Governor Coyler Sworn-in
Jeff Coyler was sworn in as the Governor of Kansas last Wednesday afternoon on the first floor of the Statehouse. The new Governor has alluded to setting a new tone in the Governor’s office, though the particulars of what that will mean remain obscure. He did quickly make some staff changes appointing, for example, Johnson County representative Larry Campbell as his new budget director and dubbing previous budget director, Shawn Sullivan, as his new Chief Operating Officer. He has also indicated a desire to repair relations between the governor’s office and the legislature. Governor Coyler will be offering new rules this week addressing sexual harassment in state government and will release recommendations on government transparency. The new Governor has scheduled an unofficial State of the State address to a joint session of the Legislature this Wednesday afternoon.
January Revenues Above Estimates
In January, the State collected $165 million more taxes than expected. Secretary of Revenue Sam Williams attributed most of the increase to recent changes in federal tax law. Because the new federal law does not allow state and local taxes to be deducted in 2018, taxpayers had an incentive to pay them before the end of 2017. Kansas revenues are now $249 million above estimates for the fiscal year.
The Senate Commerce Committee is considering changes to the state’s STAR Bonds program (Sales Tax And Revenue). Committee Chair Julia Lynn (R-Olathe) hinted last week that she believes various changes are necessary to ensure the program is effective and transparent. Among possible modifications are limitations of how close competing projects may be to one another, requiring input from local tourism organizations and more substantial information gathering on each project.
Speaking before the Kansas Economic Development Alliance last week, Senator Lynn described her general frustration at the lack of solid data available for legislators to judge the efficacy of many of the state’s economic development incentive programs. She vowed to drive legislation this session requiring such data be collected and provided to the legislature going forward. The Chamber, along with its nearly 20 compatriot organizations in the Coalition of Local Chambers, is watching closely to defend against any effort to diminish or eliminate such important economic development tools such as STAR bonds, HPIP and PEAK tax credits. Meanwhile, a bill making HPIP tax credits available indefinitely, though at a 25% discount after year 16, appears likely to advance.
Transportation task force bill
The Senate Ways and Means committee worked on the bill which creates a transportation task force to study Kansas’ future transportation program. The committee tweaked the proposed make-up of the task force to ensure representatives of affected industries, such as concrete and asphalt interests, as well as transportation workers have a seat at the table. The Topeka Chamber has joined its partners in the METL coalition (Manhattan, Emporia and Lawrence) to express its support for the transportation task force in light of how important a coordinated and well-funded approach to Kansas’ transportation infrastructure is to the state’s prospects of future economic growth.
House bill allows 18-year olds to conceal carry
On Friday the House passed 76-44, a bill that would allow 18-year-olds to take classes to be certified for concealed-carry of weapons. Under current law, only people 21 years or older can obtain concealed-carry permits. The original bill was amended to allow state higher education institutions to require a concealed-carry permit in order to bring a gun onto campus, but the Kansas State Rifle Association pledged to work to have that provision eliminated in the Senate. Another amendment, proposed by Shawnee County Representative Vic Miller would have banned “bumpstock” attachments to rifles. Bumpstocks can make a single-shot rifle fire multiple shots with just one trigger pull. The bumpstock ban failed in committee, but it may reemerge on the House floor where the concept likely has more support.