Wednesday, November 26, 2014

TYSON: Session winding down as work increases

By CARYN TYSON, Kansas State Senator | 3/26/2014

A majority of Senate committees finished meeting last week. Next comes the floor debates on bills for most lawmakers. Only three exempt committees will continue to meet and work on bills. They include Ways and Means, Assessment and Taxation, and Fed and State Affairs, but there will be a lot of activity on the Senate floor. About 30 bills are up for debate this week. A majority of my weekend was spent researching the bills.

 

A majority of Senate committees finished meeting last week. Next comes the floor debates on bills for most lawmakers. Only three exempt committees will continue to meet and work on bills. They include Ways and Means, Assessment and Taxation, and Fed and State Affairs, but there will be a lot of activity on the Senate floor. About 30 bills are up for debate this week. A majority of my weekend was spent researching the bills.

 

Tax code hole

House Bill 2557 was amended in the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee to cover a hole in the current tax code. The amendment would reinstate past legislation that allows for Federal Schedule C, E, and F losses to be deducted from your Kansas income taxes. If this legislation doesn’t become law, many taxpayers will have a considerable increase on their Kansas income taxes. HB 2557 passed out of committee with the amendment. As some people file their income taxes, instead of a decrease they will have an increase. HB 2557 would take care of this hole and lower income taxes for most Kansans. If the bill is to become law, tax-filers who already have filed could amend their filings and lower their Kansas 2013 tax burden.

To pass HB 2557, it will need support from leadership in the House and Senate, as well as the governor. It is important they understand the negative impact on entrepreneurs and small businesses, including family farms, if this legislation doesn’t become law.

HB 2557 also would provide a 30-day window to those who file and then receive a notice that more taxes are due resulting from adjustments made by the Director of Taxation.

 

Mortgage registration tax

Senate Bill 298 would phase out the mortgage registration tax over five years while increasing fees the county charges for deeds and other documents. The current mortgage registration tax rate is 0.26 percent of the mortgage received and filed by the county register of deeds. In addition to paying the mortgage tax, buyers must pay various document fees. The tax would be 0.2 percent in 2015; 0.1 percent in 2016; 0.05 percent in 2018, and repealed in 2019. Proponents of the legislation believe the mortgage registration tax favors wealthier homebuyers at the expense of those who need to take out a mortgage and is an unfair tax. The phase out is an attempt to make it easier for counties to handle. I voted for the bill. The bill passed 26 to 12 and was sent to the House.

 

Fingerprint checks

The Senate passed SB 335, which would require individuals to have fingerprint background checks for initial and renewal applications for teaching certificates. The bill also would require all school districts to adopt policy in establishing a drug program for reasonable suspicion of illegal drug use for teachers. Many school districts already require the background check and have drug policies in place. I was one of four no votes. It is important to protect our children, but mandating background checks on one group of employees, while neglecting others doesn’t make sense to me. This is a topic that local school boards were addressing without a legislative mandate from Topeka. The bill passed with 30 votes and moved to the House.

During floor debate, an amendment to SB 335 was adopted unanimously to outline penalties in case a legislator would test positive for illegal drug use. A legislator would have their pay and expenses suspended until they attended a drug rehabilitation program. If he or she failed testing a second time, the suspension would be for one year and a third failure would result in a permanent suspension of compensation.

Worker compensation

Senate Substitute for HB 2023 would allow firefighters or law enforcement officers to be eligible for worker compensation if a first responder is involved in a high stress situation that results in a heart attack or stroke within 24 hours. The injured employee would have to have proof that a specific event occurred to cause the heart attack or stroke. The bill passed 40-0.

 

Medical board’s authority

After debate, the Senate killed SB 320, which would have authorized the Medical Advisory Council of the Board of Emergency Medical Services to issue subpoenas for investigations. A majority of senators were concerned about expanding the board’s authority beyond what currently is in statute. I voted no on the bill.

 

Unemployment

This past week, the Kansas Department of Labor reported Kansas unemployment rate had dropped to 4.8 percent in January 2014. The reported rate is a considerable decrease from last year’s rate of 5.6 percent.

 

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

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