It seems we actually are nearing the finish line of the 2013 legislative session. While being optimistic about nearing the end of a fast-paced session, we are not yet finished. Many bills need to go through the conference committee process to reconcile the House and Senate versions of those bills.
This week we spent long days on the House floor debating a list of bills that waited until now to be considered. Most of them are innocuous and are simply making slight changes to improve efficiency or correct some small inconsistency in the laws. A few bills are not so simple and take long hours of debate.
Monday the largest amount of time spent on a bill was for a program that would create a tax credit limited to $10 million for corporations to provide money for some children to attend a school of their choice, most likely a private school.
It was apparent that some of the details were not well thought out and there were many questions about exactly how the tax credits would work. That bill failed on a voice vote, but the possibility of it returning next year always exists.
Yesterday, we had floor debate on a wide range of issues, including extending the 20-mill property tax levy for schools. This equalization levy has been in place since 1992 and provides $574 million for K-12 schools through a statewide levy. An amendment that would credit some of the local option budget toward the state aid was added in committee. This is an accounting trick to make it appear the state is providing more state aid when the actual amount remains unchanged. The bill passed even with that change.
Another interesting proposal was to purchase bonds to prop up the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. The thinking is that the bonds can be purchased at a lower interest rate and the proceeds invested at a higher interest rate, thus producing a profit. This has been done in the past with limited results. It is a somewhat risky strategy and is not a guarantee to resolve the underfunded issue, but is an investment strategy that may help.
Review of the corporate farming laws has been put on hold for the current session. I believe the Senate version of the change was tabled in committee. The House had a companion bill but there were some questions and issues with the constitutionality of the existing law in that it seems to favor in-state corporations over out-of-state.
The House Agriculture committee sent the bill for judicial review on the constitutional question. We also requested a recommendation on how to fix the problem. We will likely take up the issue again next year when more information is available.
The House has not seen some of the proposals that we were promised, although the Senate has struggled with several. Keeping kids in third grade if they were not proficient in reading stalled in the Senate for a while and was eventually amended to lower the level to first grade.
The constitutional amendment to change judicial selection never made it to the House floor and the resolution to not expand Medicaid was never seen either. Some of those could make it into a conference committee report, so watching for those details will be the project for next week.
With only one week left in regular session, I want to again express my sincere appreciation for your emails and phone calls, and for attendance at legislative coffees. It is so important to know your thoughts on issues that are before the Legislature to make appropriate decisions. It is an honor to serve as your representative in Topeka.
Don Schroeder, R-Hesston, represents the 74th District, which includes Hillsboro and roughly the southern half of Marion County, the southeast corner of McPherson County and all but the southeast corner of Harvey County.