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Legislative Update Week 9

Appropriations “Mega” Bill

On Monday, March 16, the Kansas Senate concurred with the block grant funding for K-12 education, 25-14, that the Kansas House passed on Friday, March 13, 64-57.   After their concurrence, that bill now will go to Governor Brownback’s desk for his signature.  Even though I voted “No” on the block grant funding measure due to uncertainty on the impact it could possibly have on rural schools during and after the block grant period, with its passage it does address over fifty percent of the state of Kansas’ budgets for fiscal years 2015, 2016, and 2017.

On Tuesday, March 17, the House Appropriations committee began working on the adjusted budget for fiscal year 2015 and the proposed budgets for 2016 and 2017.  Since this budget contains the spending measures for the state of Kansas for the next coming years, it is often referred to as the “Mega” Appropriations Bill. 

One of the first measures that we adopted into the “Mega” Bill was the insertion of funding for the Judicial Branch of approximately $6.6 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017.  The additional funds were approved by the General Government Budget committee and then the full House Appropriations Committee when I reported this budget to them.  While presenting their budget to the General Government Budget Committee, the Judicial Branch provided testimony that in order to have sustained funding, as in 2015; this branch of government would need $11 million in 2016 and $17 million in 2017.  Through many meetings and deliberations, I asked the branch for the necessary amount of funding that they needed above the Governor’s recommendation to prevent the layoffs and furloughs, which they claimed would happen without the additional funds.  The amount that was submitted to the Appropriation Committee is the compromised amount needed for this third branch of government to operate in 2016 and 2017.

Other budgets we amended while working the “Mega” Bill affected many important programs and institutions throughout the state.  Some of those are the reinstatement of funds for the Parents as Teachers Program, allowing Kansas State University to have bond authority for the purpose of renovating Seaton Hall on the university’s campus, and potentially contracting with an outside auditor to evaluate the state of Kansas’ agencies, which would specifically identify redundancies and make the state more fiscally efficient.

The total amount of state spending for fiscal year 2016 is estimated at $6.4 billion.  Now that we have a tentative budget, the tax committee will meet to generate a tax plan to address the revenue side of the balance sheet and to ensure that we will balance the budget by the end of session.

Judicial Selection

There has been much discussion about changing the selection process for the Supreme Court since I was sworn in in 2013.  Governor Brownback introduced the notion in his State of the State speech in 2013 and again in 2015.  Currently this legislative session, we have two resolutions that would address the selection of the Supreme Court.

 

The altering of the selection process is in the form of a resolution and not a bill due to changing the Kansas Constitution, which requires a two-thirds approval vote in the House followed by a majority vote by the populous of Kansas.

 

There are currently two versions awaiting debate on the House floor regarding judicial selection.  One calls for having partisan elections for the Supreme Court Justices and Court of Appeals judges.  The other is allowing the Governor to appoint Supreme Court Justices and Court of Appeals judges.  The nominations would be subject to confirmation by the Kansas Senate.  Both would abolish the current Supreme Court nominating commission.  Being a political scientist, I prefer the latter version which is similar to the model on a Federal level.

 

Constitutional Carry Bill

There has been much discussion this session on Senate Bill 45, also referred to as the “Constitutional Carry” Bill.  SB 45 would amend current law regarding firearms and adds language allowing the concealed carry of a firearm without needing a concealed carry license issued by the state of Kansas, as long as the individual is not prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal or state law. The bill specifies that the carrying of a concealed handgun cannot be prohibited in any building unless the building was posted in accordance with rules and regulations adopted by the Attorney General. Concealed carry licenses would still be issued by the state, but the availability of those licenses could not be construed to prohibit the carrying of handguns without a license, whether carried openly or concealed, loaded or unloaded.

Related to concealed carry licenses, the bill also would allow the Attorney General to create a list of concealed carry handgun licenses or permits from other jurisdictions that have training requirements greater than or equal to the Kansas requirements. This list could be used by the Attorney General when reviewing concealed carry license applications and making a determination about whether an individual has completed an approved handgun safety and training course required for issuance of a concealed carry license.

The bill amends the definition of “criminal carrying of a weapon” clarifying that it is not legal for anyone under 21 years of age to conceal carry any pistol, revolver, or other firearm unless this individual is on his own land, home or place of business.

This bill passed out of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee on Tuesday, March 17.

Visitors and Contact Information

As we approach what is legislatively called “Drop Dead Date” of April 3, there are many other bills that we will have the opportunity to debate and vote on.  The bills that we have remaining vary in topics.  There are currently two other bills regarding firearm possession, eight bills regarding alcohol, including the Uncork Kansas legislation, and there are numerous tax bills encompassing all taxable items.

One of the tax proposals that had a hearing this week had to do with possibly increasing the state sales tax back to 6.3%, which it was until we reduced it in 2013.  The House Tax committee conducted hearings on that proposal on March 17, and there is a possibility that there may be momentum to increase the sales tax rate from the current 6.15% to 6.3% in order to address the state budgetary shortfall.

If you have any concerns, feel free to contact my office at (785) 296-7672, visit www.troywaymaster.com or email me at troy.waymaster@house.ks.gov

It is an honor to serve the 109th Kansas House District and the state of Kansas. Do not hesitate to contact me with your thoughts, concerns and questions.  I appreciate hearing from the residents of the 109th House District and others from the state of Kansas. 

Troy L. Waymaster,

State Representative

109th Kansas House

300 SW 10th

Topeka, KS  66612 




Paid for by Troy Waymaster for 109th Kansas House, James Malone, Treasurer
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