The regular session of the 2017 legislature adjourned on April 7. Lawmakers returned to Topeka on May 1 to begin their wrap-up session. They are still struggling to piece together a tax package which will provide enough revenue to balance the budget for the next two years. Before adjourning, the Senate resoundingly defeated the only income tax bill this year which the Governor had shown any interest in signing. It would have imposed a flat tax of 4.6% on all income earned by Kansans. Having heard loud and clear that a flat tax won’t pass, negotiators in both the House and Senate are working to develop a more conventional bracketed system which imposes increasing rates on higher levels of income. The proposals all bear a glancing resemblance to one another but the devilish details lie in where the rates are to be set and how the brackets are defined. Judging from discussions around the Statehouse, lawmakers are still a long way from finding the path forward, or as one put it, “an 84.” (A reference to the 84 House votes which would be needed to override the Governor’s veto.)

Entertainment Districts

Before adjourning in April, the House passed a bill allowing cities to create entertainment districts within which responsible adults could lawfully stroll down the sidewalk with a glass of beer or wine in their hand. The bill is now before the Senate Federal and State Affairs committee, where the Topeka Chamber testified in favor of it on Friday, May 5. The hope is that the bill will be taken up and passed into law during the off-times while lawmakers are waiting for the next big tax proposal to print.

Candidate School

The Chamber is once again teaming up with DTI, the League of Women Voters, the Community Resources Council, the Topeka and Shawnee County Public Library and, this year, Forge, to stage its local elections Candidate School. The first session of the Candidate School is designed to provide anyone thinking about running for city council an opportunity to learn more about legal requirements, deadlines, campaign fund-raising and bookkeeping and getting their message out. Two former council members were on hand to share their perspectives on the demands and rewards of serving on the city council. The second session of the Candidate School is scheduled for August 9. This same team is also planning public candidate forums on July 19 and October 28.

CEOs for Cities

The 2017 National CEOs for Cities meeting will be in Phoenix, Arizona from October 30 to November 1. Now that the date and place have been determined, planning can get underway on the details which will make this trip a special experience for Topeka’s civic and business leaders. During the 3-day tour, attendees will tour the city and hear from a wide variety of speakers on topics such as Finding Innovation & Opportunity in Unexpected Places; Equity: Paving the Way to Inclusion and Economic Prosperity; and Economic Prosperity and the Urban Agenda. Even more importantly, CEOs for Cities creates massive potential for networking with similarly-minded leaders from as many as 30 other communities.