The last week of regular session started slowly but ended with many conference committee reports to vote on before first adjournment.
We had two days off last week while conference committees were supposed to meet. Few conference committees took place so that simply put more work into this week.
The only regular committees that continue to meet are the exempt committees, which are Appropriations, Fed and State and Taxation. Primarily, only the Appropriations Committee meets occasionally as they continue to iron out the budget. Fed & State and Taxation will meet only as needed to help get the budget and revenues to come out so the budget is balanced.
The conference committee process has been in full swing this week. The Senate Ways and Means and House Appropria?tions meet often to iron out differences in the Senate and House budgets.
The House budget spends somewhat less than the Senate budget, so there is give and take as to which position is eventually taken. Normally what happens is that the Senate or House conferees offer a package that includes several items to be taken, or rejected, as a group.
With hundreds of items to negotiate, this is the most efficient way to make progress as quickly as possible.
House and Senate Tax conferees are working to reconcile tax bills passed in each chamber. While agreement has been made on some minor tax issues, the big issue still remains. The big issue this year is whether to retain the 1 cent sales tax that was put in place three years ago.
The promise three years ago was that 0.4 cents would remain with the Transportation Department to pay for T-Works projects on the state highway system and the other 0.6 cents would be repealed. Some are hoping to keep the sales tax at the higher rate and continue to reduce income taxes.
The Agriculture Committee conferees finished meeting for the session and came to agreement on all the major bills affecting agriculture. Those bills had final votes taken before first adjournment with only a little opposition.
Of several bills affecting agriculture, adjustments to water laws and the ?freedom to farm? adjustments attracted a few no votes. The corporate farming bill is not in play anymore for this legislative session but will likely be back next year.
This is just a smattering of the conference committee actions. Fed and State conferees have negotiated gun measures along with other minor issues. The Judiciary conferees ironed out issues primarily with the legal and court processes.
Of course, insurance and financial institutions have a few banking and insurance issues to work out. Needless to say, any bill that passed either the House or the Senate is eligible to be put into a conference committee report that has an up or down vote.
Sometimes it?s a little worrisome when we are required to vote on something that has not been on the House roster until the conference committee report comes up for a vote.
This will be my last report until the wrap-up session, beginning May 8. The budget and tax issues are not settled and apparently will not be until we return. By then we should have our new revenue estimates and the finishing touches can be made to the budget and help provide resolution on the revenue needs. The Kansas Constitution requires a balanced budget before we are finished.
Thank-you for the emails, letters and calls during session. It has been very challenging with many unexpected twists and turns. It is always an honor to serve as your representative in Topeka.
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.