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AFP Kansas newsletter: Health Care Freedom, March to Zero, statewide smoking ban and more

March 28, 2011 J

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Legislative Update
The last day of the regular session is Saturday, April 2. Next week, the legislature will consider conference committee reports where House and Senate conferees negotiate agreements on pieces of legislation.
Here are some items of interest over the last few days:

Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook successfully amended a bill on the Senate floor to include Health Care Freedom Amendment language prohibiting federal law from forcing an individual mandate on Kansans. The amendment secures the fundamental right of Kansans to make their own health care decisions. The germaneness of the amendment was questioned and after a 26-13 vote, the germaneness was sustained. The bill with the health care freedom language then passed on final action by a 36-2 vote. Click here to see the vote on the bill.

SB 1, which lowers the income tax rate on families and businesses, passed out of the House last week. On Monday, it was ruled materially altered and sent to the Senate taxation committee where it remains to be seen whether the committee will take it up for consideration this year.

The bill – which is commonly referred to as the “March To Zero” – reduces the individual and corporate income tax rates when there’s a growth in tax receipts compared to the previous fiscal year. For example, if tax revenues increase by 10 percent this fiscal year, then the income tax will be reduced by 10 percent. The ultimate goal is to eliminate the individual income tax and set a floor rate of 3.5 percent for the corporate income tax. Considering Kansas has the second highest individual and corporate income tax rates compared to our neighboring states, this represents some much needed tax relief.

Oklahoma has been reducing its individual income tax rate over the last few years. One result Oklahoma has realized is a tremendous increase in sales tax revenues while not touching the sales tax rate. If one believes sales tax revenue is a good measurement of economic activity then the fact that Oklahoma has generated more than $500 million in sales tax revenue than Kansas from FY 2007 to 2009, is telling of the impact reducing the income tax has on a state’s economy.

For those concerned about the state having necessary revenues for funding essential government services, the income tax rates are reduced only when there’s revenue growth. That growth as evidenced in Oklahoma can be attributed in part to the reduction in income tax rates.

The Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs issued a memorandum last fall describing the impact the income tax reduction has had in that state and compares it to Kansas’ tax rates and revenues over the last decade. Read the memorandum here.

The statewide smoking ban was again before the legislature this week, with a bill in the House to make amendments to the current ban. Rep. Randy Garber proposed an amendment to repeal the ban passed last year, and allow business owners to decide and post whether or not they allow smoking in their establishment, but the amendment failed on a vote of 51 for and 69 against. Click here to see the vote. In the end, House members voted to remove the casino exemption from the smoking ban and passed the bill 97-26.

Rep. Lance Kinzer successfully added a floor amendment to SB 83 that would require Senate confirmation for Court of Appeals nominees. AFP believes the current process of selecting judges does not allow for citizen input prior to someone being placed on the Court of Appeals. The Kinzer amendment would simply require nominees be subject to Senate confirmation, similar to federal law. Currently lawyers control the judicial selection process, but this bill allows for a more transparent and citizen-based approach before placing someone in such a critical position.

Both budget committees have passed out spending bills for FY 2012 which begins July 1 of this year. The House and Senate will debate their respective bills on the floor at a date to be determined. We’re in the process of reviewing the budget bills and will provide an update next week. Ultimately, the FY 2012 budget will be decided during the veto session which begins Wednesday, April 27. In the meantime AFP encourages you to contact legislators and ask them to hold the line on spending. Keep an eye out for information about an AFP Day at the Capitol which will take place during the veto session. Activism on this day will focus on the state budget.

State agencies claim confidentiality on travel spending
The Kansas Policy Institute has uncovered information about travel spending among state agencies, boards and universities. According to KPI, these entities claimed they did not have to disclose millions of dollars on travel and entertainment spending. Click here to read more.

Tea Party Updates
April is nearly upon us, which means it’s almost time for Tax Day Tea Parties! If you have information about any April tea party plans, please pass them along to infoks@afphq.org so we can help get the word out about your local event.
Hutchinson – 4pm to 9pm on Thursday, April 14 at the Hutchinson Sports Arena

Linn County – 6pm-7:30pm Thursday, April 14 on the lawn of the Mound City Courthouse (315 Main St., Mound City)

Topeka – 12pm Saturday, April 16 in the parking lot of Fairlawn Plaza Mall (21st and Fairlawn)

Wamego – 11:02am on Friday, April 15 at Wamego City Park. (Bean soup and cornbread will be served.)
As we hear about more tea parties around the state, we’ll put them in our newsletters and post them online so please send us your tea party info!

Johnson County area public hearings
The Johnson County Charter Commission will be conducting a public meeting at 7pm March 29 in the Olathe City Council Chambers (100 E. Santa Fe, Olathe) for input from citizens about how they would like to see the operation of the Johnson County government change for the next ten years.

We would like your thoughts on changes that should be made to the Johnson County government for the next decade.

If you live in Merriam, the Merriam City Council will conduct a public meeting about the Tax Increment Financing (TIF) for the Merriam Points Redevelopment project at 6:30pm March 28 at Merriam City Hall (9000 W. 62nd, Merriam). We believe the city council needs to answer several specific questions about this proposal, including the purpose of this TIF and what guidelines the city will follow to ensure it is administered properly.

If you have questions about either of these meetings, please contact Jim Mullins at jmullins@afphq.org

Kansas Economic Freedom
This new web site, kansaseconomicfreedom.com, is a helpful new resource to help Kansans identify which legislators vote in favor of economic freedom, and which do not. Fiscal issues like taxes and spending will be included, but so will other freedom issues like smoking bans and seat belt laws. The votes from 2010 are online now, and I encourage you to check back to see the votes as the 2011 legislative session progresses.

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