News From the State House - Week Four
With the fourth week of the 2013 legislative session over, the first round of legislative deadlines will be upon us next week. In anticipation of the approaching deadlines, committees have remained busy holding hearings and voting on legislation for deliberation by the full House. Accordingly, the House debated and took final votes, referred to as Final Action, on several bills. While these bills do not reflect major policy initiatives, such as tax reform or the budget, they are important because I am here to represent you, and to work on your behalf to make our state better.
You can stay up-to-date with committee schedules and bills and find other helpful information regarding the happenings in the statehouse through the legislature's website, www.kslegislature.org. Please do not hesitate to contact me with your thoughts, concerns and questions. I enjoy hearing from you on the topics we are discussing in Topeka and I appreciate the perspective from those outside of the Statehouse.
Native American Legislative Day
On Wednesday this week, the House honored Native American Kansan veterans in the Capitol with a special tribute and recognition for their service to our nation. Tribal leaders and councils from the Prairie Band, Potawatomi, Kickapoo, Sac and Fox, and Iowa Nations of Kansas and Nebraska were presented with a proclamation from the House of Representatives honoring their military service to the United States. Kansas also has a living memorial to Native American Veterans with the 931st Air Refueling Group based at McConnell Air Force Base in Wichita. The 931st draws its identity from the proud Kanza people of the Kaw Nation. The 931st also uses Kanza as its official call sign during missions.
On Friday, February 8, the House debated HB 2059, the "trailer bill" to the income tax bill that was signed into law last session. The bill would make several adjustments to income and severance tax provisions that were enacted during the 2012 session.
Under current law, as enacted last year, taxpayers who are partners or Sub-chapter S corporation shareholders are required to compute a different adjusted basis for their partnership interests or Sub-chapter S stock for Kansas income tax purposes than they do for federal income tax purposes. HB 2059 would repeal this provision.
Juvenile Justice Authority Reorganization
Governor Brownback on Friday, January 18, delivered Executive Reorganization Order (ERO) #42 to the legislature. This reorganization order moves the Kansas Juvenile Justice Authority (JJA) into the Kansas Department of Corrections (KDOC). Per this ERO, KDOC will have the ability to establish a deputy secretary of juvenile services and the governor has said that Acting JJA Commissioner Terri Williams will serve in that role.
Page 2 of 4 - As a result of an audit conducted by the Legislative Division of Post Audit, the governor has criticized the decisions of policy makers and previous administrations regarding juvenile justice as failing to provide necessary safety and security. The governor believes that in moving JJA to KDOC, there will be an increased emphasis on safety in addition to continuing to provide programs to reduce juvenile recidivism.
State General Fund Receipts
This Wednesday, the Kansas Legislative Research Department released the actual total State General Fund (SGF) receipts from the beginning of Fiscal Year (FY) 2013, July 1, 2012, to January 2013 as compared to the estimates made by the Consensus Estimating Group. The report was encouraging news for the House as it showed that state revenue so far this fiscal year has exceeded what was estimated.
Education is a worthwhile investment in our children and the future of our state. We want the very best education that makes the most of taxpayer money.
The House is very concerned about reading proficiency levels and helping students achieve success early in their education to lay a foundation for continued success throughout their schooling.
- The House has many new members who have classroom experience, which will be valuable as the House works to ensure that the educational success of each student is a top priority.
- The House has been meeting jointly with the Senate in recent weeks to get fully versed on the school funding issues. We are looking at reforms that will ensure each Kansas student receives a quality education.
- It's not necessary to impose a huge tax increase on Kansans to give our children a complete education.
- It's time that we stop evaluating whether or not our children are receiving a valuable, effective education by one arbitrary number that does not reflect actual per-pupil spending. (Base State Aid Per Pupil or BSAPP)
- There are special funding categories, called weightings that allocate money for school districts for areas like special education, transportation, free and reduced lunch, etc. that are not included in BSAPP figures. When all the weightings are included with the total amount of money the state spends on education, it amounts to more than $12,000 per pupil, according to the Kansas Department of Education.
- According to the Kansas Department of Education, taxpayers will spend $5.8 billion on Kansas education, a new record.
- This week, the Governor requested a stay with district court in the school finance litigation to allow the legislature more time to deal with the issue, and to give parents, teachers and administrators time to weigh in.
Kansas/Oklahoma Education Tour
On Friday last week, members of the House and Senate Education Committees visited Walton Rural Life Center and Francis Tuttle Technology Center to get a firsthand look at charter and technical schools. The trip allowed members of the committee to get a better understanding of nontraditional teaching schools and the lessons which can be drawn from these unique learning environments to be applied to other parts of Kansas.
Page 3 of 4 - The technical school featured unique half day programs specializing in auto and mechanical work to nursing programs to computer science. This allowed students to spend part of the day focused on core education requirements and the other part on post high school education.
Students who participated in these programs saw a dropout rate of only 7%, significantly smaller than the rest of the state
I am currently working on a project to bring a technical school to the Leavenworth area and I found this trip quite helpful.
KDOT/KTA Partnership Proposal
The stated goal of the Administration in merging the two agencies is to allow both agencies to be managed in a consistent way to allow for efficiencies in operations and sharing of resources across the state. The bill being proposed by the Administration would place the Secretary of the Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) as the CEO and Chairman of the Board of the Kansas Turnpike Authority (KTA). From this position, the Secretary would have control to manage all the transportation assets in the state.
There have been some concerns with regard to the expansion of tolls on roads but federal law prohibits the addition of tolls on roads which are already complete, preventing any expansion on existing roads. Current state law also prohibits toll revenue from being directed for general fund purposes which would remove a possible mechanism of using the toll system as a 'behind the back' tax to fund other areas of state government. The Administration has also pointed out that the process of raising tolls doesn't change and still requires a vote of the Board of Directors to make the changes.
Over the next several weeks the Transportation committees in the House and Senate will continue to hold hearings and delve into the specifics of how the merger would save money and benefit the state. It is important to me that services are not affected in any merger proposal brought forward.
HB 2260 is a bill that I submitted supporting active duty soldiers. HB 2260 exempts active duty soldiers who are Kansas residents from the requirement to pay state income tax. The bill will be heard in the Tax Committee.
I encourage you to let me know your thoughts on the issues discussed by the legislature and others which might be affecting you. Please feel free to call 785-296-7653 or e-mail John.Bradford@house.ks.gov and I'd be happy to discuss any topic you are interested in. Thank you for the honor of serving you!
Many Kansans are concerned about the federal government's recent attention on gun ownership and restricting gun rights.
- Many legislators have introduced bills to protect gun rights.
- This week, the House Federal and State Affairs Committee formed a subcommittee to carefully work through the bills and develop a consistent policy that protects the Second Amendment rights of Kansans.
Page 4 of 4 - Final Action Votes
This week the House took final votes on four bills, all of which were passed and will now be received by the Senate for consideration. Below are the four bills with a brief description of each.
HB 2009 - HB 2009 allows a driver facing driver's license suspension for failing to comply fully with a traffic citation to submit a written request to the Division of Motor Vehicles for restricted driving privileges. The driver would be required to submit a non-refundable $25 fee for the restricted license to be retained by the Division's operating fund. The bill passed 63-60. The restricted license would allow individuals to retain insurance and drive legally to necessary places like:
- Going to or returning from employment/seeking new employment
- Going to or returning from an appointment with a health care provider or in the case of a medical emergency
- Probation hearings or drug and alcohol counseling
- Going to or returning from school
On February 4, the House passed HB 2022 by a vote of 91 to 29.
HB 2028 - HB 2028 amends provisions of the Kansas Standard Asset Seizure and Forfeiture Act, adding a provision allowing a forfeiture proceeding brought by the Attorney General to commence and be maintained in Shawnee County. Bill was passed 119-1.
HB 2060 - HB 2060 prohibits prisoners from receiving food sales tax refunds or homestead property tax refunds. An amendment was added to make it clear that the bill would only affect prisoners who claim the prison as their household. Currently, only three prisoners have filed for a sales tax refund but the Department of Revenue requested that the practice be prohibited before other prisoners follow suit. The bill passed 123-0 on Feb 7.
HB 2022 - This bill passed 91-29. HB 2022 provides statutory authority for an employer to withhold or deduct money, subject to written notice and explanation, from an outgoing employee's final wages for the following reasons:
- To recover the employer's non-returned property provided in the normal course of business, including computers, tools of the trade, phones, safety equipment, etc.
- To allow an employee to repay a loan or advance from the employer
- To recover an overpayment of payroll
- To compensate for replacement costs of the employer's merchandise, uniforms, or equipment purchased by the employee
Representative, District 40