Kansas Legislature Update – Week Four

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Colyer Becomes 47th Governor of Kansas, Announces New Cabinet and Staff

Former Lt. Governor Jeff Colyer was sworn in to office on Wednesday, making him the 47th governor of Kansas. He will give a joint-address – essentially a second State of the State – to the Legislature this Wednesday at 3:00 p.m., where he’s expected not to deviate too much from former governor Sam Brownback’s speech. However, lawmakers will be listening for any changes he proposes to the budget, specifically dealing with more funding for schools. Keep in mind Colyer still has to consider his run for the GOP gubernatorial candidate in August and stay away from any strong positions this session that could be used against him in the campaign.

On Friday, his press office announced three new cabinet secretaries and some changes in the governor’s office staff. Below are ones to note:

  • Current Representative Larry Campbell (R-Olathe) will become Chief Budget Officer. Campbell is currently Vice Chair of the House Appropriations committee and last year served as chair of the K-12 Budget committee that crafted the most recent school finance formula.
  • Current Budget Officer Shawn Sullivan has been named Chief Operating Officer.
  • Brownback’s Chief of Staff Jon Hummell will remain in that position for the Colyer administration.
  • New Acting Agency Secretaries: Jeff Anderson, Kansas Department of Health and Environment; Gina Meier-Hummel, Kansas Department of Children and Families; and Bob North, Department of Commerce (Interim).
Schmidt Enters Insurance Commissioner Race

Senator Vicki Schmidt (R-Topeka) announced on Monday that she is running for the Republican candidate for Kansas Insurance Commissioner this August. Current Commissioner Ken Selzer is running for Governor, so her only competition thus far is former Representative Clark Schultz (R-Lindsborg) who currently works in the Insurance Department. Schmidt is allowed to hold her Senate seat if she doesn’t win the nomination.

KDHE Names New Director of Environment

Leo Henning was named Interim Director of Environment after 40-year veteran John Mitchell announced his retirement on Friday. Some other changes within the agency include Jon Hamdorf to replace Mike Randol as Medicaid Director, and Representative Greg Lakin (R-Wichita) to serve as the new Chief Medical Officer.

House Passes Gun Bill

In one of their first orders of business this year, the full House passed a reciprocity gun bill on Thursday that would accept out-of-state conceal carry licenses in Kansas. After two hours of floor debate, the bill was amended to allow individuals as young as 18 to become licensed to conceal carry, as well as allow colleges and universities to require a permit to carry guns on campus. House Bill 2042 passed on Friday with a final action vote of 76-44. The bill now moves to the Senate Federal and State Affairs committee for possible consideration.

Constitutional Amendment to Lower Food Tax Heard

The Senate Tax committee heard SCR 1604 on Thursday, a constitutional amendment to lower the rate of sales and use tax on food and food ingredients, effective in fiscal year 2019. It would drop to 2 percent the following year. A fiscal note presented during the hearing stated that the proposal would cost the state $128 million in FY 2020 and $246 million in FY2021.

Economic Development Programs, Incentives on Review

Due to the state’s fiscal constraints over the past few years – even after last year’s tax increase – the Legislature is conducting a comprehensive review of all tax incentives and economic development programs to ensure there is efficient return on investment. Last week, the Senate Commerce committee held informational hearings on statewide economic development programs, with presentations by the Western Kansas Rural Economic Development Alliance and Wichita State University.

The Senate Commerce committee will also be holding two hearings this week: House Bill 2168, which creates the Ad Astra Rural Jobs Act, on Tuesday; and Senate Bill 334, a bill that allows companies to carry forward their unused High Performance Incentive Program (HPIP) tax credits indefinitely at 75 percent of their value, on Wednesday. In addition, a conceptual bill was introduced in the Senate Tax committee on Tuesday that would reform the State Tax As Revenue (STAR) Bond program, which allows municipalities to divert sales tax revenue generated by a commercial development to pay off the bonds purchased for the project.

What we testified on or monitored closely last week …

House Bill 2511, extending renewal of commercial driver’s licenses to five years, was heard in the House Transportation committee on Thursday. Kansas Grain and Feed Association testified in support. The committee is expected to work the bill on Tuesday.

House Bill 2513, surface water protection fee for surface water sold at retail by a public water supply system, was heard in the House Water and Environment committee on Tuesday. The proposed “surface water protection fee” of $.05 per 1,000 gallons of water would be collected and paid to the state by public water suppliers. These new fees would only be collected if the state failed to fully fund the state water plan fund in the amount of $8 million from either the State General Fund or the State Economic Development Initiatives Fund for two consecutive years. The bill was estimated to generate approximately $5 million, mostly from electricity generating facilities. Multiple utilities, municipalities and other entities testified against the bill. Chairman Sloan was the sole proponent.

What we’re testifying on or monitoring closely this week…

Kansas Agricultural Remediation Board (KARB) Fund Annual Report in the Senate Ag committee on Tuesday.

House Bill 2168, creation of the Ad Astra Rural Jobs Act, hearing in the Senate Commerce committee on Tuesday. Kansas Grain and Feed Association is testifying in support.

House Bill 2528, State Water Plan Fund (SWPF) distribution, hearing in the House Water and Environment committee on Thursday. The bill would require an $8 million transfer to the SWPF from the Economic Development Improvement Fund (EDIF) and directs $4 million of that to the geological survey and universities for water quality research. The bill includes spending directives on the other $4 million and removes authority from the Kansas Water Office and KDHE to prioritize as they see fit.

House Bill 2583, allowing the Kansas Secretary of Agriculture to designate plants as noxious weeds through rules and regulations, hearing in the House Ag committee on Thursday. Kansas Grain and Feed Association is testifying in support.

Here is a link to all of the bills being tracked by your Association. You can read a brief summary of the bill, the actual text of the bill, the history of the bill and upcoming actions. If you have any problems using the Bill Tracker, please contact Shahira Stafford at shahira@kansasag.org.