Archive for Thursday, February 9, 2006

Machinery and equipment tax measure spurs debate

February 9, 2006

Issues before the House the week of Jan. 30 to Feb. 3 spanned the spectrum and addressed very diverse issues important to the people of Kansas. Tax reductions, insurance sales, DUI testing, non-resident college tuition and sexual predator legislation were all discussed under the dome this week. Debate is spirited and civil as we strive to make Kansas a better place to live, work and raise our families.

M and E
The debate on the tax exemption on the purchase of new machinery and equipment (M and E) is in its fourth week. The crux of the issue remains concern over insuring that the elimination of the tax on the State level doesn't merely shift the tax to local units of government. In theory, the elimination of the tax would spur economic development and reinvestment in local economies and increase revenues in other areas to offset the loss of the M and E collection. Without a means to accurately predict the impact, an amendment has been offered allowing for a state reimbursement of any loss of M and E revenue by the counties. It would reimburse 100 percent of lost revenue in the first year and step down 20 percent per year until it is phased out in the fifth year. Debate continues on this amendment and the original bill. The bill, House Bill (HB 2619) is expected out of committee late this week and should be debated by the entire House next week.

Driver's license renewal
House Bill 2553 passed the House Feb. 2 by a vote of 94-27-1. Essentially the bill prohibits the sale or renewal of driver's licenses at any location that also sells insurance. Arguing that this provided an unfair advantage and a possible client pool to businesses such as AAA, the bill met House approval in order to maintain fair competition in the insurance industry.

Jessica's Law
The Judiciary Committee heard emotional testimony Wednesday from Mark Lunsford, the father of Jessica Lunsford, a young girl in Florida who was abducted from her bedroom, raped and buried alive by her captor -- a repeat sex offender.
Jessica's father, motivated by this horrific tragedy, has traveled the United States encouraging states to toughen penalties against sex offenders. Kansas' version of Jessica's Law, HB 2576, introduced by Rep. Trish Kilpatrick, would do just that. Persistent sex offenders who commit sexually violent crimes would be punished by life without parole if the bill were passed.

Franchise tax phase out
A three-year phase out of the State franchise tax was introduced as HB 2548, stating that Kansas is in the minority as a state that still employs a franchise tax on corporations that do business in our state. The tax has undergone many changes, which have made it difficult to comply with over the years, and when given the choice, corporations may be more likely to establish business in one of 31 other states without this additional tax. This bill would phase the tax out equally over three years until it is eliminated. The fiscal impact, estimated at $15 million in the first year, would either be offset by the rebounding economy or by businesses moving into the State. The bill would leave in place a small report fee paid by the corporations when they file with the Secretary of State.

DUI breath test refusal
The Judiciary committee heard testimony on a bill changing the penalties for a refusal to take a breathalyzer test when someone is suspected of driving under the influence. Currently refusal of the test is an automatic one-year driver's license suspension. This bill would allow for the person to refuse the test, enter into a diversion agreement and receive a license suspension for 30 days followed by a license restriction for an additional 30 days. Supporters of the bill suggest that a normally law-abiding citizen who may not be under the influence may wish to refuse the test simply out of fear or a desire to speak with their attorney, and thus have their license suspended for a year are being punished too harshly. Opponents included the Kansas Highway Patrol who believe any reduction in penalties for driving under the influence or cooperating with law enforcement sends the wrong message to the public.

Non-resident tuition
The committee on Federal and State Affairs held hearings this week on the tuition that undocumented non-citizens pay to attend state colleges and universities. HB 2615 would repeal K.S.A. 2005 Supp. 76-731a. The statute grants in-state tuition rates to anyone who has attended a Kansas high school for three or more years and subsequently graduated or received their GED certificate in Kansas, regardless of whether or not the person is a citizen of the United States. Opponents testified that non-resident tuition would make college financially impossible for them. Proponents challenged the legality of the statute saying it may potentially put Kansas into a class action suit costing the state several million dollars in reparations. Federal law prohibits states from giving benefits to undocumented non-citizens when those benefits are not also available to lawful US citizens.

Upcoming
committee topics
Appropriations: Explanation of baseline budget
Commerce and Labor: Workers compensation
Judiciary: Governor would appoint Supreme Court justices with Senate consent
Taxation: Sales tax holiday for sales of school supplies

Additional information
If you have any additional information or if you would like to offer your opinions or suggestions regarding these issues or any others that may be coming before the Kansas House, I want to hear from you. Please contact my office by phone at (785) 296-7632, or by email (Staterepbrown@sunflower.com) during the Legislative session.

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