Kansas Legislature Update – Week Two

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Kansas Legislative Report, January 15-19

It was a short week in the Kansas Legislature with the Martin Luther King Jr., holiday on Monday, January 15, and pro forma sessions on Friday. The remaining days were spent mostly on committee work, with plenty of bill introductions, agency presentations and a few hearings throughout.

One highlight was Kansas Supreme Court Chief Justice Lawton Nuss’ State of the Judiciary address to the Legislature on Wednesday. The main focus was on the roughly $19 million budget proposal toward judicial branch employee salaries. Nuss cited that Kansas District Court judges are 49th in the nation in salary; and even after last year’s 2.5 percent raise, a third of jobs in the judiciary fall below the federal poverty line.

Tomorrow’s Agribusiness Leaders

Topeka welcomed the 2018 Tomorrow’s Agribusiness Leaders class on Tuesday and Wednesday for their first session of the year. Drinking from a firehose, they learned about the history of the association, met staff, and got a crash course on the state legislative process. They were treated to speakers ranging from Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Susan Metzger, Speaker of the House Ron Ryckman Jr. (R-Olathe), Associated Press veteran John Hanna and a panel of lobbying experts. Session II will be held in Washington D.C. in July.

Legislative Action Day

Members traveled to Topeka for the 2018 Legislative Action Day on Wednesday to hear directly from their lawmakers on the issues before the Kansas Legislature this year. Lunch speakers were Senate Vice President Jeff Longbine (R-Emporia) and House Majority Leader Don Hineman (R-Dighton). Both provided unique insights into the school funding debate, state tax climate, budget concerns and much more. Attendees then were let loose to personally lobby their legislators on agricultural related issues both at the Statehouse and during an evening dinner reception.

Kansas Ag Alliance Tour

While most Legislators started their drives home Thursday evening, several members of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees attended an ag facilities tour in and around the Manhattan area hosted by the Kansas Agricultural Alliance on Friday. Stops included a diversified farming operation, feed yard, the Kansas Wheat Innovation Center, Kansas Department of Agriculture, KSU College of Veterinary Medicine and a cooperative grain elevator/agronomy retailer. Association staff helped facilitate the tour and educated lawmakers on the importance of Kansas agriculture.

Ad Astra Rural Jobs Act

House Bill 2168, the Ad Astra Rural Jobs Act, was introduced last year as an initiative to help provide revenue for expanding businesses, creating jobs and growing the local economy in rural areas of the state. The bill would authorize nonrefundable tax credits applicable to income, premiums or privilege taxes for tax payers who contribute capital to an approved investment company to fund a rural business. Beginning in tax year 2020, 20 percent of the tax credit could be claimed annually over a five-year period. The amount of tax credits claimed in any one fiscal year would not exceed $20 million, exclusive of the tax credit amounts carried forward. Tax credits could be transferable to an affiliate, as defined in the bill.

HB 2168 passed the House last year then stalled in the Senate. A hearing is scheduled in the Senate Commerce committee on February 6. The association will be submitting testimony in support of this legislation.

NAFTA Resolution

The association is part of a coalition of agricultural and manufacturing entities that would support a state resolution stating that Kansas supports the continuation and modernization of the NAFTA program. Language is still being drafted, as there has been some initial pushback by conservative lawmakers that don’t want to go on record as opposing President Trump’s stance on trade policy. The association intends to testify in support once a bill is introduced and hearings are scheduled.

Industrial Hemp Research

Two days of hearings were held on Senate Bill 263 in the Senate Agriculture committee on Tuesday and Wednesday. The bill would authorize the Kansas Department of Agriculture, alone or in coordination with a state educational institution, to promote the research and development of industrial hemp as an alternative crop in Kansas. The committee has not yet set a date to work the bill.

New EPA Core Mission

Representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) gave an informational update to the House Water and Environment Committee on Tuesday, outlining their new core mission, which is to focus on cooperative federalism and the rule of law and process. This is a strong departure from the more heavy-handed agency approach seen under previous administrations that focused mostly on oppressive regulations, fines and penalties.

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.