This past week was a whirlwind of committee activity, as deadlines to have legislation submitted are fast approaching. In just three weeks – March 1 – we will have “turnaround”, the halfway point in the session in which most legislation must be passed out of one house in order to be considered in the other.
Most legislation is still in the committee process, but all of the committees are working diligently to hear testimony and pass those bills out to the Senate floor, and at that time, we will begin to have debates on that legislation on the Senate floor, and I look forward to discussing my votes on those items at that time.
We did vote on a couple important items this week, which I discuss later in this newsletter.
In last week’s newsletter, I discussed education a great deal, and it is an issue I will continue to focus on, as we simply must get our arms around this issue and craft a long term solution to school finance in Kansas, as well as our education system as a whole.
One sticking point over the last 20 years has been the term “suitable” in the State Constitution, with an ongoing debate about how to define it. Complicating that discussion has been the involvement of our courts, particularly in the 2005 Montoy decision and the most recent case in Shawnee District court.
Read the rest of Senator Melcher's education comments by clicking here
Rural Opportunity Zones: Our state’s rural communities
In 2011, the Kansas Legislature passed legislation that would provide a tax incentive to individuals moving to rural Kansas. Rural Opportunity Zones, also known as ROZ, are 50 counties that have been authorized to offer Kansas income tax waivers for up to five years and/or student loan repayments up to $15,000. To be eligible for the Kansas income tax waivers, individuals must have established residency in a ROZ county after July 1, 2011, have lived outside of Kansas for five or more years immediately prior to establishing residency in a ROZ community and have earned less than $10,000 in Kansas Source Income in each of the five years immediately prior to establishing residency. Those eligible for student loan repayments, individuals must establish residency in a ROZ county after July 1, 2011, hold an associate’s, bachelor’s or post-graduate degree and have an outstanding student loan balance.
ROZ has been a strong economic tool for our state. Since the adoption of the ROZ program, the state has received a total of 686 applications for individuals wanting to move to the authorized 50 counties and 238 of the applications have been from out of state.
This is an example of how reductions and/or elimination of the income tax can help foster growth and prosperity.
Anti-Human trafficking laws (SB61)
One of the Governor’s and Attorney General’s top priorities this legislative session is to strengthen the state’s human trafficking statutes. With our state’s highway system, it makes it easier for the transportation of young children to be used by adults at their pleasure. The goal of the legislation is to put an emphasis on protecting children from commercial sexual exploitation. The bill also provides a fund, paid through mandatory fines by individuals convicted of human trafficking and related sex crimes, for victims of human trafficking.
On Thursday, February 7, the Senate passed SB 61 unanimously 38-0 vote.
Tax technical clean-up bill (SB79)
On Wednesday, February 6, the Senate Committee on Assessment and Taxation passed SB 79 as amended, which is the Governor’s “trailer” bill that will address technical and implementation concerns raised in last year’s tax cut.
The amendment, which passed upon the motion of Senator Bruce, incorporates the subject matter relating to the income tax add back for Subchapter S corporations with subsidiaries otherwise subject to the privilege tax. The provision had been suggested by the Kansas Bankers’ Association and by eliminating the add back for certain Subchapter S corporations with subsidiaries subject to the privilege tax it reduced receipts by an additional $2.5 million annually.
SB79 has been placed on General Orders and will be considered by the full senate within the next week.
Thank you for taking time to read through this week’s newsletter. As we start to work on legislation on the floor, I encourage you to follow us online at www.kslegislature.org and provide feedback. You can track an individual bill’s progress and look up various journals to see how we voted. If you have any particular questions, do not hesitate to contact my office.
Senator Jeff Melcher