The legislative session is moving along quickly according to the calendar, but legislatively we are moving pretty slow. The weather this week is not helping as the legislature, and many State offices in Topeka and across the State, were closed two days last week due to the snow and inclement weather. There is quite a bit of illness from influenza and other viruses that have caused several to be absent a few days.
We continue to have a variety of bills introduced and some are getting more attention than others. One is a proposal for what is called the ‘Fair Tax’. If similar to past proposals, all taxes would be based on a consumption tax, similar to a sales tax. The fair tax would eliminate income and property taxes and rely only on the consumption tax. I have not seen an estimate on what the tax rate would be, but it would be higher than the current sales tax. This would probably add back some items that are exempt now.
I was on Taxation Committee a few years ago when this was first proposed and we had a hearing. One of the major issues at that time was that a consumption tax is very regressive. That means lower income people pay a disproportionately larger percentage in taxes than higher income people. This happens because lower incomes spend all they make to live while higher incomes can save and not spend everything, thus not paying taxes on what they save.
A couple of issues obvious to legislative members, but perhaps not so obvious to the general public, are a push at legalization of marijuana and gay marriage.
Since Colorado legalized marijuana, the intensity to do so here in Kansas has certainly risen. There are, however, many questions regarding the legalization of a controlled substance of this type.
On the gay issue, I get occasional emails, but the bigger battle is taking place in the courts based primarily on a discrimination argument. Kansas passed a Constitutional amendment in 2005 that limited marriage to one man and one woman. Similar laws have been struck down in other states, so it remains to be seen if the Kansas law is enough different to withstand the legal test that may come in the future.
A bill that defends, on grounds of religious liberty, the ability for someone to not participate in a gay ceremony has passed out of Fed and State committee. Issues of this type are extremely emotional as an attempt is made to discover what religious rights and freedoms are, and how those rights intersect with freedom from discrimination.
Please keep in mind that we are early enough in the legislative session that some of the bills are not yet available to read, so these issues could change dramatically. Committees can amend the bills, not pass them out of committee, or even let them fade away without anything happening. It is not unusual for a legislative bill to change significantly between introduction and final passage, if they even get that far. Approximately 90% of all bills introduced never become law, so the odds are not good for any bill to get through the process.
Rep Shultz is now Senator Shultz as he was sworn into the Senate. Now there is a vacancy in the 73rd House district, which is all of McPherson County except for Lindsborg and Moundridge. The election by Republican precinct committee members is scheduled for February 17. To my knowledge, 11 individuals have expressed interest in that House seat. There may be more or less, but either way, it appears there is much interest in the seat. Rep Shultz held the seat for about 18 years, so this is the first opportunity in several years for someone to run for the position without an incumbent in the race.
Please contact me or other legislators regarding your thoughts on proposed legislation. Contact information is available at www.kslegislature.org.