Rahjes Report March 7, 2022

Published 03/07/2022

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Hello from Topeka. It was good to see many people over the weekend in Hays. Thanks to the Hays Chamber of Commerce for sponsoring a legislative coffee with Senator Billinger and Representative Waymaster and Wassinger. We are working on dates in April to come to other communities as we do each year, watch for more details as they are worked out.

Second Half of the Session Underway

The Legislature completed the first half of work on February 23, ahead of the Turnaround deadline, when non-exempt bills have to be considered in their house of origin. The Legislature returned to action on March 2 with House committees taking up bills sent over by the Senate. Work continues on big issues, including the budget, taxes, and redistricting.

Highlights of the First Half of the 2022 Session

• Passing a Congressional map, known as Ad Astra 2, in SB 355

• Approving SB 347, the Attracting Powerful Economic Expansion (APEX) Act. APEX will ensure that companies making a minimum investment in Kansas of $1 billion over a five-year-period would be eligible for certain tax incentives and subject to accountability measures.

• Extending protections to keep hospitals and adult care homes staffed by temporarily removing some of the red tape in rules and regulations in HB 2477

• Standing Against Antisemitism, with unanimous approval of HCR 5030

• Giving citizens the opportunity to vote on two constitutional amendments: HCR 5014, which ensures legislative oversight of rules and regulations and HCR 5022, which protects the right of voters to elect their county sheriff.

• Condemning price gouging that occurred during the February 2021 extreme cold weather event: HCR 5023

• Honoring Gold Star Families with a memorial on the Statehouse grounds: HB 2540

• Establishing a lifetime combination hunting and fishing license for Kansas kids, HB 2456

Important Legislation Awaiting Action in the Second Half of the 2022 Session

Following the Governor’s State of the State in January, Republicans outlined priorities for the 2022 Session, including a three-pronged approach:

• Ratcheting down the sales tax responsibly on not only food, but on other purchases our families need to make through a plan that makes meaningful tax cuts, rather than just giving away small, one-time handouts.

• Stabilizing the KPERS retirement fund, so that it will be there for our teachers, our firefighters, and other public employees when they need it.

• Securing the Rainy Day Fund, so that our families will not be on the hook for higher taxes as the economy ebbs and flows.

Legislation has been introduced to accomplish these priorities in HB 2711 and HB 2561.

HB 2711 creates a comprehensive tax plan that reduces the state food sales tax rate from 6.5 to 3.5 percent, while creating a path to zero if funds are sufficient in the Budget Stabilization Fund. The plan also lowers the state sales tax rate from 6.5 to 6.3 percent, addressing the totality of sales tax relief, rather than a limited focus like the Governor’s proposal. The food sales tax income tax credit becomes a refundable tax credit, effectively taking food sales tax to zero for those that we have heard need it most – families with children, seniors, disabled citizens. HB 2711 was heard in the House Taxation Committee this week.

HB 2561 uses the budget surplus to stabilize the KPERS system, bringing KPERS above the 80 percent funded level, lowers future costs for taxpayers by reducing the state’s share of employer contributions, and saves $82 million in FY 2023 and $429 million over the next five years. The bill also fully funds 2017 and 2019 payments, paying off layering payments, and eliminating the annual $25.8 million payments on delayed employer contributions. HB 2561 has passed out of the House Insurance and Pensions Committee and awaits action by the House.

The work to put a portion of budget surplus funds into the Rainy Day Fund awaits action by the House Appropriations Committee. The Committee is finishing hearing all of the Budget Committee recommendations and will soon be working HB 2588 and HB 2592. House Republicans proposed setting aside some of the budget surplus to protect the Kansas economy from future ebbs and flows.

You can follow along on happenings in the legislature online at kslegislature.org and you can watch committee meetings and when the house and senate are on the floor on the Kansas Legislature’s YouTube channel. If you would like to contact me: my office is still located in Room: 149-S. My statehouse phone number is (785) 296-7463 and email is: ken.rahjes@house.ks.gov and you can always try my cell number at (785) 302-8416.

It is my honor to serve you.