Happy Birthday, Kansas!  Tomorrow, Kansas celebrates her 156th birthday.  We were officially founded on January 29th, 1861.  It is hard to believe, isn't it?

It is also hard to believe that the 2017 Legislative Session is already three weeks old!  Though the week did not involve many floor votes, it was very busy with committees and meetings with various stakeholders on different issues.  In past sessions, we would already be one-sixth of the way through our 90-day session, but with this session expected to go well into overtime, there is truly no end date we can look forward to.  More on why in a moment.

As we close out the month of January, of course, most of the attention was focused on the first week of the Trump Administration.  The President has already taken decisive action to unravel ObamaCare, stop the taxpayer funding of abortion, protect our borders, appoint conservatives to cabinet positions, and undo the burden of regulations and big government on the states and the people.
This stunning flurry of activity has the left-wing media in a tizzy, and as a State Senator and a conservative, it is certainly refreshing to have a President no longer hostile to life, liberty, and the rule of law.  It is also hopefully a sign of things to come, particularly this week as we await President Trump's nomination to replace Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court.

March for Life & Honoring Pregnancy Maintenance Resource Centers

The importance of the Supreme Court was in focus this week, especially, as the March for Life took place in Washington on Friday, on the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.  How exciting is it that Vice President Mike Pence spoke to the rally, in addition to Kellyanne Conway!  President Trump also Tweeted his support, and he promised to nominate a judge from the list of names he distributed during the campaign.  This gives us all great hope that his nominee will be someone in the tradition of Scalia or Thomas.
March for Life also took place in Topeka this past Monday, and I was honored to attend.  Over 1,700 Kansans and dozens of legislators came together to show their support for the unborn and to pray for an end to abortion. Governor Brownback addressed the crowd and highlighted the fact that Kansas has passed 17 pro-life pieces of legislation in the last five years, including the dismemberment ban that the Kansas Supreme Court will review on March 16th. 

You can see some of the photos below, and it was great to see our governor and other elected officials stand in support of the unborn.  To commemorate this day, I also introduced a resolution in the Senate, which was adopted unanimously, honoring pregnancy maintenance resource centers in Kansas and across the United States.   

You can read the resolution by clicking here.  You can read my remarks by clicking here.

I challenged all state senators to put a link to this resolution and give contact information for a crisis pregnancy center in their district. It could save a human life!   Advice & Aid is located right here in the 10th Senate District,  and is an excellent resource for pregnant women who need help.  

Over the past 6 years, Kansas has turned from a pro-abortion haven to one of the most pro-life states in the union, and for that we should be immensely proud.  We must be resolute in defending the unborn and protecting women. 

While I am confident that in the next two years, we will be able to defend our pro-life laws from repeal by the Legislature, victories at the ballot box and even in the Legislature can be fleeting -  we must always be vigilant, for the gains we have made can be reversed at a moment's notice.  The Left will never cease in their fight to destroy what we have accomplished, whether that is through elections or through the courts.  We are truly fighting a multi-front war.

Pictures from the Topeka March for Life
A great view of all the elected officials and others  gathered on the Capitol steps for the March for Life.
Elected officials gather on the Capitol steps, including Governor Brownback. Mary is located in the left center of the image.
A great view of the gathered crowd, on a cold day in Topeka!

Campus Carry: 2nd Amendment Under Attack

This multi-front war is true for the right to life, and it is also true for other constitutional liberties as well, including the 2nd Amendment. 
Just this week the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee held a hearing on SB 53, a bill that would remove the rights of students to conceal and carry, effectively removing their ability to properly defend themselves on college campuses.

Criminals do not comply with "Gun Free Zones." Removing the ability for law-abid ing  citizens to protect themselves does nothing to keep them safe - it only puts them at risk to become victims of violent crimes.
The legislation which passed in 2013 included a provision allowing government facilities and post-secondary education institutions to temporarily ban concealed handguns in state or municipal buildings, in case they wanted time to construct adequate security measures if they did not allow conceal and carry.  However, the temporary exemption component of the bill sunsets in July, meaning government facilities and post-secondary institutions will be required by law to allow concealed carry if they do not have adequate security measures put in place to defend the public.  In contrast, SB 53 would indefinitely extend the temporary exemption.

Citizens have a right to defend themselves and the constitutional right to bear arms do not end on the borders of a college campus of a public university - there should not be a continued exemption for our universities in Kansas.  That being said, I urge responsible gun ownership at all times.  History has shown that the crime rate drops significantly when concealed carry is allowed, particularly for women. Women should have the right to protect themselves from violent crime, whether on a college campus or in the public square.

Fourth District Congressional Race

Congressman Mike Pompeo has been confirmed as the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and thereby his Fourth District Congressional seat must be filled. Governor Brownback announced the date of the special general election for Tuesday, April 11th and the Fourth District Republican Party announced that the party convention would take place on February 9th.
                   Fourth District Republican Party Convention: February 9, 2017
                   Fourth District Special General Election: April 11, 2017

Key Points on 2012 Tax Reform

There is a great deal of misinformation being shared regarding the 2012 tax reform package, leading to confusion.  Over the course of the session, I will do my best to keep returning to the facts about what we passed, so it is easier to understand what some legislators and groups are attempting to do today.  Here is a basic rundown:
  • 71% of the tax relief from the 2012 tax reform package went to individual taxpayers, not businesses.
  • Only 29% of the 2012 tax reform package went to businesses.
  • In 2011, the Tax Foundation ranked Kansas 35th in the nation for state business tax climate.  Thanks to the pro-growth, pro-small business tax reform in 2012, we now rank 22nd.
  • As a result of the 2012 tax cuts, Kansas has experienced a record five consecutive years of new business formations, private sector job growth, 37 months of below 5% unemployment and we have reversed 20 years of cumulative wealth loss to our border-state, Missouri.

    • According to U.S. Census data, pass-through businesses (those that were targeted by the 2012 tax cut) added 36,135 jobs and grew by 8.4 percent. To place a new tax on those businesses that are growing jobs at a time of budget uncertainty could have dire consequences for the state.
House Bill 2023
House Bill 2023 seeks to reverse the small business tax cuts passed in 2012 and reinstitutes the carry-forward loss provision previously included in state tax policy. The bill also includes a retroactive provision, which would alter current tax policy in the middle of the tax year. 

HB 2023 represents a $250 million tax increase on small businesses and will negatively impact job growth in Kansas by imposing a dramatic new tax on job creators, reducing the ability of small businesses to reinvest in the Kansas economy. 

Beginning the 2017 Legislative Session with an immediate tax increase on the backs of job creators before seeking cuts in spending is a misplacement of priorities.  As our economy is trying to recover, this is the wrong policy at the wrong time, and threatens to undermine all the significant economic gains we have made.

We should strive to continue to grow the Kansas economy, not the size of government.
HB 2023 and the ongoing rhetoric by its proponents who seek to undermine current Kansas tax policy has a detrimental effect on the intent of the law.  No business is going to move to Kansas from another state if they think the law is likely to be repealed.  Rather than attacking the tax policy, we should unify and seek to further promote small business growth, building upon the significant job creation that has already occurred since its enactment.
Proponents of HB 2023 argue that this is a "fairness issue," but is it not inherently unfair to retroactively tax businesses that have operated and made decisions based on current law? To change the playing field for these businesses that have already made plans and investments based on existing tax law is not only unfair, but also indefensible.
It is important to note that Kansas government continues to operate inefficiently, as is detailed in the fact that we spent 27% more per resident in 2015 than states without an income tax.  With this in mind, if HB 2023 should become law, then any increased revenue should be used to reduce other taxes.

We should not lose sight of the end goal - eliminate everyone's income taxes completely.

2017 Budget and Taxes Update

As I mentioned at the outset, this session is expected to be very long, and the reason for that is the need to balance the budget when there is a $350 million gap to fill.  With new legislators largely being advocates of an increase in spending, many are proposing to do so through large tax increases. Others prefer a mix of cuts and smaller tax increases, and another group prefers to balance the budget through minimal or zero tax increases and to reduce spending instead.

Legislative leadership is even mixed within its members in both chambers, some comi ng from the right-wing conservative Republican camp and some from the left-wing Republican camp.  Some who have had a reputation of being conservative in the past, are in  difficult positions because they obtained their position of power through making deals with the same forces who want a large tax hike.
The early target of many is the small business tax exemption, which I discussed at length last week.  However, many of us are pushing back, telling the stories of the over 300,000 Kansans who would face a massive tax hike if the bill is passed.

I have also heard rumors of an increase in income tax as well as the gas tax - both of which would also have a detrimental impact on hundreds of thousands of Kansans. 

The truth is, there are ways to balance the budget with no tax increases and most of our efforts need to be geared at looking at more reductions in spending for everything, and that includes education.

Towards the end of the session, the solution that wins out will be from whatever coalition gets cobbled together to get 63 votes in the House, 21 in the Senate, and the signature of Governor Brownback. If the governor vetoes what gets passed, there will be a need to get 84 votes in the House and 27 votes in the Senate to override the veto.

Senate Republicans plan to caucus on the budget this Monday. Maybe we will know more then.  

Legislative Lessons

A new feature I'm launching in my weekly newsletter is "Legislative Lessons" to help you understand better the process side of what we do in Topeka.  We'll go over the journey a bill must travel to get enacted into law, and explain terminology that might be confusing.

For this first week, I want to talk about the basic makeup of the Legislature, as that has changed dramatically from where it has been the past four years.

In the Senate, there are 40 Senators, so at a minimum, it takes 21 votes to pass anything, and it takes 27 votes to pass a Constitutional Amendment or override a v eto.  Of those 40 members, 31 are Republicans and 9 are Democrats.  Within the 31 Republicans, there are at least four factions, ranging from those whose votes will line up with Democrats' votes because of their ideology, to those who strongly believe the growth of government over the past twenty years has not been good or healthy for Kansas families.  There are other Senators who don't appear to be attached to any particular principle, but campaigned on an increase in spending. The point is, no one "faction" has anywhere close to 21 votes, so you can understand how it can be difficult to get to that number without cobbling together a "coalition of the willing." My goal is to educate and work with Senators who will advance free market principles and limit the growth of government to solve budget problems.

In the House, there are 125 Representatives, which means it takes 63 votes to pass anything, and 84 to pass a Constitutional Amendment or override a veto.  Of those 125, 85 are Republicans and 40 are Democrats.  Of the 85 Republicans, the same situation exists as in the Senate, with those ranging from those who are essentially Democrats to those who are conservative.  Again, getting to 63 votes can be difficult.
What makes it even more complicated is that the Senate may be able to obtain the votes for passage on something that the House cannot, and vice versa.  Then there is the separate question of whether the governor will sign it, because if he vetoes it (and maybe he should), then the thresholds increase dramatically.
"Life, liberty and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place." -The Law by Frederick Bastiat
Economics 101
"The process between a buyer and a seller is called price discovery and is absolutely essential for a healthy economy to function... Whenever you purchase something you are also "voting" for that good or service and assigning value in comparison to other available goods and services. As billions of consumer "votes" are cast daily, prices rise and fall on everything according the the sum of all those preferences. This is true "democracy" and "people power" in action! Honest consumer-driven pricing informs suppliers when to create more of one thing, less of another, or to go do something else."   --Common Sense Medicine by Jeff Danby
Abraham Lincoln
"You can better succeed with the ballot. You can peaceably then redeem the government and preserve the liberties of mankind through your votes and voice and moral influence." --Speech to Springfield abolitionists, c. 1855

Library Information

LearningExpress Library  is an easy to use, online resource featuring ebooks, tutorials, and practice tests for all ages. LearningExpress has nine learning centers. The College Prep Center is a great resource to use to practice for any upcoming tests. Becoming familiar with and comfortable with the testing format and the types of questions helps to improve test scores. This center features ACT, SAT, PSAT, AP and TOEFL exams as well as help for writing admissions essays.
Easy registration and self-supplied password is necessary to use this resource and allows you to resume your work.
If the page above asks for a Kansas Library eCard number, you may get one at any library in Kansas.  Most people will be automatically recognized as inside Kansas and will not need this step.   Questions:   or 785-296-3296.

What's Next?
Expect the 2017 session to take more shape now, as we pass certain legislative deadlines; the first being when an individual member can request a bill to be drafted.  As each deadline passes, we'll get a fuller view of the number and type of bills we will be deliberating. 

As always, I will keep a close eye on the developments and stand firm in my defense of conservative principles.

In honor of your liberty,

Mary Pilcher-Cook

Mary Pilcher Cook

Working in honor of your liberty.
Contact me today!