LEGISLATIVE UPDATE:   Controversial issues emerge

Common core funding may be eliminated for schools; PETA accused of using drones to spy on livestock operators

Representative, 74th District

Day 80 has come and gone and we still have not finished the critical parts to finish the legislative session. We are normally allowed 90 days, but the original goal was to finish in 80 days to save some money and get back to normal life. However, we all understand making good policy takes time.

I talked extensively about the tax possibilities last week. The tax plan is still the sticking point, but there is some movement. As I write this, agreement has not been reached but offers are being made between the House and Senate. I obviously do not know what the final plan will be, but the measuring stick is a plan that will cause people to want to live and raise their families here in Kansas. It also needs to be something that is fair and equitable to all, regardless of socioeconomic class. One of the latest offers seems to meet the criteria of being relatively fair across the board.

Many times people automatically grab their wallets when taxes are talked about, but the true test of good tax policy is taxpayer money being spent wisely and reasonable overall tax burdens. That means constantly weighing who the winners and losers may be. We are hoping that the tax conference committee members will soon have the ability to formalize any agreement that has been reached and that the full House and Senate can then weigh in on the proposal.

I have mentioned before that the budget is nearly complete with only some finishing touches needed. The conference committee process is interesting when it comes to the budget because the final product is rarely what the House or Senate proposed, but is a compromise between the two. Since there are so many items to agree on, it becomes a mixture of compromises that sometimes looks very different than expected. The conferees did not meet this morning, which is not a promising sign that agreement is close.

Sorting through the compromise budget to find issues near and dear to my legislative district becomes a challenge. And, many times the late additions to the budget are most controversial. A controversial late proposal to eliminate funding for common core standards for K-12 education was proposed but has not yet been adopted.

Something that has come to the attention of the Agriculture committee members in the last few days is that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has allegedly been using drone aircraft to spy on feedlots and other privately owned animal feeding and production facilities. It is too late to take an in-depth look at the methods during this session, but there is little doubt that this raises questions of privacy for farmers and livestock producers, and possibly for everyone.

It could be a sticky question as the federal government regularly uses aircraft to take photos of cropland for statistical and potential production purposes. While it may be beneficial to have accurate production forecasts, it is not appropriate for special interest groups to monitor private property for their own political purposes. This will certainly be an interesting topic for next session as privacy and legal issues figure into the discussion.

At this point, I anticipate there will be one more week when I report the happenings in Topeka. We are all anxious to finish our work here, but the overriding concern is that we do what makes sense and what is best for Kansas.

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