2015 Legislative Update – Issue 5

The legislature is in overtime and has passed the 97th day of the 90 day session. Neither the House nor the Senate has come to an agreement on how to fill the state’s budget deficit.

 This Legislative Update covers:

  • Taxes
  • Budget
  • Changes to Local Elections
  • Kobach Prosecutorial Powers
  • Agreement Reached on Uber 

 Taxes

Both the House and Senate are in the process of considering revenue packages to fund the $406 million budget shortfall caused by the 2012 tax plan.

Several lawmakers in both chambers have proposed a number of tax increases to help the state make ends meet including increasing sales taxes, raising property taxes, taxing certain kinds of income, and taxing gas, tobacco, and alcohol at higher rates. One Republican lawmaker in the House has also proposed removing the tax exemption status of public construction projects, meaning school districts, county and city governments, state agencies and some hospitals would have to begin paying taxes on new construction projects. It is still unclear if the House will adopt the measure, but as it stands now I am opposed to it because it is essentially the state taxing itself and will increase local property taxes as construction on these projects continue.

As proposals continue to be introduced, I will consider any plan that is fair, equitable, and sustainable.

Budget

The House and Senate conference committee is nearing a compromise on the final budget, and as it stands now will require more than $380 million in new taxes to fund the 2016 fiscal year. If an agreement cannot be reached on taxes, cuts will be necessary to balance the budget. The committee was able to reach a final agreement on the state’s judicial budget this week. The appropriations bill includes a component which forces the court’s hand into ruling a certain way on a case involving the state in order to receive funding. The legislature it is essentially extorting the court into ruling in favor of the state, which isn’t good government.

Changes to Local Elections

Although there was little progress made on the budget this week, the House voted to move local elections for offices like school board and municipal officials from the spring to November of odd numbers years.

I voted no. Our local school boards and city governments have opposed the issue, citing that it creates unnecessary challenges. Newly elected officials would take office in January, meaning their terms would start in the middle of a fiscal year where they were not part of the budgeting process.

Kobach Prosecutorial Powers

The House narrowly approved legislation that grants authority to the Secretary of State to criminally prosecute voter fraud. The bill, which was approved by the Senate earlier in the session, will now go to the governor’s officer where he is expected to sign it into law. I voted no because it impedes on local control by allowing the Secretary of State to over step locally elected county and district attorneys in the prosecuting process.

I am greatly opposed to another provision in the bill allowing candidates to give gifts of no more than $3.00 to a voter. Under current state statute, it is illegal and considered election bribery to distribute items of tangible monetary value. Changing the law sets a dangerous precedent, and potentially exposes the democratic process to corruption. To voters $3.00 might seem not seem like much, but it is a matter of principle – there is no price on democracy and votes should never be bought.

Agreement Reached on Uber

The Governor signed a bill on Friday that the House and Senate approved earlier this week that puts into law a compromises reached between the state and Uber. The agreement:

  • Requires Uber drivers to purchase comprehensive and collision insurance if their car is under the lien.
  • Requires background checks, and prohibits Uber from hiring drivers whose backgrounds includes conviction of certain crimes.

This legislation replaces previous legislation which the Governor vetoed, but the legislature voted to override because it protected consumers.


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