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Kansas Legislature Grinding Toward Adjournment

02 May 2014 8:52 PM | Anonymous

Although the Senate passed the necessary budget bill this morning, the House just began its budget bill at 9:10 p.m.  They are expected to wrap it up tonight.  The Senate has basically wrapped up its heavy lifting, although they must wait for the House to act on the tax conference bills before they can finish.  

The House is grinding at a tortuous pace.  They meet to vote on a few items, then break for up to an hour to caucus to discuss two or three conference committee reports at a time.

Perhaps the most lively action of the day was when Rep. Dan Hawkins made a motion to concur on HB 2463 - a major tax bill that is being crafted by the Tax Conference Committee.  He did so because the Conference Committee was planning to drop the Senate's proposed measure to give private non-profit health clubs the same tax exemptions as are enjoyed by the non-profit health clubs, such as the YMCA/YWCA.  (They are exempt from property taxes and from sales taxes.) 

For their part, the YMCA/YWCA clubs argue that they provide much more than just health club services to the public, and the for-profit clubs would not be required to provide any reduced fees to low income citizens or other services.  House Tax Chairman Richard Carlson, R-St. Marys, argued that it was a slippery slope, since many for-profit businesses compete against non-profits, such as golf courses, hospitals, 

But journalists really sat up when Rep. John Edmonds, R-Great Bend, called out the campaign contributions made by the owner of Genesis health clubs to key senators, listing the amount of the contributions - without mentioning any names.  He said he was ashamed that most were from his own party and called the process "highly suspect".  Ultimately, the motion failed by a huge margin.  The Conference Committee Report on HB 2463 will return later tonight to the House as a Tax mega-bill including changes to machinery & equipment property tax valuations, the Ashgrove cement company M & E tax change, a phase-out version of the repeal of the Mortgage Application Fee, and a motor vehicle fee exemption for the military.  The Tax Conference Committee has been firm about not adopting any measures that would reduce receipts to the state general fund, but these are all items that affect local government revenues.  Read the notes.

Rep. Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, gave a touching good-by speech this evening, thanking his family and his peers for their support over the past 12 years in the Legislature (6 years as House minority leader) and indicated he hoped to be back with a role on second floor.  (He is running for Governor.)

Other extremely important issues being resolved today?  CCR on SB 357 = right of first refusal on deer antlers.  CCR on HB 2051 - exempting Kansas from Federal conservation efforts for the Lesser Prairie Chicken.

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