State Capitol 2012 KRC new logo 2013
 
 2016 Legislative & Policy Watch Weekly E-Update

No. 10  March 11, 2016

In This Issue
Veto Override Possibilities
Natural Resource Bills
Food Related Bills Scheduled
Legislative Timelines
March 17 Legislative Day Forum: Plan to Attend!
How to Receive Policy Watch
About Policy Watch

About Policy Watch E-Updates


The Legislative and Policy Watch Weekly E-Update is a project of the Kansas Rural Center.

In 2015, KRC is partnering with the Kansas Natural Resources Council,Audubon of Kansas, and Ks. Association of Regional Development Organizations to provide this report to their members.  We thank them for their support and assistance.

Editor: Mary Fund
Paul Johnson, Policy Analyst

To Support 
Policy Watch

Policy Watch Sponsors
  The Kansas Rural Center
promotes the health of the land and its people through research, education and advocacy that advance an ecologically sound, economically viable,  and socially just agriculture. For more information about KRC go to
The Kansas Natural Resource Council (KNRC)
promotes environmentally responsible practices and sustainable natural resource policies to ensure the quality and abundance of these resources for future generations. For more information about our organization and programs, or how to become a member, please visit
knrc.weebly.com  To be removed from the KNRC Policy Watch list, please contact  Sharon Ashworth at sharon.knrc@gmail.com.


Audubon of Kansas (AOK) is a statewide non-profit organization  established to promote appreciation and stewardship of Kansas' natural ecosystems, with special emphasis on conservation of prairies, birds, other wildlife, and habitat.For more information about our organization and our programs, or how to become a member, please visit http://www.audubonofkansas.org
 to be removed from the AOK Policy Watch list, please contact Monica Goss at monica.goss@audubonofkansas.org


Kansas Association of Regional Development Organizations, Inc. (KARDO) is a statewide, non-profit organization established to improve the ability of both organizations and individuals engaged in regional planning and development to service the needs of all parts of Kansas in an effective and efficient manner.  For more information about our organization and programs, and to become a member or donate, please visit http://kardo.ncrpc.org .  To be removed from the KARDO Policy Watch list, contact John Cyr at jcyr@nckcn.com .


How to Contact Your Legislator
Political Power Plays
                                           
  by Paul Johnson
   
As the State of Kansas continues its slow decent into bankruptcy while the Governor and legislative leadership are adamantly blocking any debate on the revenue crisis, it is now time to raid and destabilize institutions from the schools to the courts to local units of government. The legislative plan is to patch together the 2016 budget that ends on June 30 with budget gimmicks and arbitrary budget cuts by the Governor, leave town as soon as possible to campaign and foist the 2017 budgetary crisis on the 2017 Kansas Legislature. With two weeks left in the regular session and the veto session beginning on April 27, there is still time to confront the revenue and budgetary challenges. But there is no political leadership offered by the ruling conservatives or the minority party.

The revenue games to offset the loss of income taxes are numerous. Senate Bill 463 would sweep several special revenue funds into the State General Fund (SGF). One revenue fund from the lottery and one from the casinos have been designed to fund certain economic development projects and infrastructure improvements. The children's initiative fund comes from the tobacco settlement and is dedicated for certain early childhood programs. These settlements will be paid until 2025 and are valued at over $600 million.

Reports have now surfaced that the Governor's office had meetings with Citi Bank last fall to sell off these settlements - as 20 other states have done - for around $400 million to help fix the immediate cash balance shortage. A portion of the state sales tax (.6%) is dedicated to the highway fund and never touches the SGF. This bill would route this sales tax through the SGF thus making it possible to redirect these funds to other needs. As state revenues continue to tighten, fees are increased to expand the number of Highway Patrolman. Water report fines increased to help with administrative costs. Court fees increased to fund personnel.

Schools are now in the crosshairs. With a Kansas Supreme Court order to fix the inequities in the state funding school bond projects and no new revenues available at the State level, the plan is to reformulate school funding so that 100 school districts will receive extra aid while 186 school districts will lose some funding. There are a number of school districts that have built up extra cash balances as a safeguard to school funding uncertainty coming from Topeka. Legislation is now introduced - Senate Bill 505 - that will capture cash balances over 15% and save the State $180 million over five years.

Senate Bill 499 tightens down procurement procedures by school districts when they bid for supplies or services. There are efforts to mandate that school districts must join certain insurance pools for property and casualty policies. As the Governor just reduced funding for the higher education institutions by 3% ($17 million by June 30), the school funding block grant could well be on the chopping block for 2017 since the Governor has been given special allotment authority and K-12 funding is not exempted.

 The effort in House Bill 2457 to expand tax credits to fund scholarships for low income students at private schools was passed over on the House floor and is raising concerns by conservatives over the potential cost of lost revenues to the State. House Bill 2486 - that develops a mechanism by the State to monitor and control the State's cost in subsidizing school bonding projects - has been amended greatly in the House Education committee and may well pass the committee on to the whole House next week. Senate Bill 311 would have moved school funding from the Kansas State Department of Education to the Department of Administration but was met with such stiff opposition that the Chairman of Senate Ways and Means stated the bill is dead.

County and city budgets are now coming under greater scrutiny. When the tax package passed in 2015 increasing the sales tax, cigarette taxes and limiting certain tax deductions, a hard property tax lid was inserted for cities and counties forcing them to hold elections to spend extra revenue coming from property taxes that increased over the consumer price index. This provision was inserted to line up enough votes from conservatives. This provision would be enacted in 2017. Senate Bill 316 would move up the enactment of this property tax lid to this year - 2016.

This bill mandates a mail ballot election so counties would be holding the regular primary election in August as well as sending out a mail ballot. The biggest reason property taxes at the local government have increased is the revenue loss to local governments from actions by the Kansas Legislature. (Actions such as eliminating the mortgage registration fee, repealing the machinery and equipment tax, suspending the local ad valorem tax reduction fund, suspending City-County revenue sharing and reducing delinquent tax interest rates). For Wyandotte County, these broken promises from State government cost $18 million a year and it takes 18 mills in property tax to cover these losses. House Bill 2609 is a compromise effort offered by local governments to reformulate the consumer price index and require citizens to use a protest petition to call for an election.

The courts are under attack by the conservatives. Senate Bill 439 establishes standards to impeach justices for usurping legislative or executive branch powers. This bill has now passed out of the Senate Judiciary committee and will be heard on the Senate floor next week. While Senate Bill 440 - that deals with judicial administration - has been moving along in the House, Senate Bill 454 - that deals with court fees and funding - has stalled on the Senate floor for a couple of weeks. In this toxic political environment, funding the courts equitably without relying on regressively high  court fees will be a challenge for a Kansas Legislature and a broke State budget.  

FREE Legislative Hotline

1-800-432-3924

The Legislative Hotline is the fastest, easiest way to voice  your opinion to your legislator. Even if you don't know your legislator's name or your district, you can call this number and be connected with your state legislator.
    The operator will ask for your zip code and identify your legislator for you. You can either leave your message with the operator, who will pass it on, or you can ask to be connected to your legislator's office and leave the message yourself.
  Veto Override Possibilities
      
In signing the budget bills for 2016 and 2017, the Governor line item vetoed two budget provisos. One would stop the Governor from completely demolishing the Docking State Office building, which has a remodeled power plant that supplies steam to several state office buildings. The Governor had started plans to construct a new $20 million power plant without express approval by the Legislature. The Docking Office building could be reduced to one story and continue to use the existing power plant at far less money. The Governor is now worried a veto override would threaten the bond rating for Kansas. The Kansas Senate will consider a veto override next week.

There is a battle over the use of STAR bonds and a future new home for the American Royal in Wyandotte County. STAR (sales tax as revenue) bonds are paid off with sales tax revenue generated in the new developments. They were the key development tool in the Kansas Speedway and the Village West shopping center in western Wyandotte County. The Governor wants to entice American Royal to move from Kansas City, Missouri to Wyandotte County close to the Speedway. The negotiations for this development are strictly confidential but basically the American Royal itself would not generate enough sales tax to pay off the bonds so efforts are being made to include a hotel complex in the existing development around Village West and use those sales taxes for the new STAR bond American Royal project.

This was never the intent of the Legislature in enacting STAR bonds. The sales tax revenue in these projects is diverted from going into the SGF for all state programs. While a veto override has not yet started in the Senate, Senate Bill 474 - that authorizes the sale of assets of the Kansas Bioscience Authority - has been amended to block the use of existing STAR bond sales tax revenues being used in new STAR bond projects. The Governor counted on $25 million in Kansas Bioscience Authority asset sales to help fund the 2016 budget that is already $50 million under water so political intrigue is increasing.
 
 Natural Resource Bills


House Bill 2479 - that fundamentally alters noxious weed law - has been amended to improve the bill by keeping the Legislature in control, defining 'drift', allowing a landowner to post land as a 'no spray' zone and having the county weed departments take more liability for any drift damage. More amendments will be presented next week.

Senate Bill 384 lowers the protection under the nongame and endangered species conservation act. A subcommittee has been meeting to find a compromise that can be presented to the full committee.

Senate Bill 425 regulates conservation easements by county commissions for their county. There were several days of hearings but the future of this bill is very uncertain.

Food Related Bills Scheduled
 
Next TuesdayMarch 15th, the House Tax Committee will consider  House Bill 2444, which lowers the state sales tax rate on food to 2.6%.  More information on the bill and the latest conversation about the budget can be found in KHI's latest news article  here

Next WednesdayMarch 16th, the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee will consider  Senate Bill 314, which extends the Local Food and Farm Task Force.  

The extension will allow the task force to continue evaluating policy and funding recommendations for expanding and supporting local food systems and for assessing and overcoming obstacles in order to increase locally grown food production.  

There are several things you and/or your organization can do to weigh in on these bills: 
  • Submit written or spoken testimony. Contact KRC at 866-579-5469  Natalie Fullerton or info@kansasruralcenter.org to learn how.  
     
  • Make a quick call to the Tax Committee Chairman, Rep. Marvin Kleeb (785 296-7690) or Ag and Natural Resources Committee Chairman, Rep. Sharon Schwartz (785 296-7637).  It will be answered by a secretary, who keeps record of who calls during the day in support or opposition of bills in his committee.  Just a quick call can make a big difference.   

 
Legislative Timelines

The plan is to end the regular session on Friday March 25 - two weeks from now. 

Next week, most committees will work on legislation that has already been heard before the committee or passed over from the other chamber. The week of March 21 to the 25 th will be reserved for floor debates and House/Senate conference committees reconciling the differences in bills that have passed one chamber or the other.

 
Water, Energy, Land and Food Forum 
     at the Capitol March 17

   
  Join KRC along with partners and people from all over Kansas on Thursday March 17 when we gather at the Kansas State House to learn about and advocate for water, energy, land and food policy.

   The Legislative Day will begin at 10 a.m.  There will be a Climate Prayer Vigil from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. that everyone is welcome to attend.

The agenda for the day includes the following:  
  • 10:00-11:30
       Advocacy Overview 
    (Visitor's Center Auditorium)
  • 10:00-4:00
         Solutions Showcase 
    (1st Floor Rotunda)  
  • 11:30-1:00
         Speakers & Local Foods Lunch 
    (1st Floor Rotunda, North Wing)
  • 2:00-3:00 
          Cookies & Conservation Conversation 
    (1st Floor Rotunda)
  • 1:00 - 4:00     Meetings with legislators 
Please RSVP  by Monday March 14, if you plan to join for lunch:   http://tinyurl.com/WELF2016  


Sponsoring organizations include: Climate + Energy Project, Kansas Rural Center, Kansas Farmer's Union, Kansas Sierra Club, King Solar, Flint Hills Renewable Energy & Energy Efficiency Cooperative, Stanion Wholesale, Friends of the Kaw, Kansas Natural Resources Council, Kansas Land Trust, Kansas Alliance for Wetlands and Streams, Kansas Green Party, The Merc Coop, Kansas City Food Circle, Cultivate KC, Lawrence Ecology Teams United in Sustainability, True Blue Women, Citizen's Climate Lobby, Kansas Interfaith Action, Sustainable Sanctuaries Coalition, Lake Region Resource Conservation & Development, Glacial Hills RC&D, and Audubon of Kansas ! 
 


Kansas Legislature Website
  While we will provide information on calendars and upcoming hearings on some bills and issues, this information on committees, weekly calendars and schedules, bills, etc.  is directly available at the website below:

http://www.kslegislature.org/li/

The calendar of deadlines for the session  can also be found here.
How to Ensure You Receive Weekly Policy E-Updates
Contributors to KRC of $60 or more are automatically on the Policy Watch list, if they provide an e-mail address; or you can subscribe just for the Updates for $25.    KRC will send complimentary copies to non-contributors for several issues.   To get information on how to support Policy Watch,, click   HERE.

In 2016, KRC is partnering with the Kansas Natural Resource Council , 
Audubon of Kansas, and Kansas Association of Regional Development Organizations (KARDO) to send Policy Watch to their members. We thank them for their support. 

 If you are receiving Policy Watch because you are an AOK member, to be removed you need to contact Monica Goss at monica.goss@audubonofkansas.org.  To be removed as a KNRC member, contact Sharon Ashworth at sharon.knrc@gmail.com. To be removed as a KARDO member, you need to contact John Cyr at  jcyr@nckcn.com 

 If you would are on KRC's mailing list, and would like to opt out of receiving KRC Weekly Updates, please contact Joanna Voigt at  
About Policy Watch
The Kansas Rural Center
4021 SW 10th Ave. #337
Topeka, Ks. 66604

866-579-5469
www.kansasruralcenter.org
 
   If you have any questions about Policy Watch, contact Mary Fund, editor at mfund@kansasruralcenter.org, or contact Paul Johnson at pdjohnson@centurylink.net

 

   To learn more about the Kansas Rural Center, please visit our website at