Don Schroeder Legislative Report

By Rep. Don Schroeder
March 20, 2015

This is the last week that non-exempt committees can meet, so the session has begun to wind down. There will likely be a number of bills passed out of committees yet, so the list of bills will grow. Currently there are over 40 bills waiting full House action. Several bills that have been high profile are not on the list but that does not mean they are out of play.

The bill to change judicial selection has been on the list for some time. That is a Constitutional change so it would require a 2/3 House and Senate vote and then would be presented to the people of Kansas to vote on. The 2/3 threshold is very high and difficult to reach so we will see if that actually comes before the House and Senate or if it simply languishes on the calendar like it has in the past.

Another bill I suspect will come to the full House soon is the so called ‘uncork’ bill, HB 2200. That would allow sales of liquor in grocery stores and large box stores, such as Walmart. Proponents have been working on this for several years and we are told the bill will come before the House soon. Since it is not coming up for House action, I suspect the vote count is short of the 63 needed.

Most other bills out of committees and on the list are not so controversial. But there are several still in committees and probably coming out soon. One of them is the change from spring to fall elections. SB 171 was worked in the House elections committee and was changed from the Senate version of non-partisan fall elections in odd numbered years to non-partisan fall elections in even numbered years.

Hearings on expanding Medicaid have taken place in the Health and Human Services committee. While it is still difficult to put a net cost on the expansion, it is currently estimated to be low, and possibly zero, if all benefits are factored in. The Indiana model of Medicaid expansion is receiving the most discussion should the expansion occur. Although hearings have been held, there may not be a vehicle to get it before the House or Senate unless a floor amendment is adopted. It is unknown how this will play out.

SB 45 is uncertain. That is the bill allowing concealed carry of a firearm without a permit. The only requirement is that someone purchasing a firearm would be subject to a background check. No safety training or education about firearm operation is part of the bill.

Apparently SB 178 has been set aside. That bill would have changed the parameters for use valuation of farmland and could have raised farmland property taxes by 400% or more. At one point the Senate Taxation committee had hearings scheduled, but they were later cancelled as the opposition was great even before hearings were scheduled to begin.

The total amount of revenue need to fund State government is only an estimate at this point. That means what kind of taxation package needed is still unknown and we may not know that until after the April revenue estimates are made. The April revenue estimates are important and are the numbers the State budget is built on. Once we have those estimates we will know if revenues need to be adjusted so the budget balances as required in the Kansas Constitution.

There are still some important issues to settle regarding budget and taxes. The big question now is how much KDOT money will be taken and what kind of taxes will be increased to keep the budget in the black?  Getting votes for either the budget or increased taxes may be difficult.