Wednesday, October 01, 2014

JONES: Watch bills as session’s end nears

By KEVIN JONES, The Playground | 3/29/2013

Committees are meeting non-stop to address the most important issues facing our state this session. In the rush, I have found myself in one committee, needing to get to another, with another overlapping that one. The danger is that a bill could be heard with a few legislators not there, or there could be a committee bill vote without all of the legislators there — not to mention possibly not getting all of the pertinent information to make a wise and discerning decision. Rushing the process when we are dealing with all that we value most could undermine the democratic process of our state.

While recently in the Pensions and Benefits Committee, I voted with an almost unanimous committee to table a “last-minute” bill that would change the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS) pension plan from a defined benefit/cash balance hybrid that was passed last session (and will go into effect this year) to a defined contribution 401K hybrid plan. Although I do not want to wait on this issue, the best explanation I heard when describing a change to our current KPERS system is this: Imagine a very complex mobile, like one that would be above a child’s crib. Take one piece of that mobile, tap it, and what happens? Every other piece is impacted in some way. This makes it very difficult to predict what could happen overall without prudent study of the plan so that a discerning and wise decision can be made. This will be first up next year.

Committees are meeting non-stop to address the most important issues facing our state this session. In the rush, I have found myself in one committee, needing to get to another, with another overlapping that one. The danger is that a bill could be heard with a few legislators not there, or there could be a committee bill vote without all of the legislators there — not to mention possibly not getting all of the pertinent information to make a wise and discerning decision. Rushing the process when we are dealing with all that we value most could undermine the democratic process of our state.

While recently in the Pensions and Benefits Committee, I voted with an almost unanimous committee to table a “last-minute” bill that would change the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS) pension plan from a defined benefit/cash balance hybrid that was passed last session (and will go into effect this year) to a defined contribution 401K hybrid plan. Although I do not want to wait on this issue, the best explanation I heard when describing a change to our current KPERS system is this: Imagine a very complex mobile, like one that would be above a child’s crib. Take one piece of that mobile, tap it, and what happens? Every other piece is impacted in some way. This makes it very difficult to predict what could happen overall without prudent study of the plan so that a discerning and wise decision can be made. This will be first up next year.

A 7-6 vote passed a bill out of committee that will allow our state to issue bonds for the purpose of “chipping away” at our state’s $10 billion unfunded liability to our current retirement system. It is yet to be seen if this will pass the House or Senate, so stay tuned.

There are a few other debates that are hot right now. One is whether Kansas should go along with the Common Core Standard in education coming down from the federal level or whether we should develop our own standards. Another issue involves the Second Amendment Protection Act that has not yet been worked by the Senate, but recently was passed out of the House. The discussion over what is a “fixture” or not “affixed” concerning property taxes also is hot right now. This topic could impact our district’s tax base in a substantial way.

Other bills to watch include:

• SB 92 — This legislation requires law enforcement to report the presence of pornographic materials found at the scene of a sexually violent crime or in possession of a person who commits a sexually violent crime.

• HB 2029 — This bill relates to the intellectual or developmental disability home and community based services waiver.

• SB 136 — This measure provides a veteran’s designation on driver’s licenses and non-driver identification cards.

• HB 2285 — This bill relates to “commercial and industrial machinery and equipment.”

Kevin Jones, R-Wellsville, represents Franklin County and the 5th District in the Kansas House. Email him at kevin.jones@house.ks.gov or call (785) 296-6287.

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