May tends to be a busy month with graduations, Mother’s Day, Memorial Day weekend, and other events. It also is a busy month for the Kansas Legislature. Veto session began May 1. It used to be a time to consider legislation that had been vetoed by the governor. It should be more accurately re-named to “wrap-up session.” The budget, tax, and K-12 funding are items that still need to be completed.
The state collected $4.8 billion in tax receipts for Fiscal Year 2017, which ends June 30. This is a $53.5 million increase for the same time frame in FY 2016. It’s difficult to say if this trend will continue because of the devastating losses in agriculture caused by the March wildfires and the late April freeze. However, there is optimism at the national level that could offset the losses. We don’t need to use the budget shortfall as an excuse to massively increase state spending and to cover that with a huge tax increase.
Other legislation worked on included the Kansas Consumer Protection Act in Senate Bill 201. It was amended by adding current members of the military to the definition of “protected consumer.” The bill passed the Senate unanimously.
Conference committees are meeting and this is when a bunch of bills can be combined into one bill. A few years ago, the House amended the rules to limit the number of bills that could be combined in conference committee to four bills, with a few exceptions. It is disappointing that a couple of House committees combine several bills into one before the bill leaves committee and before it gets to conference; undermining the intent of the rule and not letting bills stand on their own merit.
SB 112 was one such bill. It has topics from drug paraphernalia to dog fighting. The bill decreases the penalty for unlawful possession of drug paraphernalia from a class A to a class B nonperson misdemeanor. It increases sentencing for a burglary with intent to commit a felony, theft, or sex crime. SB 112 also defines “animal shelter” to be the same definition as in the Kansas Pet Animal Act. The bill had more items senators wanted than not. It seems the increased sentences for persons convicted of a hate crime against law enforcement would be one of the main reasons to support the bill. The bill passed the Senate 38-0.
This is Teacher Appreciation Week. “It is the supreme art of the teacher to awaken joy in creative expression and knowledge,” Albert Einstein said.
Thank you to my friends, family, and all who have chosen to teach. Teachers can, and often do, influence a student’s future — the way they see themselves for the rest of their lives. This is a powerful role and a privilege, not to be taken lightly. I hope you take time this week to thank teachers who have influenced your life.
Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, represents Franklin County and the 12th District in the Kansas Senate.