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Second half begins with a bang

Rapidly approaching the second deadline of the session, committees need to consider budget and tax proposals and any remaining bills, before the regular session ends on April 5.

Last week, both chambers have passed out tax bills that will begin the conference process. Budget priorities will probably wait until the veto session when more current estimates will be available. Leadership still plans to finish in 80 days. This will be difficult with the amount of committee work left.

HB 2059: The March to Zero. Income tax over the next five years will be reduced and eliminated by 2018. Income taxes were lowered this year for joint and single filers, and non-wage income tax eliminated for small business owners across the state. Also there were a number of adjustments to Kansas' current tax code.

The current state sales tax rate at 6.3 percent was frozen in order to lower income tax rates which benefit all Kansans. Also an amendment was offered to phase out all tax deductions with the exception of adoption tax credit and charitable contributions. These will be phased out gradually until 2017.

Statistics show 70 percent of Kansans use the standard deduction and will not be impacted by the elimination of itemized deductions at the state level.

Also federal itemized deductions will still be available to eligible Kansans who will see tax relief at the state level, beginning next year. By passing this bill, the Senate has remained committed to providing further tax relief for Kansans and creating a competitive business environment in our state.

HB2022: Paycheck Protection Act. This legislation would ban state or other units of government from making payroll deductions for members of public sector unions for the purpose of contributing to union's political action committees. Members are not prohibited from contributing to the PACs in other ways, such as by check or electronic transfer.

The bill also revises the current Professional Negotiations Act and Public-Employees Relations Act by redefining and restricting all partisan or political employee organizations. The details are very specifically laid out in the bill.

HB 2019: Judicial selection. This bill is awaiting the governor's signature being passed by the House and the Senate. This amends the process of how Kansas Court of Appeal Judges are selected. The governor appoints the judge, and the Senate approves the selection.

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It was an honor to offer Resolution No. 1734, recognizing Norton High School's wrestling team for their first place finish at the 1-2-3A State Tournament in Hays.

Congratulations to Coach Johnson and these fine young athletes for a successful season.

Ralph Ostmeyer represents the 40th Senate District.

ralph.ostmeyer@senate.ks.gov R-Grinnell