Highlights from last week (temporary issue with fonts – thanks for your understanding).
Things started heating up a bit after we returned recently from our 3-week break in April, now in what we refer to as Veto Session, which includes reviewing bills that have come back from the Governor’s office.
National Day of Prayer
One of the key highlights me last this week was participating in the “National Day of Prayer” with Governor Brownback, fellow legislators, pastors, and citizens. We had a number of folks lead us in prayer for the many areas of society….family, education, religion, government, agriculture, medicine, and others. Really sensed God’s presence and His pleasure that we look to Him, recognizing that He has no shortage in solutions when we walk humbly with Him, acknowledging our need and dependence upon Him.
Other key topics from the week.
Budget and Revenue
The second week of veto session progressed with work on conference committee reports and a veto override. Budget and revenue work continues.
The Department of Revenue will finish opening income tax receipts from the April 15th filing deadline by next week. Lawmakers will then have a more complete understanding of the amount of new revenue needed to fill the budget hole.
The House Tax committee held hearings this week on various revenue options, including increasing sales tax, adjusting small business pass through income tax, and increasing the tobacco tax. There will be more information available for legislators detailing all the options next week.
The House approved a budget for the Judicial Branch that spends more than $131 million, $18 million less than the judiciary requested.
The House Appropriations conferees will now take the Judiciary budget to conference with the Senate.
With the completion of the Judicial budget, plus funding for the K-12 schools already solidified through the block grant law, the House has completed approximately 53 percent of the budget.
More work on finding solutions that will fill the budget hole and fund core state services continues next week.
The House and Senate voted this week to override Governor Brownback’s veto of SB 117, which ensures that drivers contracted with Transportation Network Companies do not have a predatory history, and that they have necessary insurance, like other Kansas entities.
Now that the bill is law, ride sharing company Uber has finally entered into negotiations for the first time this year. The goal is to find compromise language that is acceptable to Uber and that meets public safety needs and includes best business practices.
Although lawmakers made a good-faith effort to engage with Uber during the development of the law, Uber’s tactics became increasingly hostile.
The Legislature did not feel it was necessary to give special exemptions to the $44 billion company that other Kansas businesses are not entitled to.
SB 117 is much less restrictive than the bill Uber was originally in favor of, which would have driven out smaller players in the Transportation Network industry.
Uber ceased operations in Kansas before the override of the veto passed, even though their current drivers would not have been affected by the requirements of the bill.
Republicans are committed to encouraging free-enterprise within the state, and were more than willing to work with Uber on multiple occasions to find compromise policy.
By ceasing operations before the law took effect and using their network to try to overwhelm lawmakers into caving to their demands, they clearly demonstrated they are more interested in political theater than working together to find effective and reasonable policy.
It important to note that other ride companies already operating in Kansas,such as Lyft, zTrip, and 1010 did not raise issue with the requirements of the law.
Renewable Portfolio Standards
The House approved a bill this week that contains compromise language for wind energy requirements in Kansas.
The bill replaces the requirement of 20 percent renewable energy usage by the year 2020, making it a goal instead. In exchange, windmills will continue to enjoy a property tax abatement for another 10 years.
The bill is the result of negotiations between lawmakers, the wind industry, and business interests.
As always, it’s an honor to serve. Please don’t hesitate to contact me with issues of concern/interest.