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Rep. Jim Kelly
District 11

Capitol Office

300 SW 10th, Room: 512-N
Topeka, KS 66612
Phone: 785-296-6014
Email: jim.kelly@swbell.net

Home Information

309 S. 5th
Independence, KS 67301
Phone: 620-332-3083

Representing Montgomery County
The 7th District
Map
Profile

Dear Neighbor:

It has been a busy first two months as I was sworn into my 3rd term in the Kansas House. I hosted the Independence Girls’ Tennis team and their coaches at the Capitol, presented a certificate to the team congratulating them on winning the 2014 Class 4-A State championship and another to their retiring head coach Ken Brown for his four decades of coaching success.
In addition, on March 16th I had the pleasure of hosting three students from Field Kindley Memorial High school as pages. The students were Eryn Cox, Charity Neurauter and Juan DeLaCruz. As you can see, we had a great time stopping by get our picture taken with the Governor.

I am near the back in the sea of faces watching the vote tally on the block grant bill.

Personal Activities

I introduced HB 2298 in the House Tax Committee, which would remove the sunset provision from the current Rural Opportunity Zone (ROZ) program. This program seeks to curtail the out-migration from our communities by providing student loan forgiveness and income tax credits to new county residents that qualify. It will expire June 30, 2016 if it is not extended. This program has been a very effective recruiting and retention tool for Montgomery County and southeast Kansas as a whole. Although Montgomery County has only been in the ROZ program since July 1st of 2014, there have been more than 20 applications submitted and is leading the program with applications since our county entered the program. Since inception, the ROZ program has been very effective for rural Kansas. The Kansas Department of Commerce recently released a detailed report on ROZ that outlines how rural Kansas has benefitted from this program. 

In response to your comments on last year’s survey, I introduced a bill (HB 2377) in the House Tax Committee that will allow participating counties to offer property tax payers the opportunity to use 5-year averaging on their single family, owner occupied, residence. Property tax averaging would allow Kansans to better deal with wide swings in property valuation and more accurately plan their finances. In addition, the bill allows participating counties to offer an installment payment plan to owners of single family, owner occupied, residences that would allow these taxpayers to break their property tax payments into more manageable advance installment payments rather than the two larger payments that are now made in December and May. This installment type plan is currently not allowed, but if authorized could help homeowners better deal with their property tax obligation.

State Budget
You are likely aware Kansas is in budgetary dilemma with a budget hole that reaches a multi-hundred million dollar level between now and June 30. In February revenues were $22 million above estimates, which was much needed good news, but there is still a lot of ground to be made up in the few months left in the fiscal year. It seems doubtful this will happen. In order to temporarily plug the budget, we passed a rescission (to rescind) bill, which cut the Kansas Department of Transportation budget and a number of other agency budgets, as well as deferring a KPERS payment. While I fundamentally disagree with these temporary measures, we must ensure the state does not default on its commitments and this effort bought us some time. H Sub SB 4 passed 88-34; I voted YES, because we must not let the state default on its obligations. The ultimate solution will have to involve increased revenue as I believe we are in a self-imposed crisis that resulted from the new tax plan going too far too fast, I believe we are at a point in time that all options need to be on the table.
 
Education
Funding for K-12 public schools and higher education continues to be the hot potato during this session since it makes up the largest portion of our state budget. The school finance bill (“Block Grant” – HB 2403) introduced into both houses of the legislature Thursday, March 5th and was passed out of committee and brought to the floor or a vote one week later. Final action on this bill took place last Friday, and the bill passed by a margin of 64 – 57. I voted No on the bill. Monday afternoon, the Kansas Senate passed the Motion to Concur on a 
25-14 vote, sending the bill to the governor’s desk for approval.

Since the proposed K-12 block grant bill includes KPERS as part of the state’s contribution to “suitable” support for public education, KPERS payments made by the state are proposed to be included in the “suitable” support computation.

It appears local property taxes received by local school districts are intended to be used by the districts to help finance the needs of the district that are not funded by the block grant.

I truly have concerns about Block Grants, which are to be used as a temporary measure to allow time for the legislature to re-write the school funding formula. Although I do feel that the current formula needs some tweaks, I did not feel that a major overhaul was necessarily be the best way to insure that all Kansas students have equal access to a quality education.

Later on Friday a three judge panel from the Shawnee County Court that is hearing further arguments regarding the adequacy of state financing of K-12 education indicated it “may…elect to impose such temporary orders to protect the status quo and to assure the availability of relief, if any, that might be accorded should the court deem relief warranted.”
 
The school finance debate also includes additional policy issues that seem to be as important to some legislators as the money. The final outcome of this measure may well be equally based on both money and policy issues. After last session, I truly have concerns when often poorly thought out policy issues are combined with funding.
 
Under the Dome
Turnaround
We recently reached the “Turnaround” deadline when bills must be passed out of their House of Origin (the chamber in which a bill was introduced) and “turned around” to the other chamber for hearings of these bills. Hearings on bills received from the Senate will take place over the next several weeks.
 
The Blessing of the Bills
Bills are exempt from this deadline if they are introduced by or pass through an exempt committee. Exempt committees in the House include Appropriation, Federal & State Affairs, Taxation, and Calendar & Printing. At the Turnaround deadline, leadership will refer some bills through these committees before adjourning in order to make them exempt from deadlines, or “blessing” them to keep alive for future debate.
 
From the Senate
Local Elections
SB 171 would move school district, city, community college, and other municipal elections to the fall of odd years and keep them non-partisan. A concern expressed on this issue centers around the practicality from a board schedule perspective. These entities’ budgets run on a fiscal year schedule, so when elections are held in April, new members start at the beginning of a new budget year. If elections are held in November, new members would take office in the middle of one budget year and at the beginning of preparation for the next. After a long debate with a number of amendments, it passed the Senate on a 21-18 vote.
An indication that some urban legislators my be out of touch with rural areas can be substantiated by the introduction of SB 178 this bill proposes to raise the assessed valuation of ag land by an average of 473% statewide. Currently use value is considered when determining the value. When applied in the valuation of agricultural land, use value attempts to determine a value based are upon the actual production of the land and removes other influences that affect the market value of real estate. If agricultural land was valued on its market value, then farmers on the edges of cities would see their valuations (and taxes) skyrocket as developers bid up the price of neighboring land. This would force the farmer to sell to developers when he can no longer to afford pay the taxes. Thus, use-value can function to possibly halt the urban areas to spread out into the adjoining countryside, and it can serve to preserve urban green space.
 
The impact on taxes paid by ag landowners would vary widely from county to county, depending on how large ag land's share is of total assessed valuation. Statewide, SB 178 would increase the property taxes on ag land by $716 million per year! And this assumes that all local elected officials don't take advantage of this new-found "wealth” to increase their budgets, but instead reduce the local mill levy accordingly. That assumption may not be valid is some counties.
 
For many farmers and ranchers, their investment in land represents their retirement plan, and they are required to pay property tax annually on that investment. Our urban counterparts, who typically have their retirement accounts invested in stocks or bonds, avoid that tax at the present time. Are we to believe that stocks and bonds don't represent wealth? Property tax is in essence a tax on wealth, and somehow that doesn't seem equitable.
 
I do not support this bill and I don’t believe that it is going to be considered this session. However, I will keep my ear to the ground just in case it pops to the surface again.
 
On the House Floor
Here is a sampling of the bills passed by the House and sent to the Senate before turnaround:
 
You’ve likely seen the box on employment forms which asks if you are a veteran, and allows for veterans’ preference in hiring for those jobs. HB 2154 would extend that preference for private business as well.
 
Many homeowners’ associations (HOA) have restrictions limiting yard signs altogether, or limiting the number or when they can be posted. If you feel like fighting your neighbors, these restrictions technically contravene the First Amendment protecting freedom of speech. HB 2096 would remove this common frustration between homeowners, the candidates they support, and homeowners’ associations, by allowing signs to be placed within 45 days of an election.
 
In response to fly-by-night roofing contractors who flood a hail-damaged town, the legislature last session passed a law requiring roofing contractors be registered by the state. One unintended consequence required general contractors who do roofing work during their normal course of business to also register under this act. General contractors are licensed and registered under a number of other statutes and this registration is redundant. HB 2254 removes the requirement for general contractors to register as roofing contractors, so long as a roofing project is less than 50% of a project’s cost, door-to-door sales have not been conducted, and any subcontracted roofing company is a separate business entity.
 
“The Chad Taylor bill” (HB 2104) would allow that only in the case of death could a candidate’s name be removed from a ballot. The bill passed 69-54, I voted YES. It is reasonable that candidates should not claim incapacitation when it is politically convenient or expedient.
 
Technology is moving much faster than government and campaign fundraising and ethics laws are no exception. Currently, if you post a fundraiser announcement on your Facebook page, prior to Sine Die (the official end of the legislative session), and you are Facebook friends with a registered lobbyist – whether or not a lobbyist saw that announcement – you could face an ethics violation. HB 2183 would change the law to allow such a posting, while still prohibiting direct solicitation of a lobbyist during the legislative session.
 
Over the summer, the K-12 Study Commission met for hearings and deliberations on K-12 policy changes. A majority of the commission submitted recommendations to the legislature, one of which was a carefully negotiated compromise between superintendents and teachers unions on professional negotiations. Some on the committee disliked the recommendations and submitted a minority report, which was drafted into a bill and passed through the House Education Committee. On the House floor, however, a member of the House Education committee introduced an amendment to gut the minority report bill in favor of that supported by the majority – the labor/management compromise. On a close vote of 67-52, (I voted YES), the “gut and go” amendment passed and HB 2326 passed the House and is headed for Senate consideration. In a year when education funding is a constant battle, this policy issue proved to be a watershed compromise that eventually 109 Representatives could support.
 
Committee Work
Pensions
The Pensions and Benefits Committee has met  regularly to look for ways to deal with everything from issuing $1.5 billion in bonds to help deal with the nearly $9 billion retirement system unfunded actuarial liability to the current “Working After Retirement” program that is so important to many rural school districts that will sunset on June 30th.   On Monday the bonding bill passed out of the committee and is on its way to the House floor.  Our committee will again discuss working after retirement this week, in an effort to, at a minimum, get the sunset extended to 2016. This link includes to access information on all of the bills our Pensions committee has or will be working on:
http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2015_16/committees/ctte_h_pen_ben_1/
 
Health & Human Services
My Health and Human Services Committee was very busy and has been dealing with everything from Medical Retainer agreements, to the licensing of Massage Therapists.
 
On March 18th and 19th our Health Committee will have hearings on Medicaid expansion. This is a very controversial issue, but without a doubt it would be a real boost to our Montgomery County health care providers.
 
Use the link below to access information on all of the bills our Pensions committee has or will be working on: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2015_16/committees/ctte_h_hhs_1/

Financial Institutions
Ever needed to speak to a teller but didn’t need the extensive services of a full branch? HB 2352 allows banks to offer Interactive Teller Machines (ITMs) which will operate remotely like an ATM but offer some of the same functionality of visiting the branch.
 
This week  the committee will  deal with the first major update of the banking code since the early 1990’s. This 142-page bill (SB 240) will likely be our biggest task for the remainder of the session. I have been assigned to task of being the  shepherd of this bill in our committee.
 
Use the link below to access information on all of the bills our Pensions committee has or will be working on: http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2015_16/committees/ctte_h_fin_inst_1/
Thank you for the opportunity to represent you in Topeka. Please do not hesitate to contact me with questions or comments. 

Sincerely, 

Rep. Jim Kelly
State Representative, District 11

Copyright © 2015 Paid for by Jim Kelly for Kansas House, Dan Carroll, Treasurer, All rights reserved.


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