Legislative session nears brief break

As you read this, we are closing the first part of the legislative session. We meet for three days this week, then take two days off so conference committees can meet and hammer out House and Senate differences.

We come back Monday, March 30, hopefully to work on a budget and listen to conference committee reports on the conference committee work.

We will then head home for a four-week break while we await the governor?s action on the bills, and return for the veto session, starting April 27.

The Judiciary Committee partially worked the ?immigration? bill last Monday, but we did not finish presenting amendments to the committee to modify the bill and make it acceptable to a majority of the committee. It was tabled before I could present my amendments to the committee.

The committee won?t take up the issue before 2012, but the subject could come up as a floor amendment, tacking it on to some other bill on the House floor.

We voted last week on whether to repeal the 1 percent sales tax increase that passed last year, and it failed by a 2-1 margin. Many people who opposed that increase now voted to keep it. Its repeal would have increased our $500 million budget hole by $330 million.

Recall that the Kansas Chamber thought I had done a vile thing by supporting that temporary three-year tax? It now supports keeping it?and asked that it be made permanent to be used to eliminate the corporate income tax.

It remains a temporary tax (0.6 percent goes away in 3 years), with 0.4 percent remaining for highway and bridge work for 10 years.

The House voted?twice?on whether to lower corporate income taxes. Thursday, we defeated a proposal to eliminate the corporate income tax and make permanent the 1 percent sales tax increase.

Friday, the House voted on whether to substantially reduce corporate income tax, as well as totally eliminate the individual income tax over time; that version passed.

I believe both the corporate and individual income taxes ought to be reduced once we know the impact of each reduction and once we appropriately tailor it to suit Kansas?s circumstances. But I also believe that eliminating either of the income taxes puts way too much pressure on the property taxes and sales taxes, so I voted no on the measure for all these shortcomings.

I thought this was a vote ?on the fly,? and didn?t see this as responsible, in the bill?s current form.

The Senate voted to disapprove of the governor?s intent to abolish the Kansas Arts Com?mis?sion. The Governor had proposed instead to create a charitable arts council as a private corporation to take over the functions.

As you may recall, the issue surrounding this matter was not establishment of the council, but the consequences of that action: the National Endowment for the Arts would either have eliminated all funding of Kansas? arts, or Kansas would lose about two-thirds of the current funding.

The Kansas Arts Commission still exists in Kansas because of the Senate action.

Much of the other work this last week is commonly referred to in Topeka as ?rats and cats.? These bills contain minor tweaks to current law, or matters of limited import. This week I anticipate more rats and cats coming through as well as, perhaps, significant legislation for me to report on. Time will tell.

If you wish to look at bills the House is considering, I direct your online attention to the KLISS system at: http://kslegislature.org/li/b2011_12/year1/measures/ where you can access bills.

If you want to see what bills we are (or were) working on, click on the pull-down for ?Calendars? and go to the House or Senate calendar. From there you can see what bill numbers we are working (see General Orders in the calendar).

Please contact me at: Brookens70@sbcglobal.net or write me at Kansas State Capitol Building, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612; or call 620-382-2133 or my Topeka number during the session (through about May 10): 785-296-7636.

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