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Legislative update

A lot of ‘rats and cats’

Rep, 70th District

As you read this, we are closing out the first part of the legislative session. We will meet three days this week and then take off two days so conference committees can meet and hammer out House and Senate differences. We then return March 30, hopefully to work on a budget and listen to conference committee reports on the conference committee work. We will then head home for a four-week break while we await the Governor’s action on the bills, returning for the veto session beginning April 27.

The judiciary committee partially worked on the “immigration” bill March 14, but we did not finish presenting amendments to the committee to modify the bill and make it acceptable to a majority of the committee. It was tabled before I could present my amendments to the committee. The committee won’t take up the issue before 2012, but the subject could come up as a floor amendment tacking it on to some other bill on the House floor.

We voted last week on whether to repeal the 1 percent sales tax increase that passed last year, and it failed by a 2-to-1 margin; many people who opposed that increase now voted to keep it. Its repeal would have increased our $500 million budget hole by another $330 million.

Remember how the Kansas Chamber of Commerce thought I had done a vile thing by supporting that temporary three-year tax? It now supports keeping it — and asked that it is made permanent to be used to eliminate the corporate income tax. It remains a temporary tax —.6 percent goes away in three years — with .4 percent remaining for highway and bridgework for 10 years.

The House voted — twice — on whether to lower corporate income taxes. We defeated a proposal Thursday to eliminate the corporate income tax and made the 1 percent sales tax increase permanent. The House voted Friday on whether to substantially reduce corporate income tax, as well as totally eliminate the individual income tax over time; that version passed.

I believe both the corporate and individual income taxes ought to be reduced when we know the impact of each reduction and when we appropriately tailor it to suit Kansas’ circumstances; but I also believe that eliminating either of the income taxes puts way too much pressure on the property taxes and sales taxes. So I voted “no” on the measure for all these shortcomings. I thought this was a vote “on the fly,” and didn’t see this as responsible, in the bill’s current form.

The Senate voted to disapprove the Governor’s intent to abolish the Kansas Arts Commission; the Governor proposed instead to create a charitable arts council as a private corporation to take over the functions. As you may recall, the issue surrounding this matter was not establishment of the council, but the consequences of that action: either the National Endowment for the Arts would have eliminated all funding of Kansas’ arts, or Kansas would lose about two-thirds of the current funding. The Kansas Arts Commission still exists in Kansas because of the Senate action.

Much of the other work last week is commonly referred to in Topeka as “rats and cats.” These bills contain minor tweaks to current law or matters of limited importance. This week I anticipate more “rats and cats” coming through as well as, perhaps, significant legislation for me to report on. Time will tell.

If you wish to look at bills the House is considering, I direct your online attention to http://kslegislature.org/li/b2011_12/year1/measures where bills can be accessed. If you want to see what bills we are (or were) working on, click on the “pull-down” for Calendars and go to the House or Senate calendar. From there you can see the bill numbers we are working on (see General Orders in the calendar).

Contact me at Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at Kansas State Capitol Building, 300 SW 10th St, Topeka KS 66612; or call (620) 382-2133 or my Topeka number during the session, (785) 296-7636, through about May 10.

Last modified March 24, 2011

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