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Legislative Update Week Three

Appropriation Committee:  Governor’s Revisions for FY 2015

 

On Wednesday and Thursday of this past week, the Appropriations Committee held a hearing on the Governor’s revised recommendations for fiscal year 2015.  A revision was resubmitted to the committee due to some of the transfers not included in the initial proposal.  During this current fiscal year, the state of Kansas is projected to have a $278.7 million shortfall and adjustments are imperative in order to balance the books for 2015.  One of those reductions in spending is a 4% reduction in state agency spending for the remaining months of the 2015 fiscal year.  This 4% reduction in spending totals about $18.4 million dollars.  Another adjustment of $7.9 million will be achieved by changing the employer’s contribution rate from 11.27% to 8.65% in the fiscal year for the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System.  There is also $4.6 million from the State General Fund that reduces expenditures for the Disaster Relief Fund, $2.7 million from the State General Fund for reappropriation lapses for the Legislative and Judicial branches of government, and a reduction to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation of $791,720.

There are some increases in spending of $106.6 million to be appropriated to fully fund Human Services Caseload estimates, $2.9 million technical education tuition, and $2.5 million for the Department of Administration to reimburse the Federal government for various expenditures.

The bill also includes State General Fund transfers for the current fiscal year which total $253.2 million.  The two largest transfers are from the State Highway Fund, $158.5 million and from the Medical Program Fees Fund of $55 million.  We began working and amending this bill on Friday, January 29 and will finish working on it on Monday, February 2. 

On Friday, January 30, the Kansas Department of Revenue reported that tax revenues were $47.2 million less than expectations.   

Bills Worked in Agriculture and Natural Resources 

This past week was the first week that we began bill hearings in the Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.  The first bill that we heard was regarding the Pet Animal Act.  This bill would amend existing statute by allowing licensed animal shelters to host off-site adoptions events, clarify that the animal facilities inspection frequency schedule is to be set in regulations, adjust the membership and method of appointment to the Kansas Pet Animal Board, eliminate carbon dioxide chambers as a form of euthanasia, and simplify the licensee categories.

We also worked on a bill that would amend current law regarding domesticated deer.  The proposed legislation would state that any domesticated deer, regardless of age, would need to have official identification and that identification would be set by the Animal Health Commissioner.  A bill was introduced that would change the date and the requirement for boating and water activities.   

Judicial Selection 

The House Judiciary Committee held hearings last week on the selection process for the Kansas Supreme Court. Committee members received a briefing on the current method, which relies heavily on Kansas Bar Association members to vet judicial applicants and submit them to the governor for final approval. The majority of the nine member selection commission is made up of five members voted on by attorneys currently admitted to the state bar. They are supplemented by four appointees selected by the Governor.

Judiciary committee members heard testimony advocating for the current system from the state’s bar association and defense attorneys association. They argued there is no problem with the current system. The governor has suggested changing it to the federal model of judicial selection – governor appoints and Senate confirms – or moving to direct election.

In order to change the current selection process, the Constitution would have to be amended. Thus, a resolution would have to be passed by two-thirds of both the House and Senate and then be approved by Kansas voters before a new process could become law. 

Elections, Visitors, and Contact Information

During Governor Sam Brownback’s State of the State Address, one of the initiatives that he proposed is the changing of local elections from April to November of odd years.  The purpose, he stated, is to increase the voter turnout for those elections.  If these elections were moved to November of odd numbered years, the proposed legislation stipulates that they would still remain non-partisan.  Since I have been serving in the House of Representatives, this issue has been introduced every year.  This issue will be addressed by the Elections Committee and we will see if the bill passes out of committee to the House floor. 

This week, I had the pleasure of having many visitors from back home at my office.  Those visitors included Brett Middleton from Great Bend, Brian Brady from Hays, Ray Debey from Cawker City, Andrea Krauss from Russell, and Jeremiah Hobbs of LaCrosse, who is with the Wet Walnut Watershed.  Jeremiah attended our Agriculture and Natural Resources committee while we conducted a hearing on conservation.

If you have any questions, 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.



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