Although we had a short week with Dr. Martin Luther King Day Monday and a scheduled day off Friday, things are beginning to heat up and take shape as to what issues will come to the top.
Committees are meeting and beginning to work on issues. A couple of issues that seem to be making quick progress are a bill in Judiciary Committee to change the appointment process for judges and a bill in Commerce Committee that no longer allows paycheck deductions from public employees for political purposes. The Commerce bill would stop the state from doing the accounting for public employee union political action committees.
Other committees are not acting as quickly, but will start churning out bills soon.
An issue that has caught the attention of a committee to which I am assigned is possibly redefining where and how the Kansas Universal Service Funds will be used.
KUSF are a tax: 62 cents per phone line or cell phone per month, which is collected and then used to help provide phone service to rural areas where the cost of service would be prohibitive if not subsidized.
The question seems to be if some of the KUSF could be used to provide better broadband (Internet) service to rural areas instead of specifically used only for wired phone service.
I will learn more as we begin committee hearings. This is a really big issue for rural areas as having fast Internet is a necessity these days to encourage people to move into rural towns.
Another issue brought up last weekend is the corporate farm laws in Kansas. These laws have been on the books since the 1930s. It would probably be good to take a look at the laws again to see if anything really needs changing.
I can remember at least twice in the past 30 or so years that these laws have been looked at, and consequently changed very little. We will see if any changes may be warranted or if it’s better to simply leave well enough alone.
We are still early enough in session that rules for the House and Senate have not yet received final approval. Even though the Rules Committee is fairly obscure, it is very important as the rules are what control the flow of legislation and govern the type of amendments that can be offered.
As an example, this means amendments have to address the same subject matter as the underlying bill. Without these rules, everything would be chaos. Rep Shultz has been, and continues to be, the rules chair for the committee so is well-versed on how the rules apply.
Since receiving the governor’s proposed budget, I have had little time to review it, but know enough about it to say that the budget proposal includes keeping the sales tax that was passed three years ago and eliminating the mortgage interest deduction.
Without those two things, the budget proposal goes south pretty quickly and shows a large deficit beginning next year. The alternatives we have are to keep sales tax and eliminate mortgage-tax deductions, or cut an additional $300 million out of the 2014 budget, or find some other source of revenue for the state.
There is little doubt in my mind that a $300 million cut in the budget will affect education funding, and many other programs. New ideas to enhance revenue or cut programs are floated nearly every day, so it remains to be seen which alternative eventually wins.
Session moves so fast that I am hoping we can eventually slow down, catch our breath and ask what makes the most sense for the future of Kansas.
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.