Kansas Legislature Update – Week Nine

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The pace picked up in the Kansas Legislature last week, with plenty of hearings and bills being kicked out of committees. There was also floor debate on a few hot topic items, including teacher due process, cyberbullying, and a resolution calling for a convention of states to amend the U.S. Constitution that failed in the Senate 22-16.

The K-12 Education Budget Committee also heard from the second state-hired consultant, Dr. Jesse Levin of the American Institute for Research, regarding previous school finance studies. He’s been hired to do a peer review of Dr. Lori Taylor, Texas A&M professor’s Kansas school finance study. Both reports are due to the Legislature by March 15, which will put lawmakers in overdrive as they have until April 30 to deliver a new formula to the courts.

In campaign news, former State Representative Mark Hutton (R-Wichita) dropped out of the GOP race for governor on Friday, leaving Governor Jeff Colyer, Secretary of State Kris Kobach, Insurance Commissioner Ken Selzer, and former State Senator and physician Jim Barnett left as likely candidates.

No Proponents for Increasing Mill Levy for Schools

The House Tax Committee held a hearing on House Bill 2740, which would amend current Kansas property tax law by increasing the school-portion of the mill levy in Kansas from 20 mills to 38.43 mills over the next three years. The bill is estimated to raise an additional $669 million in revenue for K-12 education. While no one appeared to testify as a proponent to the bill, KGFA joined other industry and agricultural interests in testifying in opposition.

Governor Supports Continuation of NAFTA

Governor Jeff Colyer and Lt. Governor Tracey Mann this week agreed to send a letter of support for the continuation and modernization of the North America Free Trade Agreement. The administration issued a press release Thursday afternoon expressing their support and urging Washington to “reach an agreement that modernizes this crucial trade pact and creates an environment that enables Kansas agriculture and manufacturing to thrive.”

Thank you to all KGFA members that added their name to the letter. Click here for a copy.

Kansas Opens Doors to Poultry Production

By a vote of 75-44, the Kansas House passed Senate Bill 405 on Friday that would allow for expanded poultry production in Kansas by creating an animal unit conversion for modern dry manure systems in statute. During the bill’s hearing in the House Agriculture Committee on Tuesday, most opposition came from Tonganoxie residents and their protest against Tyson Foods’ proposal to build a $320 million poultry production and processing complex near their community last year.

After much controversy and attempts to amend the bill, both in committee and on the floor, SB 405 passed clean and awaits final action on Monday. It passed the Senate 29-10 before Turnaround and should make its way to the Governor’s desk next week.

Elevator Inspection Bill Introduced

House Bill 2765 was introduced last week, which would establish the Elevator Safety Act. The bill would empower the Office of the State Fire Marshal to govern the design, construction, operation, inspection, testing, maintenance, alteration, and repair of elevators, lifts, escalators, moving walkways, and dumbwaiters. The Fire Marshal would have the authority to establish rules and regulations over the industry and prohibit any inspections of elevators and conveyance equipment unless by a state-licensed inspection company. They would also be granted civil penalty authority over all inspection companies owners of elevators and conveyance equipment. Similar laws have been passed in recent years in other states, including Colorado, Missouri and Oklahoma.

In 2016, a similar bill was introduced which was supported by the National Elevator Industry and several labor unions. KGFA and other agricultural interests openly opposed that legislation, citing unnecessary costs to industry and the multiple entities currently overseeing elevator safety procedures.

HB 2765 specifically exempts “grain elevators,” but that term is not defined within the act. If HB 2765 receives a hearing, KGFA will work to exempt all grain warehouse conveyance systems (special purpose elevators) and man-lifts. We do not anticipate the bill receiving a hearing, but we are engaging the Chairman of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee and will continue to fight to see our industry is held harmless.

House Tax Hears Bill to Allow Small Businesses Expensing

The House Tax Committee held a hearing on Senate Bill 303 on Thursday, which expands expense deductions to individual tax filers in addition to corporate filers. Under current law, Kansas corporations, banks, trust companies, and savings and loans are allowed to claim the Kansas expensing deduction for investments in qualifying machinery and equipment that are placed into service in Kansas for tax year 2014 and each future tax year.  SB 303 would allow individual income taxpayers to claim this expensing deduction, beginning in tax year 2017.

The Kansas Department of Revenue estimates that the bill would decrease State General Fund revenues by $21.1 million in FY 2019, $9.8 million in FY 2020, $9.9 million in FY 2021, $10.1 million in FY 2022, and $10.3 million in FY 2023. Because the bill is retroactive to tax year 2017, the Department assumes individual income taxpayers would amend tax year 2017 returns and apply for refunds in FY 2019. SB 303 passed the Senate 31-8 before Turnaround.

Senate Committee Considers Broadband Taskforce

The Senate Commerce Committee heard House Bill 2701 on Friday. The bill establishes a statewide broadband taskforce to evaluate the need, identify funding, remove barriers, and prioritize expansion of broadband infrastructure and services to underserved areas of the state. A report is due to the Legislature by January 31, 2019.

Proponents included the Kansas Cable Industry Association, Kansas Electric Cooperatives, and two independent providers. There was neutral testimony provided by the Kansas Rural Telecom Industry Association, citing the need for a clear policy framework before moving forward with the bill; and Sprint that offered some technical changes and tightening of language. A few committee members voiced concern regarding the makeup of the taskforce. The hearing will continue on Tuesday. HB 2701 passed the House 117-0 before Turnaround.

Flint Hills Rails-to-Trails Sees Pushback

The House Agriculture Committee held a hearing on Senate Bill 331 on Thursday, which would designate two new state parks in Kansas and is sponsored by the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. One is the 117-mile, railbanked Flint Hills Nature Trail that runs across six counties. The Kansas Livestock Association testified against the bill, citing unintended consequences to swine facilities and required separation distances from state parks. Other opponents were land owners concerned with funding for maintenance, quality of fencing, and access to cattle. We expect the bill to be amended in committee next week to address the oppositions’ concerns. SB 331 passed the Senate 26-14 before Turnaround. 

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