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 2016 Legislative & Policy Watch Weekly E-Update

No. 15  April 29, 2016


About Policy Watch E-Updates


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

In 2016, 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

Kansas House of Representatives,
 Click Here

For House  Committees, 
    Click  Here

Kansas Senate
   Click  Here
             
For Senate Committees, 
     Click  Here
How to Identify Your State Legislator
News Flash
    As this goes to "press",  a conference committee of House and Senate representatives passed a bill repealing the pass through tax exemption on LLC's, or the 330,000 special entities that the tax cuts of 2012-2013 bill exempted from income tax. The House expects a vote on the measure later Friday. The latest proposal, which was not considered by either House or Senate earlier,  would close only part of the budget gap, but supporters believe it will make the state's finances more stable in the future.  Stay tuned.
Legislature Reconvenes Under Uncertainty

by Paul Johnson
 
   There is uncertainty when this 2016 veto session will end. There is more certainty that Kansas Legislators will not fix the 'self-inflicted' revenue crisis before the lights are turned off for the 2016 Kansas Legislative session.

    The plan seems to be to let the Governor make budget reductions to finish off this 2016 fiscal year that ends June 30 and wait till January 2017 for the newly elected Kansas Legislature to sort out this systemic revenue and budget crisis. Over 30 House members and several Senators are leaving office without a solution for future balanced budgets. Until the lights are finally turned off sometime next week, conference committees will have time to contort and bundle similar bills into conference committee reports that cannot be amended and are passed in haste to get out of town.

    The Governor seems to have adequate authority to make budget reductions, transfer funds from the Highway fund and delay the state's payment to the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System (KPERS) to end this 2016 budget year with a small ending balance. Budgetary gimmicks can be used to move medical or school payments from June into July - the start of the 2017 budget year. Homestead property tax relief payments can be delayed 20 to 24 weeks to help balance the 2016 budget.

    Without specific legislative authority, it seems very unlikely that the Governor could sign a deal to securitize any portion of the tobacco settlement that funds early childhood development programs. As thousands of our poorest families have been forced off Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), there is now a $60 million ending balance that may replace some state funding in educational or foster care programs.

    Kansas government borrows from certain state idle funds to assist with cash flow needs. This borrowing is called a 'certificate of indebtedness' that must be repaid within the fiscal year. For 2016 this certificate was $834 million. For 2017 this certificate might be $1.2 billion on State General Fund expenditures of $6.325 billion. As the revenue situation continues to darken, national credit rating agencies have put Kansas on notice that a third credit rating reduction is very probable without structural changes to the tax system.
 
   The April revenue receipts will be announced on May 2nd and there are May and June receipts to go to finish off this fiscal year. Having missed the projections for 12 of the last 13 months and with new, lowered April 20 revenue projections, will the hemorrhaging of revenues end? It is doubtful given the experimental and uncertain impact of the Governor's income tax plan and very little predicted economic expansion.

   While legislative leadership struggle to settle on final 'must pass' bills and a final omnibus budget bill before the legislature adjourns, conference committees chortle on crafting special interest legislation they can slip by uninformed and impatient legislators ready to leave town. If a bill has passed one of the chambers, it is a candidate to be bundled with bills on the same topic to be offered as a package deal to the full House and Senate. No floor amendments are allowed on these conference committee reports.

   The game is to take popular non-controversial legislation and add more questionable legislation with the hope that this 'take it or leave it' leverage is sufficient for passage. This maneuver limits a full and fair debate on the questionable legislation in the waning hours of a dying legislative session. Special interests have ready access by fattening the conference committee members with free meals (while taxpayers are funding these legislators with a per diem of $140 for room and board). Conference committee meetings are called on the spur of the moment and the special interests are always on call while the public is left in the dark.

   Several controversial bills are being strategically placed in conference committee reports. A property tax lid bill on counties - struggling with lost revenue and mandates from the State - is being concocted in a conference committee. A 'step therapy' bill that forces the use of generic drugs first is being paired with a bill that furthers punishes public assistance families and hungry adults.

   A Senate bill - to reduce protection of endangered species - is quietly inserted in a passed House bill and cannot be amended on the House floor. The House's noxious weed bill - that ensures greater chemical trespass on private lands - was never debated on the Senate floor but will probably be put in a conference committee report with no opportunity for the Senate to amend it.

    The American Legislative Exchange Council bill to control local food policy - that passed the House but never given a hearing in the Senate - will be quietly bundled with several bills in a commerce committee conference report that will be rushed through in the waning days of this session.

    There are many more examples of this manipulation of the legislative process. No wonder the public holds our governing process in such low regard! With over $300 million spent on remodeling the Capitol, is it too much to expect that committee rooms would be wired and on line for the public to follow without having to drive to Topeka? Lawmakers talk a good game about open government but the darkness is better for the deals and the promised campaign contributions.           

   Paul Johnson may be reached at   pdjohnson@centurylink.net
Election Timelines

The 2016 Primary Election is just four months away and  the November General Election is seven months away.   There will be one U.S. Senate race, all four U.S. House   seats, all 40 seats in the Kansas Senate and all 125 seats in  the Kansas House up for grabs.

June 1 - Candidate filing deadline; Last day to change party affiliation before primary.

July 12 - Last day to register to vote for primary election.

July 13 - First day advance ballots are mailed. In person  advance voting may begin. Contact your county election  officer to find out when and where.

August 1 - Noon deadline to cast advance voting ballots in  person in office of County Election Officer.

August 2 - Primary Election; Advance voting ballots must  be received in office of County Election Officer by close  of the polls.

October 18 - Last day to register to vote in general  election

October 19 - First day advance ballots are mailed. In  person advance voting may begin. Contact your county  election officer to find out when and where.

November 4 - Deadline for voters to apply for advance  voting ballots to be mailed.

November 7 - Noon deadline to cast advance voting ballots i n person in office of county election officer.

November 8 - General Election; Advance voting ballots  must be received in office of county election officer by  close of the polls.

(Here is the link to the candidates that have filed so far:    http://www.kssos.org/elections/elections_upcoming_


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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 

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About Policy Watch
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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

 

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