Lawrence city leaders to ask Kansas legislators for increased speeding fines along K-10, new sales tax for Internet shoppers, SLT to be completed

Lawrence City Hall, Sixth and Massachusetts streets.

From roads to the speeders who drive on them, Lawrence city commissioners have items they hope state lawmakers will address during the upcoming legislative session.

City commissioners are set to approve a list of priorities for the upcoming session of the Kansas Legislature calling for work to complete the South Lawrence Trafficway, higher fines for speeders on Kansas Highway 10 and efforts to establish a new sales tax on Internet shoppers.

City Hall leaders, though, would be happy enough if state lawmakers just don’t throw any surprises their way in the new year.

“In many cases, one of the best things the Kansas Legislature can do for us is to leave us alone in terms of unfunded mandates or changing laws that impact our operations,” said City Manager David Corliss.

Commissioners at their Tuesday evening meeting are set to approve the commission’s Legislative Priorities Statement, which will be presented at a Jan. 9 breakfast meeting with legislators.

Among the issues included in the draft version of the legislative statement are:

• Maintain funding for the South Lawrence Trafficway. Funding for the uncompleted bypass project is included in the T-Works comprehensive transportation program, and the city wants it to stay that way. The statement calls completion of the SLT a “key” project for Lawrence.

• Higher fines for speeders on K-10. The statement says Lawrence supports designating K-10 as a “Highway Safety Corridor.” Such corridors allow the state to charge higher than normal fines for traffic violations that occur on the road. The higher fines then could be used to fund more frequent patrols of K-10. The idea of a safety corridor for K-10 has emerged because several serious and sometimes fatal accidents have occurred on the stretch of road between Lawrence and Johnson County.

• A Taxpayer Bill of Rights doesn’t seem right to city commissioners. The statement says the city “strongly opposes” the enactment of state-imposed spending controls or lids such as the Taxpayer Bill of Rights. The statement calls such plans “arbitrary and capricious” because they sometimes take spending decisions out of the hands of local officials. A Taxpayer Bill of Rights proposal puts limits on how much government can raise taxes without seeking voter approval through a referendum.

• A single Congressional district. The statement asks for Lawrence to be placed in one Congressional district rather than being split into two districts as it has been for the last decade. But the statement doesn’t get specific about whether Lawrence ought to be included in a district with Kansas City or whether it ought to be partnered with Topeka and Manhattan. Corliss said he’ll want to hear more discussion from city commissioners on Tuesday.

“It will be a big issue, but given the partisan make up of the Statehouse and the view that Lawrence and Douglas County has a majority of a different party, I’m not sure what influence we’ll likely wield on that,” Corliss said.

• Stabilize SRS funding. Corliss hopes the Legislature will take the city and the county off the hook for an agreement that called for the two governments to provide $450,000 in funding in exchange for the state to keep open the local SRS office. Payments on the agreement aren’t scheduled to begin until 2012, and there have been comments from Gov. Sam Brownback’s office that he’ll seek state funding to keep the office open.

“We believe there has been progress on that issue, but we don’t want to take anything for granted,” Corliss said.

• Landlord changes. The city would like to see a change in state law prohibiting the city from receiving the names of tenants from landlords. The city has contended the state law makes it difficult for the city to enforce its occupancy code, which makes it illegal to have more than three unrelated people living a single-family home.

• Internet shopping. The city is asking the state of Kansas to get fully behind legislation that would impose a mandatory sales tax on all goods purchased through the Internet. But the city recognizes that such a tax would have to be established by Congress, not the Kansas Legislature.