As you are aware the Kansas Legislature returned Monday, Jan. 9. Traditionally the first week is rather uneventful. The primary goal of legislators and committees is to acquaint themselves with chamber rules, committee assignments and new staff members. However, this year committees began meeting and hearing proposals almost immediately. For instance, the House has already introduced a bill to repeal the LLC loophole. This proposal will be heard this Thursday, January 19, in House Tax. The bill is HB 2023 titled Determination of Kansas adjusted gross income, sunsetting certain modifications.
In addition, the Kansas Judicial Branch spent the week updating both judiciary committees on its operation, equipment, programs and budget. The Office of the Judicial Administrator has already requested raises in their initial budget proposal which the governor has passed through for legislators to consider. There has been some discussion on the amount of raises for nonjudicial staff but there appears to be significant hesitation to increase judicial pay. OJA reported that $12.6 million is needed to raise nonjudicial salaries to match surround states.
OJA has also introduced a bill to extend the surcharge fees. This is an extension and not an increase. The law needs to be renewed or it automatically sunsets on June 30. See HB 2041.
The Kansas Supreme Court held a swearing-in of all appellate judges being retained after the general election. This ceremony was very well attended. You can watch the ceremony here: https://www.youtu.be/QGMCdsy20Oo.
Chief Justice Nuss will also return to the House Chamber to give the State of the Judiciary speech. This marks the first time in four years the speech will take place in the Capital.
The other big news was Gov. Sam Brownback’s State of the State address. Those remarks are attached here: https://governor.kansas.gov/2017-state-of-the-state/. If you are interested, you can watch the speech here: https://governor.kansas.gov/
The Governor discussed a wide variety of topics including budget issues, higher education costs and poverty. He failed to mention water rights or any changes to judicial selection. Specifics on his budget proposal came on Wednesday when budget director Shawn Sullivan introduced the 2017 recession bill and 2018 budget to a joint meeting of legislators.
The highlights are to increase sin taxes (tobacco/alcohol), sweep funds from KDOT and liquidate certain investment funds. The plan would increase tobacco tax by $1.00 and double the alcohol tax to 16%. The plan also calls for freezing the income tax cut for the lowest bracket at 2.7%. Under the 2012 tax cut all rates would shift downward till they reached zero.
The governor’s budget also looks to sweep nearly $600 million from KDOT over the next 30 months. This sweep would delay all new highway projects for two years, maintenance will continue as scheduled. It was recently reported that Kansas ranks 50th in new highway projects.
The most controversial issue would be selling off the tobacco settlement funds. Under Gov. Brownback’s plan the state would forego 30 years of tobacco payments in exchange for $530 million now. The state takes in around $60 million from this settlement each year. If my math is correct this would mean the state would trade $1.8 BILLION spread over three decades for $530 million this year.
Many are skeptical of this approach and its viability is in question.
“Rep. Troy Waymaster, R-Bunker Hill, the House budget chairman, called the 30-year commitment “way too long” and said the proposal would cause “a lot of angst” among lawmakers. “I really don’t think that’s going to gain any traction,” Waymaster said.”
For more news of the budget proposal please see:
http://bit.ly/2j8hE6c - Wichita Eagle
http://bit.ly/2iofvCv - Garden City Telegram
http://bit.ly/2jjddmf - Kansas City Star
http://bit.ly/2jIcPBB - Topeka Capital Journal
The KBA is currently monitoring the following bills.
These bills were introduced last week and they can be found on the KBA Legislative Bill Tracking webpage.
The KBA will introduce four proposals next week. The first is the Transfer on Death deed amendments, codifying Alternative Dispute Resolution in wills/trust, enactment of Benefit Corporations in Kansas and an update to the Uniform Arbitration Act.