In the third week of the legislative session, the Senate cast a key vote in support of two pieces of legislation to change the process of how Kansas Supreme Court justices and Kansas Court of Appeal judges are selected. Both items passed with a 28-11 vote in the Senate and will be forwarded to the House.

• SCR 1601 proposes to amend the Kansas Constitution to allow for the gubernatorial appointment and Senate confirmation of judges, modeled after the federal selection process.

• SB 8 is a companion bill to SCR 1601. The bill establishes an independent review panel to help the Senate evaluate judicial nominees.

Because SCR 1601 would allow you, the voter, to decide whether to amend our constitution on judicial selection, the vote requires a two-thirds majority from both chambers. The House must pass the legislation before it is placed on the ballot for residents to consider in 2014.

The House passed HB 2023, commonly referred to as the Paycheck Protection Act. HB 2023 would ban state or other units of government from making payroll deductions for the purpose of contributing to the union’s political action committee (PAC). The aim of the bill is to eliminate state and local governments as bookkeepers, using taxpayer resources to collect for the political activities of public unions.

While the bill would eliminate the option for the payroll deduction, it is important to note members are not prohibited from contributing to their union’s PAC. If a member wishes to make a contribution to a PAC, he or she would need only to write a check noting it as a PAC contribution. It also would be permissible for the member to set up an electronic transfer from his or her bank account to the PAC fund. It is arguably inappropriate for the state or any other local unit of government to be in the business of making payroll deductions for political purposes. The Senate will consider the bill and further action.

Last year’s tax relief package was a critical first step in overhauling the state’s overly complicated tax code. Early results have been encouraging, with the state already adding jobs and attracting new business to continue growing the Kansas economy and surpassing the surrounding states.

In exchange for much lower income tax rates and simplifying the tax code, it has been proposed to eliminate the mortgage interest and real estate deductions. I am taking a very close look at this proposal. We had hearings on the bill last week in the Tax Committee. Nick Jordan, Kansas secretary of revenue, testified that less than 30 percent of Kansas personal income taxpayers would be impacted by removing these deductions. That was a surprisingly low number, so I have requested further information to clarify the data. The committee was expected to debate the bill this week.

Standard deductions were increased in the new tax law, from $4,500 to $9,000 for single head-of-household filers, and from $6,000 to $9,000 for married taxpayers filing jointly. Changes to itemized deductions at the state level do not impact federal itemized deductions, which are much larger and still available to Kansans eligible to itemize.

With all this information in mind, the Senate is committed to providing continued tax relief for Kansans and to creating a competitive business environment in our state. Government must leave more of Kansans’ hard-earned money in their pockets.

The Senate debated and voted on legislation last week that would amend current law regarding poverty affidavits in lieu of a docket fee. SB 20, if signed into law, would allow the court to issue an order authorizing the filing of a petition and establishing the amount of the filing fee to be paid. The bill would also require the plaintiff to set forth a factual basis on which the inability to pay the docket fee would be based and to provide financial information in the affidavit. A second bill debated in the Senate this week was SB 18, which would amend existing law concerning the conditions under which a temporary restraining order can be issued without notice or bond. It also would establish the conditions under which the court could issue a restraining order. These bills are now in the House where they await further action.

Caryn Tyson is a Kansas state senator, representing District 12, which includes Franklin County. Email her at Caryn.Tyson@senate.ks.gov or call (785) 296-6838.