pay to write their stories, church goers do not pay the state when we attend church, nor should lawful gun owners have to pay for the privilege of bearing arms in a manner that they are most commonly carrying in the 21st century.”