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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • News From the State House - Week Six

  • Because of the lost day, Senate and House leadership revised the session calendar to give committees one more day to meet, but are keeping next Friday as a hard deadline called "turnaround" when all bills must be passed out of their chamber of origin.
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  • Because of the lost day, Senate and House leadership revised the session calendar to give committees one more day to meet, but are keeping next Friday as a hard deadline called "turnaround" when all bills must be passed out of their chamber of origin. These types of deadlines help ensure a smooth legislative process as we strive to meet the ambitious goal of finishing up the session within eighty days.
    Anthony School Teacher Recognized
    Laura Moyers, a Leavenworth school teacher, was recognized on the floor of the Kansas House of Representatives. Ms Moyers, who teaches music at Anthony Elementary, was recognized for being selected as the Kansas State Department of Education's Teacher of the Year, Region 2.
    Telecommunications Deregulation
    Many states, Kansas being one of them, have a Universal Service Fund into which every wired and wireless phone user pays as a part of their monthly phone bill. The Kansas Universal Service
    Fund (KUSF) supports access to phone service for Kansans living in rural areas where access is more difficult and costly to provide. The KUSF was enacted by the 1996 Kansas Legislature and the size of the fund is currently at over $60 million, large compared to the Universal Service Funds of other states.
    As telecommunication begins to modernize, focus has started to turn from providing access to wired phone service to access to more wireless phone service and broadband Internet service.
    With this in mind, the House this week passed a telecommunication deregulation bill that includes a reduction in the KUSF. The bill, HB 2201, would provide for reductions to the KUSF of the fees assessed to them on their phone bills.
    While the bill would provide some immediate relief to the consumer, the House felt that more review is needed in this ever advancing area, and therefore included a provision that establishes a study commission. This commission would be tasked with examining how KUSF funds are being distributed and whether further reductions can be made to better reflect modern telecommunication methods. The commission would also help ensure that telecommunication
    providers are given the regulatory flexibility to better advance the statewide telecommunication infrastructure.
    Extending Reserve Fund Policy
    On Wednesday, the House debated HB 2261 which would allow school districts to continue to spend unencumbered reserve funds in 11 specific accounts. Across the state, school districts have more than $395 million in excess funds and this bill will extend legislation passed in 2011, which first allowed school districts to use these funds for general education expenses.
    To meet the public policy goal of $4,492 base state aid per pupil, districts are authorized to spend $250 times the district's weighted enrollment of the available funds. This base number is what is
    used to start the calculation of determining the amount of funding schools received per student. There are several different weightings in the formula which change the amount a school district
    Page 2 of 3 - receives based on certain demographics of their student body makeup. When calculating all the funding Kansas taxpayers supply to schools, Kansas spends about $12,700 per student on education.
    Education
    The Education Committee continues to look at serious issues affecting how best to educate Kansas children. We have looked at technical schools, been briefed on virtual schools and heard
    testimony from some of the best rated schools in the state. This week we considered the issues of Common Core Standards, Creating the Public School Charter Act, Legislative Post Audits of School Districts, and Creating the Coalition of Innovative Districts Act. Due to the large workload still remain in the Education Committee; we will meet for five sessions during Monday and Tuesday, so that we can complete the work on all pending bills.
    Tax
    The House is continuing its committee work to develop a tax plan that provides further tax relief for Kansans. This committee process can purposefully take a while so as to fully discuss and vet all options, especially in the case of serious tax reform. While the House Taxation Committee has not yet endorsed a proposal on how to continue to bring down income tax rates, it is committed to bringing a thoughtful and workable proposal to the House floor.
    On Wednesday, the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee moved forward with a proposal to reduce income tax rates. The committee voted to pass an amended version of HB 2059, a bill
    passed earlier by the House that makes technical fixes to the income tax legislation passed in 2012. Inserted into HB 2059 were provisions that would freeze the current sales and use tax rate at 6.3 percent, repeal the mortgage interest deduction beginning in tax year 2013, and provide further income tax reductions through 2017.
    Having passed favorably out of the Senate committee, HB 2059 now awaits action by the whole Senate. If it passes there, HB 2059 will be received back in the House. When a House bill is amended by the Senate as is the case of HB 2059, it often results in negotiations between members of the House and Senate to come to agreement on a uniform piece of legislation.
    While the House looks forward working with the Senate to achieve a tax policy that benefits all Kansans, the House plans to continue to work on its own proposal for tax policy.
    A twist in the tax issue is a bill referred to as the FairTax (HB2355). The FairTax repeals the Corporate Tax on July 1, 2013 and will completely eliminate all Sales Tax exemptions that are not business inputs on July 1, 2013. It will reduce Personal Income Tax rates effective Jan 1, 2015. This bill was introduced this session by former House Majority Leader, Arlen Siegfried and is in the Tax Committee. The FairTax has been reviewed by numerous economists around
    Page 3 of 3 - the nation. Approximate ten states are vying to see who will be the first to implement the FairTax.
    Veterans
    Several bills have come out of the Veterans committee thus far. Several bills deal with allowing veterans to transfer their experience and military schooling into certification and licensing for
    rapidly transitioning into the civilian workforce. A particular bill of interest is one I submitted which exempts all active duty soldiers who are registered Kansas citizens from paying state income tax. (applicable to Guard and Reserve for the time they serve in an active status as well).
    Remembering House Sergeant-At-Arms Wayne Owen
    At the end of last week, long time House Sergeant-At-Arms Wayne Owen passed away after 11 years of service to the House. Frequent statehouse visitors remember Wayne as the always smiling gentleman greeting them as they entered the House chamber. Wayne's many duties included protecting the members of the House and ensuring that guests complied with House rules. The House met early on Tuesday to allow members to attend his funeral and comfort his family. The Sergeant-At-Arms position is appointed by the Speaker of the House.
    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 email me at
    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!
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