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Legislative Update Week 11

State of Kansas Budget

This week the House Appropriations Chairman, Ron Ryckman Jr., and the Senate Ways and Means Chairman, Ty Masterson, scheduled numerous meetings to consider each of the chambers' positions for the Kansas Budget for 2016 and 2017.  The two chambers did compromise on many appropriation measures for an array of state departments, however some they did not.

I had meetings this week with Chairman Ryckman regarding the House’s position on the funding of the Judicial Branch.  Back in early March, when I reported the budget for the Judicial Branch, the House Appropriations committee accepted the recommendations that my committee proposed.  The Senate, however, does not wish to accept those terms.  During the week the House and Senate held firm on each chamber’s position regarding the funding of the Judicial Branch.  As indicated before, the Judicial Branch reported to me and the General Government Budget committee, that in order for this branch of government to function appropriately, their funding would need to remain flat, which according to the Governor’s recommendation would be adding back approximately $11 million in 2016 and $16 million in 2017.  The General Government Budget committee agreed to reinstate $6 million in 2016 and $11 million in 2017 for the main purpose of functionality for this branch of government and to prevent furloughs in those coming years.

Other areas where the two chambers differed were in regards to the Kansas Lottery, Kansas State University, and the Departments of Commerce, Agriculture, and Education.  For the Department of Education, the House did provide proviso language to address funding for the Block Grant funding that was signed into law in March.

KPERS Bonding

The Kansas House of Representatives passed House Bill 2095 on March 25, which authorizes the issuance of $1.5 billion in bonds to help finance the unfunded liability of the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System. Currently, the rate for the debt the state owes KPERS is approximately 8 percent. These bonds would cut the state’s annual payments almost in half by lowering the rate to 4.4 percent, which would result in a savings in FY 2015 of $52.1 million from the State General Fund. The savings from the reduced interest rate would be paid directly into KPERS as a part of the employer contribution and further reduce the unfunded liability, helping to make the program solvent.

On Wednesday, April 1, the House voted on the compromised measure for the bond liability for KPERS.  During conference committee meetings with the House and Senate, the compromise was the bonding amount of $1 billion.  The House voted to concur on this measure during session on Wednesday morning.

Provisions of the ABLE Act Pass

On April 1, the House passed provisions for the Achieving a Better Life Experience Savings Program, also referred to as the ABLE Act, which was included in a conference committee report.  The ABLE Act is a tax-deferred savings program for the purpose of empowering individuals with disabilities and their families to save private funds to support the individual with a disability.  The Kansas State Treasurer will implement and administer the program.

An ABLE savings account would be opened by a designated beneficiary or a guardian of the beneficiary and would be allowed to create only one account for the beneficiary.  After the account is established, any person would be allowed to make contributions into the account.  Annual contributions to the account can be up to $14,000 for the tax-deferred savings account.

The establishment of an ABLE savings account would be used for disability-related expenses without affecting the individual’s eligibility for Social Security Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid, and other public benefits.  The United States Congress passed the ABLE Act in December 2014, although the adoption of an ABLE Savings Program must be established by each state. 

The Kansas State Treasurer, Ron Estes, the Kansas Department of Revenue, and the Kansas Department for Children and Families state that there will be a minimal fiscal affect to the State General Fund for the years 2016 and 2017.  The Department for Children and Families also indicated that the bill would have a minimal effect on Medicaid caseloads and that Social Security would make the determination of a participant’s disability, causing no costs to the department for certification.  The ABLE Act, as mentioned before, was included during the House and Senate Financial Institutions Conference Committee and passed the House, 116-4.

Constitutional Carry, Visitors and Contact Information

On March 25, the House passed Senate Bill 45, the allowance of concealed carry without a permit, referred to as “constitutional carry.”  This bill removes the license requirement for carrying a concealed firearm.  However, concealed carry licenses would still be available for Kansans in order to carry concealed in the thirty-six other states that recognize Kansas’ concealed carry law.  People who have been convicted of a misdemeanor crime of domestic abuse, adjudicated mentally incompetent, dishonorably discharged from the United States Military, unlawful users of alcohol or drugs, or currently subject to a protective order are also disqualified from carrying concealed.

When purchasing a firearm from a retailer a background check through the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms must be passed, unless the purchaser has a concealed carry permit.  Therefore, maintaining a concealed carry permit under Senate Bill 45 would still offer the convenience of not having to submit to a background check when purchasing a firearm.  Four other states, Alaska, Vermont, Arizona, and Arkansas have concealed carry without a license and six other states have concealed carry without a license, with some restrictions.  Governor Brownback signed this legislation on Thursday, April 2.

 

I had the pleasure of attending the official bill signing by Governor Brownback, also on Thursday, for Senate Bill 43, which names K-8 as the “Home on the Range” Highway.  In attendance for the signing were Governor Brownback, Senator Elaine Bowers, El Dean Holthus, Mitch Holthus, Steve Caspers, and myself.

 

I also had the pleasure of meeting with twenty-nine Smith Center High School seniors on Monday, March 30.  They met with me in my office and then again after the House session when we met in the Senate Chambers with Senator Elaine Bowers.  My parents, Lance and Mary Pat Waymaster, grandmother, Gloria Waymaster, and uncle and aunt, Michael and Diane Waymaster, came to visit me at the statehouse on March 31.

 

If you have any concerns, feel free to contact my office at (785) 296-7672, visit www.troywaymaster.com or email me at troy.waymaster@house.ks.gov

It is an honor to serve the 109th Kansas House District and the state of Kansas. Do not hesitate to contact me with your thoughts, concerns and questions.  I appreciate hearing from the residents of the 109th House District and others from the state of Kansas.

Troy L. Waymaster,

State Representative

109th Kansas House

300 SW 10th

Topeka, KS  66612 


Paid for by Troy Waymaster for 109th Kansas House, James Malone, Treasurer
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