46 - The Governor has signed 46 bills into law so far this year.

Last Week by the Numbers

46 - The Governor has signed 46 bills into law so far this year.
22 - There are 22 bills still in conference committees, waiting to be
negotiated between the House and Senate versions. There are many more waiting to hit the Governor's desk.
39 - The House voted to adopt 39 Conference Committee Reports this past week.
5 - The House concurred with Senate amendments to 5 House bills.
0 - There have been 0 vetoes by the Governor, yet!
8 - The Legislature reconvenes on May 8, 2013, for the "wrap up" or
"veto" session.

Veteran and Military Bills

There are quite a few Veteran and Military Bills that have been signed
by the Governor, are on the Governor's desk awaiting signature, or on
the way to the Governor's desk. He has already signed HB2181, that
authorizes licensing bodies to accept certain online distance education
courses toward licensure requirements for military service member
applicants; and SB28, which allows The Adjutant General to accept
federal land at Crisis City out in Salina.

On his desk are SB27, which expands eligibility for scholarships for
National Guard students with combat service after 9-11; and SB136,
which allows veterans to request the designation of VETERAN on their
drivers license or state identification card; and HB2212, which amends
the method for calculating a Veteran Service Organizations' required
"grant match" for the Veteran Claims Assistance Program.

On the way to his desk are HB2078, which requires the acceptance of
equivalent military training and experience toward Kansas professional
licenses' educational requirements; and SB23, which is a school
finance bill that includes the continuation of funding to cover the
expense of high student and teacher turnover rates due to military
transfers - commonly referred to as 'military second count'.

Leavenworth County Sponsored Bill

Our own County Attorney's bill, HB2278 is one of the bills on the
Governor's desk awaiting signature. It is the bill to increase the
penalties for the theft of firearms. Up until now, Kansas law treated
the theft of a firearm the same as stealing anything else valued at less
than $1000. Our prosecutors and law enforcement recognized that the
theft of firearms is a way for persons to obtain firearms when they
cannot meet the requirement to purchase a handgun legally or they do not want to have their name on record for purchasing a firearm. The Lansing Chief of Police and other proponents testified this is especially
prevalent in cases dealing with drug distribution. The Legislature
agreed and the bill passed the House 117-4, the Senate 40-0, and is
expected to be signed by the Governor shortly.

The Budget and Taxes

The Legislature adjourned late Friday night with no budget and with
several tax bills still in limbo. The Senate and House Conference
Committee met a total of 10 times to negotiate the State's budget, but
little progress was made. The Speaker of the House had stated in his
press conferences, that a tax bill should be passed first and we should
wait for the next revenue estimates (scheduled to be released on April
15th) before settling the budget; so the House negotiators broke off the conference committee meetings until the Legislature returns to Topeka on May 8th.

The House unanimously rejected a motion to concur with the Senate's
proposed tax plan on Friday. HB2059 would permanently raise the sales tax six-tenths of a percent in July. It would add up to $800 million in tax increases that hit every Kansan, those with lower income especially. It repeals the tax deduction for gambling losses and reduces all other itemized deductions (except for charitable contributions) by 24% in 2013, 41% in 2014-15, 65% in 2016 and 94% in 2017. It would introduce a new series of income tax rates that would go down each year until 2017 with the two brackets ending up at 3.5% and 1.9%. Then after 2017, there would be a formula to bring the rates to zero.

The House plan would make increased state revenue a prerequisite to
further income tax cuts and would allow the sales tax to drop from 6.3% to 5.7% in July, as currently scheduled. SB84 requires that a formula be used in the future to lower the income tax rates once the Department of Revenue could verify that the State had experienced growth over 2%. Your individual itemized deductions would be cut 24% in tax year 2013, but would not go down again until the growth over 2% formula is used.
The tax plan and budget will take center stage when the legislature
reconvenes in May.

VCAP Advisory Board

As a member of the Veterans Claims Assistance Program Advisory Board, I learned some disturbing information about the House's proposed budget. Under the original Governor's budget , the Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs (KCVA)'s budget was maintained at current levels.
They are currently short two Veteran Service Representatives (VSRs) in
their Salina and Hayes offices. These two offices are making
appointments to assist veterans in processing and filing their claims
with the Veterans Administration up to three months out. With the
VA's poor average processing time of over 12 months, this delay in
getting an appointment is adding another three months to the veteran's wait. However, with the House's budget proposal that "caps" next years salary budgets of each agency at what they had already paid in the nine months from 1 July 2012 to 15 March 2013, the KCVA is at risk at having to lay off two more VSRs! They are a small agency and two positions may not seem like much, but they are already behind and this would just compound the situation.

This just compounds my concern, as I mentioned in my earlier reports, of some of the unacceptable results of this House Appropriations "salary cap" proposal on our public safety organizations. I am especially concerned about the Department of Corrections having to lay off 94 employees when they are already dangerously short of correctional officers. Unfortunately, attempts by myself and others to make budget cuts by prioritizing instead of blanket cuts across the board have been unsuccessful to date.