Capitol Review – Week Three

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Kansas Gets New Governor

The biggest news under the dome last week was Governor Sam Brownback’s long-awaited U.S. Senate confirmation on Wednesday as Ambassador for International Religious Freedom. With a vote of 50-49 – Vice President Mike Pence casting the tie-breaking vote – Brownback officially resigns his Kansas governorship as of Wednesday, January 31. Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer’s swearing-in ceremony will be at 3:00 p.m., the same day in the Statehouse rotunda. Time will tell how Dr. Colyer’s administration will lead for the remainder of the 2018 Legislative Session. There’s much speculation on whether issues like Medicaid expansion will gain more traction, or if it’s status quo until elections this fall.

Legislature Calls for More Transparency

After a November article in the Kansas City Star named Kansas “one of the most secretive states,” the issue of transparency has been brewing among lawmakers ever since. Last week, several bills were introduced that would require sponsors of bills be named (as opposed to committee sponsored bills), prohibit outside employment of state officeholders, eliminate the gut-and-go procedure, and require recorded votes at each stage of considering legislation. The legislature has already taken proactive steps toward transparency during the lawmaking process by livestreaming nearly all committee meetings, as well as better identifying individual sponsors of bills in meeting minutes.

Board of Ed Chief Accused of Fund Misappropriation

Allegations of unauthorized state aid to schools by Deputy Commissioner of Education Dale Dennis broke on Wednesday, after a December Legislative Post Audit showed 25 school districts received $10 million per year more than what was allowed in the school finance formula toward transportation expenses. Dennis claims that he was directed to make those adjustments by the late Senate Vice President Charlie Angell nearly 30 years ago. House and Senate leadership called for Dennis to be placed on administrative leave on Thursday. However, the State Board of Education overwhelmingly voted the request down yesterday, with the requirement that commissioners provide better transparency in their process of allocating authorized school funds. As the Legislature grapples with how to address the Kansas Supreme Court’s latest ruling that education funding in Kansas is unconstitutional, it’s no doubt that tensions are high. Some are calling for $600 million more toward K-12 schools next year, and Dennis’ misappropriation of $405 million over the past 30 years is seen by leadership as irresponsibility – at best – on the backs of Kansas taxpayers.

KARA Welcomes Congressman Estes

Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association was honored to welcome Congressman Ron Estes to Topeka during a meet-and-greet for state lawmakers and lobbyists on Thursday. Kansas’ 4th district representative spoke to a full room over lunch about some of the challenges he’s facing in Washington. Specific to Kansas, he addressed President Trump’s remarks on NAFTA, recent immigration proposals, and implications of the new federal tax law.

Staff Meets with Secretary of Revenue Williams

Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association staff had lunch with Kansas Secretary of Revenue Sam Williams and his chief of staff on Tuesday regarding several business tax issues. The Department is conducting a review of all the changes in the federal tax code and the impact of those changes on Kansas tax revenues. They expect to present their report to the Legislature in a few weeks.

KDOR Requests Sales Tax Subpoena Authority

The House Tax committee held a hearing on House Bill 2493 on Wednesday, a bill that would give the director of taxation a new, additional authority to issue subpoenas and interrogatories during audits and investigations of commercial sales tax. Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association provided testimony opposing the bill, stating that this is an unreasonable and unnecessary overreach of department regulatory authority outside of the formal hearing process. The Kansas Department of Revenue was the only proponent to the bill. Other opponents included the Kansas Chamber and the National Federation of Independent Businesses. No date has been set for the committee to work the bill.

KARA Fights for Lower Late Fee

On Monday, the House Agriculture committee heard House Bill 2478, regarding Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) licenses and requesting new KDA authority to assess late fees. The bill would create a 40 percent late fee for failing to timely renew a pesticide business license. The bill is needed to dissuade untimely renewal of licenses in order to reduce administrative costs. Pesticide business licenses are $140 per category, and some businesses are licensed in multiple categories. Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association testified in opposition to the amount of the late fee and requested that a lower amount (25 percent) be established, to which KDA agreed. Kansas Cooperative Council testified in support of the amendment. No date has been set for the committee to work the bill.

Bill Extends CDL Renewals

House Bill 2511 was introduced last Monday in the House Transportation committee and will be heard on Thursday. The bill makes commercial driver’s licenses renewable every five years instead of the current four-year renewal period. Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association will provide written testimony in support of the bill.

Committee to Work Industrial Hemp Research Bill

The Senate Agriculture committee plans to work and take final action on Senate Bill 263 on Tuesday. The bill would authorize the Kansas Department of Agriculture, alone or in coordination with a state educational institution, to promote the research and development of industrial help as an alternative crop in Kansas.

Looking Ahead…

February 5: Dicamba Informational Hearings

Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association, Kansas Department of Agriculture, and representatives from Dicamba manufacturing companies are preparing for informational hearings being held in both the Senate and House Ag committees on Monday, February 5. Conferees will address the need for Dicamba technology, changes made to the label for the upcoming season, new training requirements for applicators, as well as make themselves available for questions by committee members.

February 6: Ad Astra Rural Jobs Act Hearing

House Bill 2168, the Ad Astra Rural Jobs Act is scheduled to receive a hearing on February 6. As previously reported, the bill would allow tax credits on income, premiums, or privilege taxes for taxpayers who contribute capital to an approved investment company to fund a “rural business concern” with less than 500 employees, in a rural area with a population of less than 60,000. Businesses engaging in manufacturing, plant sciences, technology, or agricultural technology could qualify for the program. Beginning in tax year 2020, 20 percent of the tax credit could be claimed annually over a five-year period. The amount of tax credits claimed in any one fiscal year would be limited to $20 million. The Kansas Agribusiness Retailers Association will be testifying in strong support of this legislation.

Here is a link to all of the bills being tracked by your Association. You can read a brief summary of the bill, the actual text of the bill, the history of the bill and upcoming actions. If you have any problems using the Bill Tracker, please contact Shahira Stafford at shahira@kansasag.org.