The big news this week has been the proposed change in the way we chose appellate and supreme court justices.

Judicial Selection The big news this week has been the proposed change in the way we chose appellate and supreme court justices. The Senate passed measures that call for the appointment of justices by the Governor and their confirmation by the Senate. The House of Representatives now has the action and it remains to be seen what they will do.  

The change requires amendment to the Kansas Constitution and therefore a two thirds vote is needed to get the issue on the ballot for the people to vote either for or against it.My lawyer friends are mostly against it but it is much better than the alternative of direct election of justices and a significant improvement over the current method which gives too much power to a group of lawyers and none to the elected representatives of the people and only very limited power to the Governor. I voted in favor of putting the issue before the people of Kansas.  

Income Tax Reductions - Mortgage Interest Deduction 

I questioned the Secretary of Revenue, Nick Jordan, in front of the Senate Ways and Means Committee and I spoke with the vice president of the Kansas Association of Realtors, Luke Bell, about this issue. It is extremely important to the future of Kansas and I will continue to follow it closely. Unfortunately, there has been a media blitz by special interests which misleads the public, causing unwarranted fear among homeowners.  

The Governor's plan reduces the income tax significantly and eventually brings it to zero for individual Kansas taxpayers. Two notable parts of this plan are the raising of the standard deduction to $9000 dollars, which will further reduce taxes for most Kansans, and the elimination of the mortgage deduction, which will negatively effect very few high earning Kansans.  

The federal mortgage interest deduction (often a significant number) is not changed in any way. The much smaller and often transparent Kansas deduction is what is in question and it's is in almost all cases a fraction of the tax savings of the overall plan. In other words, unless you are a very high income earner paying a very large amount of mortgage interest, your taxes are going down - probably by hundreds, or thousands, of dollars. If you are a very high earner and have a very high mortgage interest payment you will not get the benefit until income tax is further reduced in subsequent years. 

Paycheck Protection for Public Sector Employees  The House passed the Paycheck Protection Act banning payroll deductions for members of public sector unions for the purpose of contributing to the union's political action committee (PAC). The bill is now headed to the Senate for further consideration and action. Currently, unions negotiate the deduction with government entities. The money from the deduction is contributed to the PAC, but in many cases the member is not given the ability to specify how the deduction is then used. 

The bill removes state and local governments as bookkeepers for the political activities of public unions. It is not only unnecessary, but arguably also inappropriate, for the state or any other unit of government to be in the business of making payroll deductions for political purposes. Union members can, of course, still make PAC contributions by check or through automatic bank transfers.  

KanCare Educational Meetings for Members 

Medicaid in Kansas is now formally KanCare. Kansas has contracted with three new health plans, or managed care organizations (MCOs), to coordinate health care for nearly all Medicaid beneficiaries. The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has announced educational meetings for members across the state in late February. If you are a member of KanCare, I encourage you to attend one of these meetings to learn more about the integrated care system and ask any questions you may have about the changes. 

KanCare Meetings will take place: 

February 18 in Dodge City, Manhattan, Winfield and TopekaFebruary 19 in Garden City, Salina, Parsons and Kansas CityFebruary 20 in Colby, Great Bend, Fort Scott and OlatheFebruary 21 in Hays, Wichita, Emporia and Atchinson 

Details, including locations and times, for the first educational meetings are posted at this link - 

2013 Session Dates and Deadlines 

Below are dates and deadlines for the 2013 legislative session. As always, each is subject to modification.Mon. February 4 Last day for members to request bill draftsMon. February 11 Last day for non-exempt committees to request bill draftsWed. February 13 Last day for bill introductions by membersFri. February 15 Last day for non-exempt committees to introduce billsMon. February 25 Last day for afternoon committees to meetTues. February 26 Last day for morning committees to meetFri. March 1 Turnaround, last day for non-exempt bills Fri. March 22 Last day for bills to be considered by non-exempt committeeWed. March 27 Last day for non-exempt bill in either chamberWed. May 8 Veto session begins I am serving on the following committees: Ethic, Elections, and Local GovernmentTransportationWays and MeansChair Subcommittee on Judiciary and Gaming,Chair Subcommittee on Corrections & Juvenile Justice, Vice Chair Subcommittee on Legislative and Elected Officials, Thank you for the honor of serving you!  I encourage you to contact me. It's always fun to have visitors in the building and you're welcome anytime we're in session. I am in Room 135 E. Please call ahead and let us know you are coming so we can work the schedule - call (800) 432-3924 and leave a message, we'll get back to you.