Last week, both the House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means Committees began hearing and working on their respective budget rescission bills, which marks a turning point during any legislative session. House Bill 2468 and Senate Bill 269 make adjustments – based on actual revenues – to the already-approved FY18-19 biennial budget, ensuring the state closes its books in the black. Both committees plan to pass their rescission bills next week.
Also last week during a joint meeting of the Senate Select Committee on Education Finance and the House K-12 Budget Committee, lawmakers got their first look at the long-awaited school finance study prepared by Texas A&M professor Lori Taylor. The 157-page report predicts anywhere from $451 million to $2 billion needed over five years to reach varying degrees of K-12 student achievement expectations. It was not clear as of Friday whether those numbers were to all come from the State General Fund or took into account local property taxes and federal dollars. Regardless, it was less than good news for legislative leaders hoping for a significantly lower price tag – not a substantially higher one that would require passing another tax increase during an election year. The initial briefing, provided by state-hired attorneys, seemed to only cause more confusion and questions for Dr. Taylor who will be in Topeka on Monday for another joint hearing.
This Friday marks the final day for non-exempt committees to meet and consider legislation for the year. Legislators will be on the floor all next week debating bills, while conference committees are scheduled to meet the following week. First adjournment is currently set for April 6.
Electronic Pesticide Application Records
The Senate Agriculture Committee heard, passed, and placed House Bill 2619 on the consent calendar on Tuesday. While current law requires written notice, the bill recognizes electronic communication as a valid form of record after a commercial pesticide application has been completed on a landowner’s crop. KARA testified in support during the hearing. The Senate is expected to take final action on the bill on Monday and then head to the Governor’s desk. It passed the House 117-0 before Turnaround.
The Senate Agriculture Committee heard from proponents on House Bill 2583 on Friday. The bill gives authority to the Secretary of Agriculture – with input from a 13-person advisory committee on which KARA will have a seat – to designate a plant as noxious. Current authority lies with the Legislature, which can be a burdensome and time-consuming process. KARA testified in support during the hearing. Opponents will testify on Monday, and the Committee plans to work the bill on Wednesday. It passed the House 101-16 before Turnaround.
Right-to-Know Fee Fund
The Senate Agriculture Committee heard House Bill 2577 on Wednesday. The bill establishes the Kansas Right-to-Know Fee Fund within the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) to administer the Tier II hazardous chemicals inventory. Currently, fees paid by the industry are deposited into the State General Fund, with only a portion being transferred to KDHE. Under this bill, all fees will go toward their intended purpose as well as help train emergency management officials in hazardous chemical response. KARA testified in support during the hearing. The Committee plans to work the bill on Tuesday. It passed the House 117-0 before Turnaround.
The House Agriculture Committee heard Senate Bill 263 on Wednesday. The bill establishes the Alternative Crop Research Act and allows the Kansas Department of Agriculture, alone or in conjunction with a state higher education institution, to research, grow and cultivate industrial hemp vial a pilot program in Russell County. Research and development would target required soils, growing conditions, harvest methods, seeds most suitable for Kansas, and potential markets. KARA is watching the issue closely. The Committee plans to work the bill on Tuesday. It passed the Senate 36-3 before Turnaround.
The House Commerce Committee heard and passed House Bill 2526 on Monday. The bill requires state agencies to perform a number of steps before proposing a rule or regulation to the Legislature. Modeled largely after Wisconsin’s REINS Act, agencies must research surrounding states’ approach, consult with the regulated community and obtain approval of their economic impact statement from the state budget director. Also, if the proposed regulation is estimated to cost more than $5 million over a two-year period on the regulated community to implement and comply, then a public hearing is required. KARA is watching the issue closely and expects the bill to be debated on the House floor this week.
Scrap Metal Delay
The Senate Tax Committee heard Senate Bill 429 on Wednesday. The bill allows for a one-year extension to implement the Scrap Metal Theft Reduction Act passed in 2015 to fight scrap metal theft and strengthen the definition of “aggravated criminal damage to property” to include agribusiness. KARA testified as neutral during the hearing, understanding the need for additional time to establish regulatory oversight yet restating support for the underlying law.
The House Agriculture Committee passed Senate Bill 331 on Tuesday. The bill designates two new state parks, including the Flint Hills Trail. It was amended to address stakeholder concerns regarding ownership and oversight of the trail and exempts it from separation distances for confined animal feeding operations. KARA is watching the issue closely. The bill awaits consideration by the full House. The bill passed the Senate 26-14 before Turnaround.
The House Tax Committee heard House Bill 2661 on Monday, which would create a new 10 percent tax rate on corporate income over $1 million. The current rate is 4 percent, plus a surtax of 3 percent for corporate income over $50,000. The bill is expected to raise $117 million in FY19, $119 million in FY20, and $121 million in FY21. KARA testified in opposition during the hearing, stating that the increase would cause business to become less competitive, less profitable and hire fewer workers. There was little support for the bill, and it is not expected to be worked at this time.
With school finance and budget work on the horizon, things are finally starting to speed up. This week is already packed with a number of hearings and committee action on key bills. Here are a few we’re watching closely:
· Pesticide License Renewal Late Fees: The Senate Agriculture Committee will work Senate Bill 287 on Monday. KARA testified as neutral during the hearing and offered an amendment lowering the late fee from 40 percent to 25 percent of the license cost. The House passed a similar bill, House Bill 2478, which leaves the late fee at 40 percent but caps the amount at $100 per license.
· HPIP Extension: The Senate Commerce Committee will work Senate Bill 430 on Tuesday, which will allow employers to carry forward any unused High-Performance Incentive Program (HPIP) tax credits at 75 percent of their value for an additional nine years. They currently expire after 16 years.
· Enterprise Zone Program: The House Appropriations Committee will hear on Wednesday and work on Thursday House Bill 2767. The bill would reinstate the Enterprise Zone Program, which provides income tax credits to businesses creating new jobs in Kansas through major capital investment projects. The program provides a sales tax exemption for construction materials and certain equipment.
Here is a link to all of the bills being tracked on your behalf. You can read a brief summary, history, upcoming actions, and the actual text of the bill. If you have any problems using the Bill Tracker, please contact Shahira Stafford at email@example.com.