Don Schroeder Weekly Legislative Report

By Don Schroeder
February 21, 2014

Things are certainly heating up in the legislative session. Bills are coming out of committees and stacking up under the line for possible floor debate. As legislation hurries along, occasionally there is a misstep that needs to be corrected by either sending a bill back, or that the other chamber needs to fix. That is a large part of what legislative process is about: finding and fixing errors so the intent is clear.

As of today, there are over 50 bills under the line. We say under the line as there is a physical line on the House calendar and any bills above the line are up for floor debate on that day, but any bills below the line are cued up for possible debate another day. The Majority leader, together with the Speaker, decides if and when any bills below the line make it above the line for floor debate. Not all bills below the line make it to the full floor.

There are several taxation bills below the line. One attracting attention at this time is a bill that would better define what type of manufacturing equipment would be classified as real property and what is personal property. There has been an ongoing dispute in a southeast Kansas county for several years and resolution of this issue by the legislature is needed at some point. Another bill would make changes to and rename the Court of Tax appeals. So far, the ‘Fair Tax’ has not been scheduled for a hearing.

On a slightly different subject, we have had an audit of some of the tax incentive programs recently and the results suggest we should do a better job of evaluating whether programs are working as planned or if the money is being wasted. The Department of Commerce is normally responsible for the evaluations.

Several bills related to crimes and criminal punishments are making their way above the line. Some of the more notable bills relating to crime are bills that address human trafficking and related crimes and punishment. Human trafficking is often thought to be something that happens in another part of the world, but it’s surprising how common it is even in Kansas. Many kids that run away from home end up in the human trafficking stream, and most of those end up in the sex trade. Along with that, these kids become addicted to drugs making it even more difficult to escape the situation.

The last couple of years, the legislature has been trying to clean up the statute books by repealing no longer used and obsolete laws. I always like those because the bills are only four or five lines long and simply say which statute is repealed. Of course, that means going to the books and actually looking up what the statute says that is being eliminated.

Proposals to change spring elections to the fall are being worked on and the mortgage registration fee issue is still alive. The main issues with the mortgage registration fee being eliminated are what source of revenue would replace it and the fact that a small part of that fee was used for historic preservation projects. Many are interested in maintaining the historic preservation funding.

Les Mason from McPherson was elected to replace Rep Clark Shultz. Rep Mason was sworn in two days later and will be immersed in the process very quickly as we are nearly at the mid-point in the session.

Sometimes it seems the legislature has several fits and starts, but in the end the legislation is usually common sense, although mistakes are made. Please let me know if you have concerns with proposals we are working on.  The Kansas Legislature website has contact information for all legislators.