by Rep. Don Schroeder
Kansas House of Representatives
As we move further into February, the session has definitely picked up the pace. Bills are being kicked out of committees and will be run across the House floor soon.
According to the session calendar, turn-around is less than two weeks away. That means that any non-exempt bills need to be out of committees before that deadline to be worked on the House floor. Of course, the same rules apply in the Senate.
Some of the bigger issues we are working on, other than school funding, are things like telemedicine, pet animal fees and, of course, the budget.
Telemedicine seems to be trickier that you might think. Technology does not seem to be as big an issue as how to set up a system for reimbursement for the service providers of the telecare.
Another question is, who is eligible to provide care in that manner? It’s always amazing how a relatively simple concept can become encumbered with so many issues.
A bill to increase fees for pet animal facilities inspections is before the Agriculture Committee again. I’m told this is the sixth year attempting to do this. The conversation has gotten bogged down by comments that some fees are too high and some too low in comparison to others.
There seems to be a compromise in the works that we hope is acceptable. Costs for the Department of Agriculture to do the inspections have increased since the last fee increase about 10 years ago, and keeping the fees at a level that pays most of the costs is the reason for the proposal.
Figuring out the budget is always difficult. While work is being done to begin the process, there is still much to do. Only some of the information needed for the final budget is currently available, but more will be available as the session continues. The budget subcommittees are meeting and beginning to report their recommendations to the full Appropriations Committee.
Yesterday in the Appropriations Committee, the Judicial budget recommendation was brought from the General Government subcommittee. The recommendation included the possibility of a significant pay increase for judges and court employees.
The portion of the budget that increased the pay and added personnel, called a supplemental budget request, was pulled out for later consideration as we don’t yet have an accurate estimate of funding that will be available for 2019.
Earlier the Senate passed a bill to allow a statue of Dwight Eisenhower on the Capitol grounds. That bill passed the House yesterday and will be the first bill Gov. Colyer signs, with the signing taking place in Abilene.
The statue will be paid for by donations and not tax dollars. Eisenhower is a prominent figure in Kansas history and is deserving of recognition in this manner.
There is again talk about removing or reducing sales tax on grocery food items. Proposals range from complete removal of state sales taxes to a partial reduction. The amount of revenue collected on food sales is large, in the range of $350 million to $400 million per year. It is a very popular idea, but one that simply may not be affordable without a way to pay for the reduction in revenue.
Paying for the food sales tax reduction would increase taxes in some other area, so that is the key as to whether or not this could happen. By the way, the state sales tax rate is 6.5 percent and typically there is some city and county sales tax on top of that amount.
Next week, committees will be busy finishing their work prior to turn-around. While the Education Budget Committee is meeting to continue discussions on the K-12 funding formula, much of the decision-making will be delayed until the peer review of the formula and funding is finished in mid-March.
I appreciate your thoughts and comments. Please stay in touch.
Rep. Don Schroeder represents District 74, which includes much of the southern half of Marion County.