Caryn Tyson: Senate debates bills on energy, emergency powers, taxes

Sen. Caryn Tyson|Legislative Update
Tyson

The Senate worked over 40 bills in three days this past week. Topics such as emergency powers, energy costs, tax, and others. There were too many bills to cover in this update. You can find all of the bills at www.KSLegislature.org.   

Emergency Powers

Kansas has laws that allow the legislature to provide the governor legislative authority in an emergency. The emergency power laws, passed decades ago, had been invoked during natural disasters but never a state-wide pandemic.

Last year I spoke out against turning over all legislative authority to the governor. I was accurate. The governor overstepped and it has resulted in a financial crisis for many families. As a result of the crises and government overreach, the Senate voted to replace existing statute with SB 273. The bill would establish an emergency legislative oversight committee so there are checks and balances on any Executive Order (EO) issued during an emergency declaration.  The bill passed 27 to 12. I voted Yes. The House passed their version so a conference committee made up of six legislators, three from each chamber, are working out differences. We’ll see what the final product looks like.

Energy Costs Skyrocket

Because of the record freeze a couple of weeks ago, most people will have higher energy costs. Can you imagine expecting a $200 bill and getting a $2,000 bill or maybe a $6,000 bill? Humboldt city manager reported their entire gas bill for the year 2020 was $270,139.14 and the estimated bill for just February is $1.5 million. Many communities throughout the state were impacted.  

House Sub for SB 88 was signed into law providing loans to help municipalities and others with extremely high electric and gas costs. The bill was needed but it is a prime example of how we get poor results. The bill gave all authority to the State Treasurer in deciding who gets the money so it is first-come first-serve for $100,000 million. Some of the larger communities could use all of that money with a few loans, leaving out-to-dry small communities like Ottawa, Fort Scott, Garnett, LaCygne, Lane, Moran, Prescott, and at least 32 other towns in our senate district. There were reasons to vote No, but any money available in this emergency is needed to be in place so I voted Yes. The bill passed the senate 39 to 1. Myself and others asked the Senate President to form a special committee to investigate what happened and why one person is given the power to determine the fate of so many Kansas energy users. The President said he was thinking along those same lines so this isn’t the last you will hear on this topic.

Tax

Last week, SB 46 exempting your retirement accounts from state income tax passed out of the Senate Tax Committee. However, it doesn’t look like it will make it to the Senate floor on the grounds that the bill could be amended making it too expensive. Opponents argue the state cannot afford it. What they neglect to tell you is the state has collected $190 million over estimates since July 2020 — in seven months. As I have said, Kansas can afford removing state income tax on retirement accounts — we just have to make it a priority. 

It is an honor and a privilege to serve as your 12th District state senator.