“The Government We Pay For”
Your Topeka Connection by Representative Tom Moxley for the week of March 21st, 2011
Quote of the Week: There’s no fool like an old fool – you can’t beat experience!
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Disappointment is in the air after last week. Some are angry because their issues did not pass and some are upset because other bills did pass. Such is democracy. After last week, I join many Kansans in the old saw: “Thank goodness we don’t get the government we pay for.” Fortunately in the end, the ship of state rights itself.
Coming This Week: With committee work complete, both chambers are scheduled for long days of floor debate Monday through Wednesday. There won’t be a regular session on Thursday or Friday in order to allow Conference Committees to meet and reconcile House and Senate positions on a number of issues. The Legislature will then be back for a final week of debate, which will include a number of conference committee reports and possibly the Mega budget bill. Legislators will take first adjournment on April 1 and then return to Topeka on April 27th for the Veto Session.
Although much of the discussion now concerns the state’s fiscal situation and the budget for FY 2012, there are a number of other issues taking shape. Here is a glimpse at a few:
Tax day – Some good, Some bad.
The House of Representatives spent the last half of this week reviewing the state’s tax policy, at first doing no harm. Unfortunately, we didn’t stop while we were ahead. As many of the freshmen Republicans campaigned against the temporary 1-cent sales tax increase, the House took up a repeal of the tax approved last session (HB 2091) and found only 39 votes in support. Then the House considered H Substitute for SB 1, which is the so-called March to Economic Growth Act (MEGA). But it might better be called the Marching in Place Act. Under a formula in the bill, any increase in tax receipts would be used to reduce individual and corporate income tax rates. Getting rid of income taxes sounds good until Kansans figure out that the burden of government will then fall almost entirely upon property and sales tax revenues. Although it passed the House without my help, it is DOA in the Senate. Some really good news is that the House gave tentative approval to the Governor’s tax proposals, which included SB 198 concerning rural opportunity zones (ROZ does not include MR or DK counties) and H Substitute for SB 196 establishing the Job Creation Program Fund and making other changes to the state’s economic development programs as well as expanding the PEAK program (Promoting Employment Across Kansas). The Senate and the House tax committees will now conference to iron out a few differences.
Kansas Arts Commission & Parole Board: This week the Senate voted 24-13 to adopt SR 1819, a resolution disapproving Executive Reorganization Order 39. This effectively keeps the Kansas Arts Commission. The Senate Judiciary Committee has recommended disapproving of ERO 34, which would abolish the Parole Board and establish a Prisoner Review Board within the Department of Corrections. Now, the full Senate will be taking action on this.
Immigration—Timing is everything, Rep. Peck: There has been a growing appetite in the Kansas and the legislature to make gains in addressing illegal immigration issues. A comprehensive measure, HB 2372, was developed based on the Arizona model to combat illegal immigration. The Judiciary Committee was poised to act on the bill last week, but in a surprise move the committee voted to table the measure. One factor keeping the issue from advancing are the internationally distributed remarks from Rep. Virgil Peck who “jokingly”(?) suggested that in Kansas the same tactic that is used to control feral hogs be used on illegal immigrants by shooting them from helicopters. Peck issued a terse apology but came off as an insensitive clod at best, a bigot at worst and an embarrassment any way you cut it. In this atmosphere, the whole idea of dealing with the illegal immigrants now has bigoted ring to it.
Kansas’ newest casino in jeopardy under HCR6015: The Kansas Star casino, hotel and event center in Sumner County is in the bull’s eye of the House this week. Backed by local dissidents and anti-gaming legislators, the measure would direct the Attorney General to file suit against the project. Tremendous sums of money have already been invested in this casino, so it seems to me a bit late to pull the rug out from under this deal. I have been no fan of expanded gaming in the past but Kansas has made a deal with these folks and should live up to its end of the bargain.
The Senate Ethics and Elections committee gave tentative approval to HB 2067, a voter identification proposal from Secretary of State Kris Kobach. The committee voted to push back the start date to 2013 when new voters will have to provide proof of citizenship. They also removed a provision that would allow the Secretary of State authority to criminally prosecute allegations of voter fraud. It contains language requiring all voters to show a photo ID every time they vote and put the burden for enforcement on local government. The bill is now up for consideration by the full Senate.
This week the Senate Judiciary held hearings on a variety of bills related to abortion, including: SB 146- late-term and partial birth abortion, SB 165- licensure of abortion clinics, HB 2035- regulating late-term and partial birth abortions and HB 2218- abortion regulation based on the capacity of a fetus to feel pain. The committee is scheduled to take action on those issues on Monday, paving the way for likely full Senate consideration later in the week.
Sexually Oriented Businesses – NOT on the Roadmap!
The Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee failed to endorse the Community Defense Act. The proposal would have restricted sexually oriented businesses from opening within 1,000 feet of a school, park, church, library or residence.
Alcoholic Beverages in Grocery & Convenience Stores:
Earlier this session, the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee gave approval to a measure that would allow for the sale of alcoholic beverages in retail facilities like grocery stores and convenience stores (SB 54). Although the committee gave approval to the measure, the full Senate has yet to take up the bill. There doesn’t appear to be enough votes in support of the measure so it is likely to stay on the shelf the rest of this year.
The Kansas Senate has pushed forward with its work on the state’s budget, with the Senate Ways and Means Committee giving unanimous support to its FY 2012 Mega bill. The measure is the work product of hundreds of hours spent by Senators in various subcommittee hearings combing agency budgets for all possible savings. The bill cuts overall spending by $535 million and ends in the black. The efforts in the House are still continuing on the budget front. With a budget hole like that it is not a matter of whether you cut but rather what you cut. It is a zero-sum game. To add funding in one place requires taking it away from somewhere else. Every program and every Kansan will feel these cuts.
Sermon in a Sentence: “When all think alike, then no one is thinking.” Walter Lippman
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