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What passed, what failed in the 2012 Legislature

  • Eagle Topeka bureau
  • Published Sunday, May 20, 2012, at 10:23 p.m.

Here’s a look at some things the Legislature passed — and some it didn’t — during its 99-day session.

Key issues

Income tax cuts

Gov. Sam Brownback is poised to sign a bill that would reduce income tax rates to 3 percent on the first $30,000 of income for married couples and 4.9 percent on income beyond that, beginning Jan. 1. It would eliminate taxes on nonwage income for about 191,000 limited liability companies, sole proprietorships and subchapter S corporations. It is expected to provide $231 million in tax relief during the fiscal year that begins July 1; that figure would grow to $934 million in six years. Legislative researchers project the cuts would lead to a budget shortfall by July 2014 and that the gap would balloon to nearly $2.5 billion by July 2018 if unchecked. Administration projections say the cuts could generate 23,000 jobs beyond natural growth by 2020.

Property tax relief

Property tax cuts are not included in the tax-cut bill the governor plans to sign, though several tax-cut proposals included $45 million in property tax relief.

Schools

Lawmakers agreed to add $40 million to base state aid, about $60 more in state funding for each student. They also approved changes in how much the state gives school districts for at-risk students and eased rules that require districts to have a set number of at-risk students to get additional funding. High schools would receive $1,000 for each student who obtains a technical certification.

Redistricting

Kansas is the only state in which lawmakers have failed to approve a congressional redistricting plan, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. That failure threatens to delay the state’s Aug. 7 primary. Lawmakers were supposed to adjust the lines of congressional, state Senate and state House districts to account for population shifts over the past decade. After bitter wrangling, conservatives and moderates said they would leave the task to a federal court. A hearing before three federal judges is set for May 29.

What passed

Abortion

Gov. Sam Brownback signed a measure that will allow pharmacists to forgo providing drugs that they believe might end a pregnancy, including birth control drugs, such as Plan B. A separate bill that would prohibit taxpayers from deducting money spent on an abortion and bar state employees from performing abortions on state property or state time was passed by the House but languished in a Senate committee.

Agenda 21

The House approved a resolution condemning a 20-year-old policy on sustainable development from the United Nations, describing it as a radical attack on property rights. Agenda 21 is a nonbinding U.N. agreement signed by 178 nations in 1992. It encourages using methods such as conservation and changing consumption patterns to promote sustainable development. Supporters of the resolution say Agenda 21 has — in their words — infiltrated local communities where officials make planning decisions. Critics saw the resolution as an endorsement of fringe political views and as a waste of time.

Arts funding

A year after the governor vetoed spending for the Arts Commission, the Legislature has allotted $700,000 for a new Creative Arts Industries Commission in the state Department of Commerce. That’s $500,000 more than Brownback had suggested. Last year’s veto cost the state $1.3 million in funds from the federal government and a regional arts alliance. The overhaul of the arts agency is intended to focus it on generating new jobs.

Liquor changes

Bars and restaurants could offer happy-hour specials under a sweeping liquor bill that awaits the governor’s signature. They previously were allowed to offer reduced prices only if they did so all day. The bill also lets liquor stores provide free samples of beer, wine and booze. It lets distilleries provide samples, serve food and sell bottles on site. It gives wineries more freedom to sell bottles at special events, such as wine festivals. A separate proposal to allow grocery stores and convenience stores to sell stronger beers, wine and liquor failed.

Medicaid

Brownback’s administration has submitted a waiver to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services that seeks to create a managed-care system, KanCare, in which private insurance companies would manage the state’s Medicaid services. The administration projects it will save the state more than $800 million over five years. Skeptical lawmakers pressed for oversight and successfully delayed implementation of managed care for long-term care for people with developmental disabilities. It remains unclear whether federal authorities will grant the state permission, but Brownback is optimistic.

Pension fix

A plan awaiting the governor’s signature would send revenue from state-owned casinos to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System, which projects an $8.3 billion shortfall through 2033. The bill also sets up a new retirement plan for teachers and government employees hired after 2014 that would pay 5.25 percent annual interest on the state’s and workers’ contributions to their retirement benefits. Upon retirement, a worker would receive a lump sum that could be converted into an annuity.

Fee for senior hunting licenses

Lawmakers approved a plan to offer residents 65 and older a lifetime hunting and fishing pass for $40. Senior citizens have had free licenses in the past, but the state said that was no longer feasible, and that it was losing federal matching money for hunting and fishing projects, money that was tied to state license fees. Those 75 and older still would be able to get a free license.

Shariah law

A bill that would outlaw the use of foreign legal codes in Kansas courts — broadly written but particularly aimed at Islamic shariah law — is on its way to the governor. Opponents argued that it is intolerant and unnecessary. Proponents say it protects the constitutions of Kansas and the United States and would prevent the use of foreign law to take away fundamental rights enjoyed in American courts.

Wichita projects

The state’s budget includes $5 million to subsidize low-cost airlines, such as Southwest Airlines. It also gives Wichita $1 million for its aquifer storage and recharge project, which siphons above-normal water flow from the Little Arkansas River north of Wichita, purifies it and pumps it into the Equus Beds Aquifer for future use.

What failed

Double fines on Kellogg

A bill that would have let law enforcement double fines for speeders on Kellogg in Wichita and K-10 between Lawrence and Kansas City passed the Senate, but sat idle in the House where lawmakers showed little support for it.

Earlier proof of voter citizenship

Secretary of State Kris Kobach pushed hard to move up the start date of a Kansas law that will require people registering to vote in for the first time to produce proof of citizenship, typically a birth certificate. The law starts Jan 1., 2013. Kobach had wanted to start it June 15.

Guns in public venues

The bill would have allowed people with a license to carry a concealed weapon to carry their guns into most government buildings and university campuses that don’t have security guards and metal detectors at all public entrances.

Immigration proposals

One bill would have had the state help illegal immigrants get work visas for industries that have labor shortages, primarily in rural Kansas. Another, patterned after a controversial law in Arizona, would have required law enforcement officers to check the immigration status of people they had already stopped if they had any doubt about whether the person was in the U.S. illegally. Other bills would have required state agencies and/or employers to use the federal E-Verify database to confirm the immigration status of potential new hires.

Medical marijuana

The bill would have allowed qualifying patients to use marijuana to treat a range of symptoms.

Opt-out of vaccinations

The bill would have given parents the option of not having their child vaccinated as a condition of enrolling in public schools.

Slots at the track

Despite several attempts, efforts to give Sedgwick County another chance to vote on whether to allow slot machines at the Wichita Greyhound Park failed. Attempts to lower the minimum investment for a casino in southeast Kansas also failed.

Smoking in bars and casinos

One bill would have allowed smoking in bars and other businesses that employ and admit only people 21 or older. Another looked to ban smoking inside state-owned casinos, one of the few indoor places that still permit smoking.

Contributing: Associated Press

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