Last Tuesday I carried a bill on the floor of the Senate to clarify the Military Service Scholarship Program Act.
Last Tuesday I carried a bill on the floor of the Senate to clarify the Military Service Scholarship Program Act. The bill will cause the act to apply to all military veterans who have served in hostile fire zones since 9/11/01. The bill passed unanimously and is now with the House for their approval. Last week was shortened by the snow storm. Luckily, there was plenty of warning so we were able to cram in some actions on Wednesday so that we are not too far behind. The goal is still to finish in 80 days instead of the normal 90 days - and save the taxpayers over 37 thousand dollars. I am serving on the following committees: Chair Subcommittee on Judiciary and Gaming, Chair Subcommittee on Corrections & Juvenile Justice, Vice Chair Subcommittee on Legislative and Elected Officials, TransportationEthics, Elections, and Local Government Ways and MeansJoint Committee on Corrections & Juvenile Justice
In This Newsletter: K-12 Education Funding - An amendment in the making for the Kansas Constitution passed the Senate and is headed for the House.Worker's Compensation - Illegal aliens will no longer be able to claim wage loss if this bill is enacted. Ban on Sex Selection Abortions - Being human is not good enough for a right to life but being one sex or the other is? Extending the Technical Education Authority - Continuing to expand tech-ed. The Move to Zero Income Tax - Everyone wants lower taxes - how to get there? Mandate Lite - Insurance for those who only want some. Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center - KU Med taking the lead in finding cures. It is easy to stay updated by accessing committee schedules, bill status, and other helpful information through the legislature's website, www.kslegislature.org. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me - comments, concerns and suggestions are also welcomed. I always enjoy hearing from constituents. K-12 Education Funding - SCR 1608 Are elected representatives in charge of spending and taxes? The Senate passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 1608 which calls for amending the Kansas Constitution to add "The financing of the educational interests of the state is exclusively a legislative power under article 2 of the constitution of the state of Kansas and as such shall be established solely by the legislature." The resolution now goes to the House where it must be approved by 2/3 of the representatives before it is sent to the people for final approval.The funding of K-12 education is very contentious as there is now another lawsuit (Gannon) in the courts attempting to increase the amount of money the state provides to local districts. This is the latest in a long series of lawsuits - the last being the Montoy decision. At base is the question of which branch of the state government decides how and at what level to provide funds. To be clear, SCR 1608 is not intended to reduce K-12 spending. We have a duty to properly fund schools. But we also have a duty to support public safety, to provide for the developmentally and physically disabled, and to support higher education. Balancing those requirements and assessing taxes to meet them is the responsibility of the legislature. For 47 years education funding has been in an unending cycle of litigation. The litigation is costly and only contributes to education funding uncertainty. SCR 1608 aims to end the cycle of litigation and allows the people of Kansas decide whether the elected legislature or the courts should decide how much Kansas spends on education.I voted to put the question before the people. If the resolution is approved in the House it will appear on the August 2014 ballot. Then, if a majority of the voters agree it will be clear that tax dollars can only be given out by the elected representatives of the people and not by the court. If, on the other hand, the voters disapprove of the amendment then funding for all sorts of programs will be determined by the court in response to lawsuits by interested parties in education and predictably other areas as well.Worker's Compensation - SB 73 Illegal aliens can make wage loss claims? This week the Senate passed a bill that clarifies that workers who are not US citizens or who are not authorized to work in the US are not eligible to make wage loss claims under the workers compensation program. SB 73 also makes some technical changes to our state's current statues regarding working compensation. Ban on Sex Selection Abortions - SB 141 No senator spoke in favor of abortions due to the sex of the child. SB 141 prohibits abortions that are performed solely on account of the sex of the unborn child. The mother, the father, or parents of the mother may sue if an abortion was preformed due to the sex of the child. A mother upon whom an abortion is performed would not be prosecuted under SB 141. A first conviction of a violation would be a class A misdemeanor; the second conviction would be a severity level ten, personal felony. The Senate passed SB 141, as amended by a vote of 37-2. It appears that nobody wants to permit an abortion because the baby is a girl and nobody wants to permit an abortion because the baby is a boy. And yet, millions of babies are aborted and they are, everyone of them, either a girl or a boy. Extending the Tech Education Authority - SB 22 Still coordinating technical education. In 2007, the Kansas Legislature established the Technical Education Authority to coordinate statewide planning for post-secondary technical education, new post-secondary technical education programs, and contract training. SB 22 extends the authority by three years, to June 30, 2017. The Senate passed SB 22 by a vote of 34-6.The Move to Zero IncomeTax - HB 2059 Everything will be on the table. On Wednesday, the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee amended HB 2059 to incorporate the provisions of SB 78 as previously amended by that Committee. The technical fixes included in this bill would:Repeal a requirement on taxpayers who are partners or Subchapter S corporation shareholders to compute a different adjusted basis for their partnership interests or Subchapter S stock for Kansas income tax purposes than they do for federal income tax purposes.Clarify that for Kansas income tax purposes, the add back to federal adjusted gross income required of certain losses for Subchapter S corporations would not apply to those entities with wholly owned subsidiaries subject to the financial institutions privilege tax.Clarify the 50-barrel-per-day threshold enacted in 2012 relative to being excluded from the new pool severance tax exemption for oil and would be determined based on the initial six months of production from each well. Along with the technical fixes originally contained in HB 2059, the contents of SB 78, having been amended into the bill, 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 rate reductions through 2017. The Senate plans to work HB 2059 within the next few weeks. I am convinced that a lower, more even tax is needed. The elimination of the Mortgage Interest Deduction will be a point of contention and I hope that we are able to retain that deduction in part at least while we work to bring the income tax to zero for everyone. (Elimination of all income tax and property tax is in the background - I doubt that it will get a hearing this session - but, it could. That idea will require a sales tax with no exemptions.)
Mandate Lite For those who don't want everything. The Health and Welfare Committee introduced SB 163, also known as 'mandate lite' legislation. The measure would allow insurance companies to provide products for healthy individuals and families who plan on resisting the Affordable Care Act's requirement. Insurance companies would be able to sell medical policies that could exclude coverage of mental health, pharmacy, or chiropractic treatments to individuals who wouldn't use them and don't want to pay for them. The legislation will bring more certainty to the marketplace and provide Kansans with a safety net if their employer decided to drop their coverage. The legislation passed the Senate 38-1. Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center - SB 199 Kansas is taking the lead in finding cures. I co-sponsored SB 199 along with 22 other senators. It would create the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center at the University of Kansas Medical Center. That center would conduct extensive research and offer medical treatments using adult stem cells, cord blood, and other non-embryonic stem cells, advancing the treatment options for patients across the country. The legislation requires a director and a 13-member advisory board to oversee the center. SB 199 is an exciting piece of legislation that will make Kansas a worldwide leader in stem cell research, as it will be one of the few stem cell research centers in the country. 2013 Session Dates and Deadlines Below are remaining dates and deadlines for the 2013 legislative session. As always, each is subject to modification.Mon. 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 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 me know you are coming so I can work the schedule - call (800) 432-3924 and leave a message, I'll get back to you. Previous newsletters at: http://www.vote4fitzgerald.com/newsroom.html