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Kansas legislature

Kansas Legislature

Analysis: 2013 legislative session over; results will be judged by Kansas voters

June 3, 2013

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— So-called conservative Republicans flexed their muscle during the 2013 Legislature, and it will be up to Kansas voters to decide whether that's a good thing.

With Gov. Sam Brownback, House Speaker Ray Merrick, R-Stilwell, and Senate President Susan Wagle, R-Wichita, at the helm, the emphasis was on cutting income tax rates, while increasing the sales tax and general income taxes by ratcheting down tax deductions.

Before it was over, Lawrence was declared a dark spiritual area by a Christian religious adviser often seen at Brownback's side, higher education's budget was cut, and supply-side economics ruled the day.

There was also time to approve a number of hot-button conservative issues.

Now in Kansas, federal law officers can be charged with crimes for enforcing gun laws, welfare recipients can be drug-tested, and Kansas University got an adult stem-cell research center it didn't ask for.

There will be further restrictions on abortions and fewer restrictions on concealed carry of guns and knives. And Brownback gained more power in appointing appellate judges and running the Kansas Turnpike.

Obamacare is still a dirty word in the Statehouse, and to make sure it stays that way, the Legislature passed a provision aimed at preventing the expansion of Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.

Brownback and the Republican-dominated Legislature essentially ignored a court ruling that said the Legislature needed to increase public school funding by $500 million. The case has been appealed to the Kansas Supreme Court. But Republicans took time to whack the teachers union and tried mightily to insert themselves in deciding education standards, although that measure failed by a just a few votes. And there will be no pay raises again for state employees.

Here is a brief rundown of some what happened during the session.

Taxes

The Brownback experiment continues. Much of the session was spent trying to re-boot after the tax cut legislation signed into law last year by Brownback. Those cuts projected revenue shortfalls for years to come, so Brownback and Republicans worked on ways to produce more tax revenue, while also building in further cuts in income tax rates.

The final creation was a $777 million tax increase over five years. Instead of allowing the 6.3 percent state sales tax to fall on July 1 to 5.7 percent, as required by current law, the new bill sets the rate at 6.15 percent.

The measure also ratchets down itemized and standard deductions by half, reduces income tax rates and caps state spending growth.

Brownback and his allies say this plan will boost the economy and make Kansas a model for the nation.

“I began the 2013 legislative session reflecting about the long tradition our state has of being bold in doing what was right, even if much of the nation took another way. The work accomplished these last few months affirms our state is leading the way," Brownback said.

"I will sign a pro-growth tax reform bill that continues our efforts to reduce the tax burden on all Kansans," he said.

Democrats say the tax bill benefits the wealthy while putting the state in a constant budget crisis.

House Minority Leader Paul Davis, D-Lawrence, said Kansans got no help from the overtime legislative session that ended early Sunday morning.

"After 99 days of gridlock, it is safe to say that the taxpayers of Kansas did not get their money’s worth from this legislative session. They wanted restored funding for Kansas public education and a tax code that is fair and fiscally responsible. Gov. Brownback and the Republican Legislature failed on both counts," Davis said.

Spending

As the revenue noose tightened, Brownback toured the state, speaking against cuts to higher education.

But legislative leaders had the budget knives out early and often for higher ed.

The appropriations bill approved by the Legislature includes a 3 percent across-the-board cut to universities over two years, and a controversial cap on salary expenses that universities say will hurt even more. For added measure, legislators stuck a provision in the budget that prevents KU from reducing enrollment or programs to institute the cuts. During debate, several legislators questioned how this was even possible.

Aside from higher ed, the budget reduces funds for the Kansas Department of Corrections, which drew the ire of several legislators, who said the reductions will jeopardize public safety. State Sen. Greg Smith, R-Overland Park, said the new motto for corrections will sound more like wildlife and parks: "catch and release."

Guns

The Legislature approved a law that says the federal government has no authority to regulate guns made, sold and kept in Kansas, and makes it a felony for a federal agent to enforce a law covering those guns. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder told Brownback that that law is unconstitutional, but Brownback said the people of Kansas "have clearly expressed their sovereign will."

Another new law allows public schools and universities to arm employees with concealed guns and expands concealed carry in public buildings. And Brownback signed into law a bill sought by gun-rights supporters that prevents the use of state tax dollars to promote or opposed gun control policies.

Drug testing

The Legislature adopted a measure to test welfare and unemployment recipients suspected of using illegal drugs. People who fail the test could lose their benefits. Supporters of the bill say it will help by providing drug treatment and job skills training to those who test for illegal drugs.

Abortion

Brownback signed into law a bill that contains more restrictions on abortion and a declaration that life begins at fertilization. The bill also requires physicians to give women information about breast cancer as a potential risk of abortion even though doctors convened by the National Cancer Institute said that abortion does not increase the risk for developing cancer.

Comments

fearthephog512 1 year, 6 months ago

Wow — what a sick, backwards year. Jesus Christ would be ashamed.

Lynn Grant 1 year, 6 months ago

This fiasco will not only be judged by voters, but the participants will be judged by a higher power.

wastewatcher 1 year, 6 months ago

The voters always judge by their ballot action. Remember how soundly they rejected the LIBERALS like Democratic candidate Holland in the last Governors election. We shall see if the Conservatives have over reached or not. I predict the voters will re elect the Governor and most conservatives!!!! Time will tell.

Hooligan_016 1 year, 6 months ago

Yeah, they will re-elect based solely on the (R) next to their name and not based on the policies that have royally screwed over lower/middle class people.

Not surprised many are going to be voting against their own interest.

Mike Hoffmann 1 year, 6 months ago

Well, to be fair, I will certainly be voting against anyone with an (R) next to their name.

tomatogrower 1 year, 6 months ago

Holland wasn't elected, because he didn't have the big money out there. People in the rest of the state had never hear of him. I think a lot of people are rounding up some money to defeat Brownie, either in the primary or in the general election. I've already signed from to Independent to Republican, so I can vote in their primary.

jhawkinsf 1 year, 6 months ago

I thought Holland wasn't elected because he didn't receive as many votes. Or are you saying that the reason Obama became President was because he outspent McCain?

Hooligan_016 1 year, 6 months ago

"I will sign a pro-growth tax reform bill that continues our efforts to reduce the tax burden on all Kansans," he said.

What an absolute bold-faced lie. He should be ashamed for the amount of damage he is doing to lower/middle class state residents.

question4u 1 year, 6 months ago

“I began the 2013 legislative session reflecting about the long tradition our state has of being bold in doing what was right..." But then he had the great idea of starting a new tradition.

After all: Is it right to increase taxes on workers so that owners of businesses don't have to pay income tax? No one has thought that way since the Ancien Régime.

Is it right to swear that a sales tax is temporary, but then make it permanent? No one who believes in honesty and integrity would say so.

Is it right to claim that you will "protect education" then cut funding for K-12 schools, lose a lawsuit, flaunt the law, face another lawsuit, and make NO PROVISION for the inevitable outcome? The first part is hypocritical and the latter is foolish.

Is it right to claim to support higher education when your own reckless policies make cuts inevitable? To fail to accept responsibility is arrogant and hypocritical.

Is it right to increase taxes on workers but fail for five years to give state workers any raise? That mentality comes straight out of the coal mines and company stores of the 19th century.

Finally, is it right to publicly claim to be a Christian yet act in so un-Christian a manner toward the poor and the mentally ill? Well....

Matthew 6:1 “Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven.

Titus 1:16 "They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work."

Luke 6:46 “Why do you call me ‘Lord, Lord,’ and not do what I tell you?

Brownback and most of the Legislature have a lot to answer for, and it won't just be to voters.

fearthephog512 1 year, 6 months ago

Best comment I've ever seen regarding the irony of our "Christian" leaders. Please email Brownback, Merrick and Bruce with this — not that they'll give a damn, but so they might be reminded that their religion doesn't support their actions.

jayhawklawrence 1 year, 6 months ago

Shouldn't we just assume that Brownback was lying during his statewide pro-education tour?

Why do they report it otherwise?

yourworstnightmare 1 year, 6 months ago

Unfortunately, Kansas voters have proven that they are stupid. I predict Brownback will be reelected, along with most of the right wing ideologues in the legislature.

ksjayhawk74 1 year, 6 months ago

Yes, because even though Brownback is sending the state straight to hell, at least he's not damn Communist, Socialist Obama lover.

somebodynew 1 year, 6 months ago

The only real "muscle flexing' came at the very end when some of them actually tried to stand up against the tax plan. But even then they caved. A better description would be the "so-called Conservatives" gave Brownback EVERYTHING he wanted. Sometimes through fear, force, and coercion from him, but they caved on everything. Not a strong thought among them.

Michael LoBurgio 1 year, 6 months ago

Congrats to Charles and David Koch, who made out like bandits during the 2013 KS legislative session. Just a few of their many accomplishments:

1) passing a $777 million tax increase on lower and middle income Kansans to get their own income taxes reduced, 2) slashing unemployment benefits, 3) subjecting TANF and unemployment benefit recipients to drug testing, and 4) stifling the political voices of Kansas teachers by disallowing automatic payroll deductions to their KNEA PAC.

Given the Koch's stranglehold on the KS Legislature, just thought I'd pass along an updated version on how a bill REALLY becomes law in Kansas. Enjoy!

http://www2.ljworld.com/users/photos/2013/jun/04/256449/

jkocen 1 year, 6 months ago

We the people are to blame as we ultimately elected these "paid" public officials in office. I know the republicans I voted were not supported due to their moderate views and were not re-elected. My house member ran unopposed so I did not even vote. OK, so our legislators wasted this session. We got a lot of new laws that mean very little to us, a budget that does not meet our needs and new taxes on top of last year's tax cuts, plus the cost to extend this session. I revise me statement. We wasted two legislative sessions. We need to begin an immediate recall campaign, not just for the republicans, everyone involved so we can elect a new slate including a governor. Who wants to help with this?

lucky_guy 1 year, 6 months ago

Does Kansas allow recall elections? What are the requirements if you can?

jafs 1 year, 6 months ago

Yes, but incompetence is no longer grounds for recall.

JohnBrown 1 year, 6 months ago

It's evident that Republicans don't believe in the future of America. They don't believe America is a "can do" country anymore. In fact, based on their law to put federal agents in jail, it's obvious they don't believe in America any more.

Kansas used to the The Free State; now, we have cynical, scared, wing-nuts passing laws diminishing our freedoms to decide for ourselves.

We should adopt the Scardy Cat as our state mascot.

JohnBrown

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