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The Leavenworth Times - Leavenworth, KS
  • Lawmakers, local officials talk bills

  • State lawmakers who represent Leavenworth County had a chance to hear from county officials Wednesday morning, days before the start of the 2014 legislative session.
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    • Top 10 legislative issues
      During Wednesday's legislative breakfast in Lansing, Leavenworth County Administrator Pat Hurley focused on 10 issues. Leavenworth County is opposed to each of the proposals except for ...
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      Top 10 legislative issues
      During Wednesday's legislative breakfast in Lansing, Leavenworth County Administrator Pat Hurley focused on 10 issues. Leavenworth County is opposed to each of the proposals except for the nuisance abatement authority for counties.
      • Repeal of a mortgage registration fee.
      • Tax exemption for commercial and industrial machinery fixtures.
      • Moving the date of local elections.
      • Restrictions on legislative advocacy on the part of cities, counties and other entities that receive public funds.
      • Spending and tax lids.
      • Tax exemption for health clubs.
      • Motor vehicle tax reductions.
      • Proposed changes to property tax appeals.
      • Nuisance abatement authority for counties.
      • Unfunded mandates.
  • State lawmakers who represent Leavenworth County had a chance to hear from county officials Wednesday morning, days before the start of the 2014 legislative session.
    Leavenworth County County Commission members and the county administrator attended a legislative breakfast in Lansing with several lawmakers whose districts include portions of Leavenworth County. The breakfast also was attended by representatives of the city of Lansing and other local officials.
    Legislators in attendance were state Sen. Steve Fitzgerald and state Reps. Melanie Meier, John Bradford, Connie O'Brien and Willie Dove. The 2014 legislative session will begin Monday in Topeka.
    Fitzgerald, a Republican, represents the Kansas Senate's Fifth District, which includes the cities of Leavenworth and Lansing.
    Meier, a Democrat, represents the 41st District in the Kansas House of Representatives. The district includes portions of Leavenworth and Fort Leavenworth.
    Bradford, a Republican, represents the 40th District, which includes Lansing and south Leavenworth. O'Brien, a Republican, represents the 42nd District, which includes the cities of Easton and Tonganoxie.
    Dove, a Republican, represents the 38th District, which includes the city of Basehor.
    Leavenworth County Administrator Pat Hurley reviewed the County Commission's position on 10 legislative issues, most of which involve bills introduced in 2013 that can be taken up again this year in the Kansas Legislature.
    One new bill that may be introduced this year is a proposal for the repeal of a mortgage registration fee.
    The proposed legislation is being supported by the Kansas Bankers Association and Kansas Association of Realtors. County commissioners oppose the repeal of the fee because it would result in the loss of about $1 million in revenue for county government per year.
    "It's a significant amount of money to Leavenworth County," Hurley said.
    Officials with the city of Lansing also expressed opposition to repealing the mortgage registration fee.
    Another legislative issue cited by Hurley is a bill that would exempt for-profit health clubs from property taxes. This could result in a loss of about $60,000 in tax revenue for all taxing entities in the county.
    The bill passed in the Senate last year and still could be voted on by members of the House.
    Commission Chairman Bob Holland said the bill may not result in a large loss to the county, but he expressed concern the legislation could lead to other businesses becoming tax exempt.
    Commissioner Dennis Bixby said he understands the argument for the bill ― for-profit health clubs are competing against the tax exempt YMCA. But, he said the bill is on a slippery slope.
    Fitzgerald agreed the issue is about the YMCA.
    He said lawmakers have tried for years to revoke YMCA's tax exempt status without success. He said the issue hasn't drawn any attention in the past, and the purpose of the health club bill was to draw more attention.
    Page 2 of 2 - "The issue is on the table now," he said. "Push back is happening."
    Dove later said he believes the YMCA should be paying taxes like other entities.
    Bradford said he put together an amendment for the health club bill that would exempt Leavenworth County and a few other counties from the law.
    Another issue cited by Hurley is the idea of changing the date of elections for municipal and school board candidates.
    Elections currently take place in the spring of odd-numbered years.
    Hurley said several bills were introduced last year that would move the municipal and school board elections to the fall of even-numbered years. This would place city and school board candidates on the same ballot as state and national candidates.
    Hurley said some of the proposed bills also would make local elections partisan.
    He said the County Commission opposes making such changes to local elections.
    "We think that would really crowd the ballots in the fall election," he said.
    Bradford said the intent of the bills is to increase voter turnout. He doesn't believe the municipal and school board elections will be moved to even-numbered years. He also doesn't believe they will be made partisan.
    But, spring elections may be moved to November of odd-number years, Bradford said.
    O'Brien said moving spring elections to November would provide more continuity.
    "Right now, most people don't even know we hold elections in April," she said.
    Another issue mentioned by Hurley concerned unfunded mandates. He asked lawmakers not to create any new unfunded mandates at the state level.
    He also asked them not to pass on any federal unfunded mandates to the county.
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