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Legislative Update Week Six

Senate Bill 178:  High Tax Increases for Kansas Farmers

During the joint meeting that House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means Committee held at the beginning of session, we were briefed by the Director of the Budget and the Legislative Liaison for the Department of Revenue about Governor Brownback’s proposed tax plan.  When the discussion was then opened for questions, a senator from Johnson County, stated that if we really want to address tax issues, then we needed to address how agricultural land is assessed for property taxes.  Hence, the introduction of Senate Bill 178.

As introduced, this bill would have huge implications on the farming and agricultural industry in the state of Kansas; this would undoubtedly raise the property taxes on agricultural land tremendously, some say by an estimated 500% on average.

As of current Kansas law, agricultural land is to be assessed a property tax value based off of its income or productivity, not based on property value.  Even though the “use value” property tax valuation has been in place since 1989, the tax tables are updated on an annual basis.

During many of the legislative coffees and town halls that I have participated in throughout the 109th Kansas House District, I have routinely said that many of the disagreements that legislators may have are based on an urban versus rural platform.  Senate Bill 178 is a prime example of that.  If this were to become law, this would be catastrophic to the agricultural industry throughout the entire state of Kansas, which is ironic to me since this would affect agricultural land in Johnson County.  I do not support Senate Bill 178 and hopefully it will not maneuver through the legislative process in the Senate. 

Senate Bill 171:  Moving Elections

Early in the session, the Senate Elections committee introduced a bill that would move local elections from the month of April in the spring to a fall election in November.  Some of the local elections this would affect would be the elections of school boards and city councils. 

There has always been discussion on the topic of moving these elections from the spring to the fall.  However in past years, they did not appear to gain much traction.  There was an amendment, Wednesday, in the Senate Elections committee, changing the wording of the introduced legislation to move local elections from the spring to fall, however in odd-numbered years and leaving them non-partisan.

I have never been a proponent of moving the elections from the spring to the fall, especially if it could generate the adverse effect of deterring people from serving in their community. 

Department of Corrections Bills

The Kansas House of Representatives worked several corrections bills last week and made alterations to existing law to address some issues that were identified over the interim. The first bill, House Bill 2055, updated the state’s conversion chart for out of state misdemeanor convictions for the purpose of determining an offender’s criminal history.  For example, if someone was convicted of a misdemeanor out of state, the comparable Kansas offense would be used to classify it as a class A, B or C misdemeanor. If there is no comparable Kansas offense for an out of state misdemeanor, then it would not be counted in the offender’s criminal history.

House Bill 2051, recommended by the Kansas Sentencing Commission, is designed to assist the Department of Corrections to better manage its inmate population. The bill gives more tools to Department Of Correction staff to increase the “good time and credits” for inmates who are serving sentences for non-violent drug crimes. Inmates would have to participate in vocational training and social skills development to better assist them with integration into the community after release and to reduce the rate of recidivism. The commission projects a bed savings of 119 inmates in FY 2016 and 181 in FY 2017.

House Bill 2056 was also recommended by the Kansas Sentencing Commission and puts into place a “risk assessment tool” for determining the risk of an inmate reoffending. The tool called LSI-R is a more accurate measure of how well an individual has been rehabilitated instead of the current law, which uses offense classification to determine how long an inmate should serve. The commission believes the new tool will help public safety officials determine which inmates can be placed in community correctional service programs and which inmates are best kept in state prison. The bill had no fiscal effect on the Department of Corrections. 

PBS Funding, 4-H, and Contact Information

On Thursday, February 19, the House Appropriations Committee reviewed the budget approved by the Agriculture and Natural Resources Budget Committee for the Department of Commerce.  Included in their budget analysis was the funding for public broadcasting.  The Budget Committee had an amendment to increase the funding, all derived from the Economic Development Incentive Funds, to $600,000 for 2016 and 2017.  However, the Appropriations Committee amended the Budget Committee’s proposal and approved $500,000, which was the Governor’s recommendation.  There was a substitute motion to entirely eliminate the funding and that motion failed by a voice-vote in Appropriations Committee.

On Sunday and Monday, the capitol was full of young 4-Her’s who were participating in 4-H Citizenship in Action.  I attended the CIA House session on Sunday evening where they debated legislation that they had introduced. I also met with 4-Her’s throughout the day on Monday.

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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