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Taxes, picking judges and firearms

The Weekly Five Hard Facts:

* With the current method of judicial selection, a small minority of 10,000 Kansans, attorneys who are members of the Kansas Bar Association, have a say in who is nominated to the Kansas Supreme Court or the Kansas Court of Appeals. Kansas is the only state that gives the bar majority control in selecting its supreme court nominating commission.

* Seventy-three percent of Kansans with income of $100,000 or more use the mortgage income deduction, while only 17 percent of those whose income is less than $100,000 use the deduction.

* Big tax credits, such as the real estate tax deduction, encourage homebuyers to take out bigger mortgages.

* Data shows states with zero personal income tax significantly outperform states with the highest personal income tax rates.

* The pace increased in the third week of the Legislative session due to the Senate casting its first votes, committees continuing to work on a number of bills, and a steady influx of bills making it to the floor for debate.

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Judicial Selection SCR 1601, which passed 28-12, proposes to amend the Kansas Constitution to allow for the gubernatorial appointment and Senate confirmation of judges.

SB 8, which passed 28-11, is a companion bill that establishes an independent review to help the Senate evaluate judicial nominees.

Paycheck Protection for Public Sector Employees (HB 2023) Paycheck Protection Act would ban state or other units of government for making payroll deductions for members of public sector unions for the purpose of contributing to the union's political action committee. Members still can make a contribution by writing a check or setting up an electronic transfer. The House passed HB 2023 by a vote of 68 to 56. The bill in now heading to the Senate for further consideration.

* * *

I have had many contacts regarding SB 21. The issues were concerning reciprocal license standards that match those or are greater than those in Kansas. The second issue was adding to the definition of a firearm so as to include antique firearms.

During committee debate, we split the two subjects of concern: SB 21 addresses the issue of reciprocal license standards. There will be a new bill for the definition of firearms that will be sent to the Judiciary Committee.

The Senate and House Education Committees have been meeting jointly to get a better understanding of the budget formula and laws governing education funding. Public education funding in Kansas is $5,771 million a year, and just more than 50 percent goes to the classroom.

I will keep you informed of the issues that come before Federal and State Affairs.

Ralph Ostmeyer represents the 40th Senate District. ralph.ostmeyer@senate.ks.gov