"No man’s life, liberty or property is safe while the legislature is in session.” – Mark Twain
With Mr. Twain’s words in mind I am happy to report that on Saturday, May 3 at approximately 2 a.m. the Kansas legislature completed its work and adjourned for the year. This was the shortest Veto Session in quite some time. It lasted only 68 hours and the entire session wrapped up in 79 days.
The main issue before the legislature during Veto Session was the state budget. A budget was agreed upon in conference committee and the Kansas House skipped debate on the floor prior to conferencing. This gave some legislators a little heartburn but the push was on to end the session quickly.
The Budget Conference Committee crafted a bill that contained the following:
CCR S. Sub. HB 2231 updates the two-year budget adopted last year. The FY 2015 budget is $14.6 billion. Some of the highlights include:
- Payments for claims against the state;
- One-time $250 bonus for all state employees, but not a pay raise;
- The governor’s proposal to reduce the waiting lists for disability services;
- $360 million for the Department of Corrections;
- Taking $5 million from the KEYS fund and transferring it to the Kansas Bioscience Authority to $32 million and;
- Funding for public broadcasting.
The KBA and the LLC Subcommittee were present during the signing of HB 2398, which deals with the Kansas LLC Act. This was a two-year process and the KBA would like to congratulate them on a job well done.
(l-r) Joe Jarvis, Bill Matthews, Gov. Sam Brownback, Rep. Rob Bruchman, and Bill Quick. (not pictured) Prof. Webb Hecker.
While most were happy to get a budget done (Senate passed 22-18/ House passed 70-54), the April revenue numbers caused quite a stir and maybe even a little panic. For April alone, revenues were off by $92 million. There was immediate push back from the administration blaming the federal government for the shortfall. Democrats were quick to pounce on the poor numbers and argue the governor’s tax policies were the main cause for the drop.
The state has adequate reserves (for now) to deal with the $92 million loss but what caught some off guard was the downgrading of the state’s credit rating by Moody’s Investor Service. Moody stated that poor economic growth as compared to neighboring states, use of one-time revenue enhancers and the tax cuts were the reason for the downgrade.
The legislature also took up the Court of Tax Appeals issue during Veto Session. The Conference Committee Report for Sub. HB 231 made the following changes:
- Changes the name from Court of Tax Appeals back to the Board of Tax Appeals
- Clarifies that appeals can go to the Kansas Court of Appeals or to a district court.
- Requires a summary opinion 14 days after a hearing, full opinion within 90 days
- Requires one board member to be a licensed certified general real estate appraiser
- Increases the maximum amount handled by the small claims division to $3 million
- Prevents a change in the property valuation in the two years following determination and defines what "substantial and compelling reasons” could cause the valuation to change.
- New members of the board would make a lesser amount until they completed the education requirements, then they would get paid as outlined in current law
- Deletes language concerning unsigned or incorrectly signed notice of appeals forms
- Income and expense statements shall be in a form that is regularly maintained by the business.
With the close of any legislative session you have a number of retirements. This being an election year the number is even more important. The list so far includes:
- Rep. Richard Carlson, R-St. Marys
- Rep. Ward Cassidy, R- St. Francis
- Rep. Marshal Christmann, R- Lyons
- Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence (candidate for governor)
- Rep. Shanti Gandhi, R- Topeka
- Rep. Jim Howell, R- Derby (candidate for Sedgwick County commissioner)
- Rep. Reid Petty, R-Liberal
- Rep. Vern Swanson, R-Clay Center
The official close of the session, also called Sine Die, is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Friday, May 30. This is purely ceremonial and no business is on the agenda. In the meantime, please take a look at the Kansas legislative website for summary of bills that have passed and been signed into law. Below are links to these summaries.