Week 11 was a short week but jam packed with bills.

Now on to Conference Committee Reports

Week 11 was a short week but jam packed with bills. The House and
Senate put in a few long days to vote on bills passed by the other
chamber, and if modified send them into the Conference Committee
process. Now Conference Committees (made up of the Chair, Vice Chair
and Ranking Minority Member from each chamber - six people) will be
meeting to hash out the differences between the House and Senate
versions. Once they come to an agreement, the bills must be presented
to each chamber for another vote to ensure the chambers agree with the conference committee changes. This is the time of year that many bills are combined into one report and bills that did not even make it through the process and voted on may be combined into conference reports. A bill that a Representative or Senator may have worked on all year could be attached to bills that they hate.

Change to Docket Fees - Another Bill with No Proponents

HB2338 is a bill that was introduced in the House Appropriations
Committee but no one stepped forward as a proponent or would testify in support of it. There seems to be many of such bills this year. HB2338
would take the money that is raised by docket fees for 14 special legal
funds and send it to the State General Fund. Representatives of
organizations such as the Family Crisis Center, The Kansas Coalition
against Sexual and Domestic Violence, and Safehomes testified in
opposition to the bill. The Kansas Judicial Branch along with the non-state agencies that deal mostly with victim support and child advocacy, testified that the bill jeopardizes the funding for the operation of their respective organizations. Our local CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) and Alliance Against Family Violence, are examples of such agencies.

The House Appropriations Committee amended the bill to delay the
implementation of the bill until FY 2015, to allow agencies to submit
amended budgetary requests, because with passage of this bill they will be required to appear in front of the Legislature to request funding.
Representatives who have served in the Legislature for some time, argued against the bill saying that the current system was set up because these types of agencies were not getting the money they needed back when the state had money and this bill will just make it easier to sweep the fee funds for other purposes. This bill passed the House Yea 67 No 52, and is now in the Senate Ways and Means Committee which has not yet taken action.

More Tax Exemptions?

After the House passed its tax plan that would reduce individual
allowable income tax deductions by 24% per year (whether your
individual tax rate goes down or not) several new bills appeared this
week that create new exemptions to property and sales tax. One such
bill was SB72, that would exempt privately owned health clubs from
paying property tax. It was introduced on behalf of a health club owner
in Wichita that feels threatened by the YMCA and other non-profit
organizations that do not pay property taxes. The City of Leavenworth
and Leavenworth County commissioners have voiced their opposition to
this bill. You may have read about this in a recent Leavenworth Times

Another example was HB2379, that was heard by the House Taxation
Committee on Friday, March 22nd, and passed out "at the rail" on Monday, March 25th. "At the rail" means the committee met just outside the House chamber in the hallway and "worked" the bill to pass it out. I happened to be passing by in the hall just after their vote as the Committee Assistant was running amongst the gaggle of legislators to try and figure out who was in attendance and how they voted. She even asked me as I walked by, and I am not on that committee! In my opinion, that was not exactly the best method to discuss and vote on a bill.

HB2379 would declare federal gold and silver bullion as legal tender in
Kansas so it would be exempt from sales tax. The bill goes on to say
that no one has to accept it as legal tender, and who would? Gold and
silver bullion is sold as collector items or for investment by its
weight and the current value of gold and silver. I can not imagine
someone pulling out a piece of gold bullion at the local grocery store
to buy a quart of milk.

Boat Taxes

Remember the Constitutional Amendment we voted on last November that adjusted how a boat would be taxed in Kansas? Well, we finally debated HB2244, the follow up bill to that amendment. The bill was originally introduced to completely eliminate taxes on watercraft by 2016, but the House Taxation Committee amended the bill to lower the value assessments to 11.5% in 2014 and then 5% in 2015 and thereafter (so not eliminating these taxes entirely). It also added a stipulation that for every watercraft worth $1000 or less, the tax would be a flat rate of $12.

If you recall, this was all started by the Kansas Department of
Wildlife, Parks & Tourism in an attempt to entice Kansans to actually
register their watercraft in Kansas rather than in surrounding states
with much lower property tax on luxury items. That way, the revenues to KDWP&T would go up in registration fees. The idea was that the property taxes revenue would even out by more people paying less. The bill passed but may not be in its final form as one Representative pointed out that boats worth $1000 or less will pay the flat tax rate of $12, but a boat worth $1050 will pay taxes on 5% of its assessed value of $52.50, which would be $7.09. This does not seem to add up correctly; maybe the Senate will adjust it accordingly?

Veteran Bills

The House Veteran, Military Affairs & Homeland Security Committee will actually be part of the Conference Committee process this year. This is my third year as the Ranking Minority Member of our committee and this will be my first time on a Conference Committee. The Senate does not have its own Veterans Committee, so our bills are usually assigned to other committees to work.

This week we will be meeting in conference with the Senate on HB2078 and SB27. A short update: SB27 had to do with the National Guard
scholarship program for veterans of combat operations since 9-11.
HB2078 had to do with licensing agencies accepting military experience
and training in consideration of civilian licensure for nurses and EMS;
the Senate combined it with HB2077 which was almost the same bill but includes all licenses in the state.

The Senate also voted on HB2212 and made no amendments, so it is on its way to the Governor's desk for signature. HB2212 is the very important bill to update how the Veteran Service Organizations can make their required matching payments for the VCAP grant program. The House passed SB136, that would allow someone to place the designation of VETERAN on their drivers license. The House amended SB136 to say VETERAN would be on the front of the license. Hopefully, the Senate will concur so it will head to the Governor's desk this week as well.

One military bill that the Veteran, Military Affairs & Homeland Security
Committee will not be on the conference committee is HB2109, which
worries me. This is the bill to extend the second count of military
pupils in K-12 education. It was amended by the Senate to correct some technical language, but the House Education Budget Committee decided to non-concur and asked for a conference committee instead of concurring with the change and sending it to the Governor for signature. The conference committee is made up of Senate Education and House Education Budget Committees. Often, very important bills such as this, are used as vehicles for other bills that may not be too popular. Two of the House members of the conference committee assure me that the bill is safe and will be passed, but this is the time of conference committee reports.......

Who is on Conference Committees?

You can learn which conference committees are considering which bills at http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2013_14/committees/conference/. This webpage also lists the Senators and Representatives assigned to the conference committees.

Keep in Touch

I am privileged and honored to be your voice in the Kansas Capitol. You
can track my activities on my website www.meier4kansas.com, my Facebook page www.facebook.com/Meier4Kansas, and Twitter