We are in Week 3 already and things are picking up. Most of the committees have been working and a few bills are already up for House floor action.
The Utilities and Telecom?mu?nications Com?mittee has been learning about Universal Service Funds that are used to subsidize high cost areas, which are primarily rural areas. In 2009 the federal government passed laws that allow using the USF for broadband services, but I was surprised to learn that implementation of most of that policy has not yet occurred.
As we dig deeper into the use of service funds, I hope to find out when some action can be expected to improve Internet service to rural areas. Many areas, especially in Marion and eastern Harvey counties, are seriously under-served.
Agriculture continues to be a hot topic, with the drought and water issues of major concern. If the drought continues into another year or more, questions remain as to how municipalities and farms will operate. There is little question that the normal operating methods will have to give way to methods that use less water.
Our aquifers seem to be holding their own fairly well, but even those are declining somewhat with heavy usage. Obviously, the streams and rivers are suffering greatly from dry weather. It?s a good time to clean out stock ponds to increase holding capacity, but some serious rain is needed this spring to refill those ponds.
I am not on the Taxation Committee this year and rather miss what is happening there. There is much debate about eliminating the mortgage tax deduction and keeping the higher sales tax. The entire taxation issue was thrown into some disarray last session and the uncertainty continues.
Some real concerns in future years are how the state will pay for basic services and schools if some major adjustments are not made. How all the moving parts will eventually fit together is unknown at this time.
It is a very different attitude in the Capitol this year and I have not quite put my finger on why. Most likely it is the many new legislative members and the anticipation of what the session will bring. The issues we have been hearing about even before session began are surfacing in the form of bills. These will be action items before you know it.
The issues I am referring to are adjustments to the taxes, including whether or not to keep sales tax and eliminate mortgage tax deductions, and the judicial selection process. Not surprisingly, the issue of water and water supplies for municipalities and water districts is a hot topic as well. Of course, many other issues surface as the session moves along, but the tax issues seem to be the main topic of conversation.
I have a coffee coming up this weekend in Newton at Charlie?s Restaurant. I always enjoy meeting and visiting with people at these coffees because it is a learning experience for me as I find out which issues are near and dear to my friends back home.
It is again a privilege and an honor to represent a portion of central Kansas in the Legislature. The issues we vote on do not become any easier over time, but take study and thought to make the best decision for the 74th District. Sometimes we just have to agree to disagree.
As always, if you have concerns you wish to express an opinion on, my Topeka phone number is 785-296-7500, the e-mail is email@example.com, or look on the Kansas Legislature website to find e-mail and other contact information.
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.