Activity picking up after weather delays

by Rep. Don Schroeder

Kansas House of Representatives

After the weather delays last week, the legislative session was back on track this week with a full slate of committee hearings?and even some debate and action on the House floor.

Just so you know where we are in the session, Friday was the last day for non-exempt committees to introduce bills. Session mid-point is about a week away.

We had a flurry of activity with bill introductions and committee hearings. There seem to be more bills introduced than normal, with the number for the biennium above 700 in the House. The Senate typically has less introductions, but they are above 400.

Most bills will never be seen again, but in a representative democracy the ability to make policy can bring out some very creative ideas. It?s good to have new ideas to toss around as those ideas may eventually become something useful.

The Senate recently confirmed several people, including Jackie McClaskey as the secretary of agriculture.

Secretary McClaskey has been the acting secretary since Dale Rodman resigned in November. She has been the caretaker as the Depart?ment of Agriculture is planning to move the bulk of their operations to Manhat?tan.

The lab and most of the water offices will remain in Topeka, but much of the rest of the department is moving and operations should commence there around the end of May.

We continue to hear about water issues in the Ag Committee. It?s only fitting as water is so important to a state that does not have an overabundance of that resource.

Yesterday we heard a bill that would create a fund that could be used for resolving many issues, including things like stream bank stabilization, reservoir dredging, or even to purchase additional water storage in reservoirs from the Corps of Engineers.

Not surprisingly, the issue comes down to cost and who pays. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to pass something that could collect $9 million or more in additional water charges statewide per year. Another danger is if there is such a large pool of money, it could be subject to being swept into the general fund for other uses.

I talked about the ?Fair Tax? last week and finally have HB 2625 to read. A fiscal note is not available at this time. My article last week was based on older information, so here are some corrections: The bill has the tax rate at 5.7 percent.

As the bill reads, property taxes would mostly remain in place and most goods and services, except as exempted in Section 6, would be taxed. I did not see a medical exemption in the bill but need to read it closer to know for certain.

Persons below poverty would receive a monthly ?prebate? according to a formula in Section 8(a) of the bill. Since the state income tax goes away, there would be no Homestead credit and it appears taxes on groceries would remain. If I am incorrect on something, I?m sure I will hear back. Look up HB 2625 on the Kansas Legisla?ture website to find out more.

What a consumption tax basically means is that the final point of sale is taxed. The bill is 36 pages long and there are many other provisions, but these are the high points for individuals as I read them.

I did not see in the bill if local governments are allowed to impose a local sales or consumption tax above the 5.7 percent rate and do not know how local sales taxes now in place would be affected by this proposal.

Some weeks are emotionally difficult as any issue may be debated in the legislature. Directly putting discrimination against religious liberties is very difficult as both issues deserve respect.

Legislators were not sent to Topeka to make easy decisions, but a good system of checks and balances helps even things out. I always appreciate your comments on the wide array of issues before the legislature.

Don Schroeder represents District 74 , which includes much of southern Marion County.