Archive for Thursday, February 16, 2006

Legislature mulls back-to-school tax holiday

February 16, 2006

It would be impossible to try to tie all of the legislation debated under the Dome this week into a nice, neat little package. We discussed bills to lower or eliminate various taxes, raise the age when children would be allowed to marry, increase security at our nuclear power plants, give veterans Veteran's Day off, change the way we select certain Justices on our Supreme Court and designated an official Kansas 9-11 Memorial. Proof positive that we are working hard for you in Topeka. Below are summaries of just some of the issues we covered this week.

Age of marital consent
You may be shocked to learn the age that someone may marry in Kansas is 12 for girls and 14 for boys. Granted, marriage for children that young requires judicial or parental consent, but technically a pre-teen girl and an adolescent boy could marry in Kansas. In fact, just this past year a 21-year-old man from Nebraska came to Kansas for the sole purpose of taking advantage of the current Kansas law to marry his 13-year-old girlfriend.
House Bill 2541 would bring Kansas in line with 40 other states by raising the minimum age of marriage to 16 and require parental or judicial consent for those 17 or 18 desiring to marry. The House Federal and State Affairs committee has referred the bill to the full House and recommended its passage.

Anthony 9-11 Memorial
The official Kansas 9-11 Memorial came one step closer to reality by a unanimous vote of the Kansas House. Voting 124-0, the House approved the designation of the memorial located in Anthony. It is composed of three steel beams salvaged from the World Trade Center, limestone from the Pentagon and soil from the crash site of Flight 93 in Pennsylvania. The bill now awaits Senate approval.

M and E
The Machinery and Equipment tax exemption has moved out of committee and is headed to the House floor. The time the bill spent being debated in committee made for a comprehensive final version. Concerns from local units of government were eased with the addition of the "Siegfreid Slider" amendment, authored by Rep. Arlen Siegfreid (R-Olathe), allowing for a sliding scale of reimbursement to local taxing authorities that may lose revenue under this exemption. Action on the bill is expected next week in the House.

Sales tax holiday
If House Bill 2601 is passed, the "back to school sale" advertised by many retailers would mean even more in Kansas. Introduced by Representative Virgil Peck (R-Tyro), the bill would provide a sales tax holiday for back to school shoppers. The length and the date of the proposed holiday are still being debated but would likely be in late July or early August and include a Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Among the most compelling testimony was that of Mike Davis, store manager of the J.C. Penney store in Oak Park Mall in Overland Park. He shared with the Taxation Committee that another J.C. Penney store near him in Metro North shopping center in Missouri enjoyed an increase in sales of more than 100 percent during the weekend of the sales tax holiday for Missouri shoppers, while his store in Kansas experienced a 2-percent loss in sales. The Metro North store is half the size of the Oak Park store but Mr. Davis felt like the comparison between the two stores indicate many shoppers took advantage of the Missouri holiday.

Nuclear plant security
Make no mistake, security at Wolf Creek Nuclear Power Plant is tight. Armed guards, vehicle barriers and razor wire are only a few of the precautions being taken to protect us against a possible attack on the facility. However, officials at the facility believe greater authority is necessary for their guards in the post 9-11 World.
House Bill 2703 would allow armed guards at Wolf Creek to carry larger caliber automatic weapons and would grant them the legal protection they need if they are ever forced to use them to protect the plant. Current law places Wolf Creek under the same classification as other property in Kansas and therefore does not allow lethal force to protect that property. Lethal force is only allowed if their own life is in danger. This bill would narrowly define the instances in which lethal force could be used by the guards, but will also ensure that a greater loss of life is avoided by preventing an attack on the reactor.

Paying veterans
on Veteran's Day
The Federal and State Affairs committee this week heard testimony from a young man who thinks it's wrong his father, a veteran, has to work on Veteran's Day. Tanner Burenheide, 12, thinks that veterans not only deserve the day off, but would like to see them get paid for it as well.
On it's face, House Bill 2728 is a great idea and another way for us to show our support for those who have given so much for our country. However, after hearing Tanner's testimony and that of other proponents, the Committee began to bring up every day scenarios to determine the impact such a bill would have.
Members of the committee were encouraged by the action of such a young man and his desire to not only recognize veterans but to pursue this recognition all the way to the State legislature.

Kansas Supreme Court nominations
Consideration has been given to changing the way Kansas Supreme Court Justices and Kansas Appellate Court Justices are selected in Kansas. Currently, and for the last 50 years, these Justices have been chosen using the Merit Selection method, which utilizes a nine-member panel, composed of five lawyers and four non-lawyer members, who submit a list of nominees to the Governor for a final selection. Opponents argued this method removed the power of selection of one-third of our government from the electorate. Supporters urged the members of the Judiciary Committee not to fix a system that isn't broken.

Deadlines
Feb. 14 -- Last day for individuals and non-exempt committees to introduce bills. Exempt committees are Appropriations, Taxation and Federal and State Affairs.
Feb. 25 -- Turnaround Day. Last day to consider bills in the house of origin.

Upcoming
committee topics
Appropriations -- budget committee reports
Judiciary -- driver's license suspension for failure to pay child support, persistent sex offender life sentences, DNA collection for certain crimes
Transportation -- school bus seatbelts, Coach Bill Snyder Highway
Utilities -- renewable energy incentives

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 542-2293, or by e-mail at Staterepbrown@sunflower.com during the Legislative session.

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