Tax battles continue
Despite heavy criticism of his proposal to cut state income tax rates, Gov. Sam Brownback says he wants the Legislature to continue working on the issue as the second half of the 2012 legislative session starts.
“We must cut Kansas income taxes, or we will have another lost decade,” he said.
Democrats, who have been pushing for property tax relief, say the income tax proposals from Brownback and House Republicans leaders are way off base. Brownback’s plan to reduce rates and eliminate credits and deductions would increase the tax liability for those making $25,000 and under. A House Republican leadership plan would also lead to a tax increase for low-income Kansans.
“I don’t see how Republicans can continue to sell these tax proposals when they are asking the poorest Kansans to pay for a tax cut for the wealthiest Kansans,” said House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence.
Proof-of-citizenship fight moves to Senate
The fight over the implementation date of a proof-of-citizenship requirement for new voter registration is now in the Senate.
The measure, pushed by Secretary of State Kris Kobach and approved by the House, would require new voter registrants to prove U.S. citizenship, with an enactment date of June 15. Under current law, that requirement would take effect Jan. 1, 2013.
Kobach says he wants the requirement in place before this year’s primaries and general election because he says that will keep illegal voters off the voting rolls. Democrats say the enactment date is too soon and will prevent some eligible voters from registering because they may have trouble retrieving proof-of-citizenship documents, such as birth certificates.
A major question in this debate is whether a $40 million upgrade of the state’s Division of Motor Vehicles computer system, which handles driver’s licenses, will be ready by June to allow the division to store and transfer to election officials documents proving citizenship.
Senate Majority Leader Jay Scott Emler, R-Lindsborg, said the status of the computer upgrade is what the Senate Ethics and Elections Committees “needs to ferret out”
Kobach wins, loses in immigration case
Secretary of State Kris Kobach won and lost in a federal court decision on an immigration case in Nebraska.
U.S. District Judge Laurie Smith Camp let stand part of a Fremont, Neb., ordinance that will require employers use the federal government’s E-Verify program to check on the immigration status of their workers. The judge also upheld a provision that requires people who want to rent a place to live to obtain a $5 “occupancy license,” which will require they show citizenship status.
But Camp overturned the part of the ordinance that prohibited landlords from providing housing to undocumented workers.
Kobach earns $10,000 a year representing Fremont in the case, according to news reports from Nebraska. Kobach, a Republican who took office as secretary of state in January 2011, says he represents Fremont and other places in immigration lawsuits in his spare time.
Group upset with Democratic legislator
The Kansas Equality Coalition has for some time criticized state Rep. Jan Pauls, D-Hutchinson, for her support of measures that the KEC says increase discrimination against gays, lesbians, bisexual and transgender Kansans. The latest round is over Pauls’ support of House Bill 2260. Supporters say the bill will protect religious freedom, but critics say it will enable people to use religious beliefs as a defense to discriminate.
On Saturday, at the Kansas Democratic Party’s annual meeting in Topeka, state Democratic Party Chairwoman Joan Wagnon spoke out against HB 2260 and reiterated the party’s support of gay rights.
“It was a moving demonstration of the Democratic Party’s support for LGBT equality,” Thomas Witt, executive director of the KEC, wrote on the KEC website.
Quote of the week
“We are currently not able to meet our UI (unemployment insurance) bills, and yet the bill in front of you will further reduce our ability to pay our UI bills. How does this make sense? This is crazy.”
— State Rep. Mike Slattery, D-Mission Hills, on House Bill 2638, which would reduce unemployment insurance contributions for new employers.
• 1:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday — Hearing on House Bill 2694, establishing all faiths chapel in Capitol, Room 346-South, Capitol.
• 8:30 a.m. Thursday — Hearing on Senate Bill 314, removing the exemption of charging individuals 65 and older for hunting and fishing licenses, before Senate Natural Resources Committee, Room 159-South, Capitol.