Friday, November 28, 2014

TYSON: Some bills survive turnaround, others fail

By CARYN TYSON, Kansas State Senator | 3/5/2014

Turnaround week was last week at the Kansas Legislature.

During turnaround week, there is a push to pass legislation. In the state Senate, if a bill is not from one of three exempt committees — Federal and State Affairs, Assessment and Taxation, or Ways and Means — and it doesn’t pass the originating chamber, the bill dies at turnaround. Several bills died as a result of not being passed by turnaround.

Property taxes

We heard some interesting testimony regarding property taxes. The statewide property tax burden imposed by local governments has increased from $547.6 million in 1997 to $1.2 billion in 2013, which is an increase of about 117 percent. If this trend continues, the total property tax burden on Kansas families, farmers and small businesses will most likely double again during the next decade.

Last year, the Legislature passed into law a tax bill that would allow county commissioners the option to waive property taxes on a property that was destroyed by natural disaster. The law had a one-year sunset. This year, I was a co-sponsor of Senate Bill 360, which would remove the sunset on the law passed last year. This legislation would allow local governments to provide relief on property taxes in the event of a disaster. The bill passed the Senate on a 40-0 vote.

Timely court decisions

Senate Substitute for House Bill 2070 establishes time limits for decisions made by district courts, Kansas Court of Appeals, and the Kansas Supreme Court. The bill would require a decision on a trial be issued within 120 days for district courts and 180 days for the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court. If a court does not issue a decision, the court must give a reason as to why a decision has not been issued. I voted for the bill. It passed 32-7.

Campaign finance

A bill was considered in the Senate that would increase the amount of campaign contributions and lobbyist gifts allowed to legislators. Many state senators, including myself, spoke against the bill and, as a result, it was pulled from the calendar and the bill did not come to the Senate floor for debate. 

In 2000, the state Legislature passed a measure prohibiting legislators from forming Leadership PACs (Political Action Committees). The intent of the 2000 Legislature was to abolish all existing leadership PACs, which differ from standard PACs in that they are able to raise unlimited funds during the legislative session, with no cap on the amounts. The purpose of the original bill in 2000 was not fulfilled, as three of these PACs were grandfathered into current state ethic standards, allowing them to remain in existence for more than a decade. This week, the Senate passed Senate Bill 274, which would uphold the intent of the 2000 Legislature and abolish all existing Leadership PACs.

Damages cap

The state’s damages cap for medical malpractice now is set at $250,000. Senate Bill 311 would increase the current damages cap to $350,000 in an effort to address concerns that the cap has not been adjusted in several years. The bill passed the senate on a vote of 32-8. I supported the increase.

Fingerprinting

Senate Bill 352 would require any new appraiser to be fingerprinted. The federal government, through the Frank-Dodd legislation, requires new appraisers to be fingerprinted. I did not vote for this bill. It’s just another example of the federal government over-stepping its bounds into state business. It passed with a final vote of 28-12.

Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, represents Franklin County and the 12th District in the Kansas Senate.

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