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Weighing in on another year in Topeka

This session, we have tackled big issues. We were in the middle of tax and budget negotiations that changed the direction of the state for the better. The two-year budget is the first of its kind in Kansas. Traditionally, the Legislature passes a new budget from year to year, allowing for no certainty or sound financial footing for agencies and organizations to stand when it comes to setting up their own budgets. By giving them a two-year commitment in finances, agencies will be able to better project their spending and find efficiencies to make their money go farther in providing the services many Kansans depend on.

The tax bill in negotiation with the House included some significant ideological debate. The question that stood out was whether to tax consumption or earnings. I am under the belief taxing earnings will squelch business and hinder economic growth, whereas taxing consumption won't stand in the way of jobs. The Senate proposed keeping the sales tax at 6.3 percent but lowering tax on groceries to 4.95 percent -- all while lowering the income tax during the next five years on the path to 0 percent. I wanted to keep your hard-earned dollars in your pocket.

Three years ago, I supported a 1-cent sales tax with the commitment to sunset 6 cents July 1, 2014. I still support that but also must make sure I support the best long-term plan for my district and also the best for Kansans.

A few of the bills signed into law this year reflect that belief. I was proud to vote for a piece of legislation known as "Paycheck Protection". The new law ensures union members will not be forced to make payments to their Union PAC that might support candidates they don't. While every employer has the right to join a union if they wish, many unions use membership fees to support candidates or legislation that not all of their members advocate for. That is wrong, and a worker should not lose part of their paycheck to campaigns they don't support.

We also passed legislation that allows Kansas veterans to get their Kansas driver's license with "Veteran" printed on it. This should be helpful in obtaining discounts offered by various stores -- especially for those veterans who did not retire and do not want to carry a copy of their discharge papers with them. It also is an appropriate way for the state of Kansas to recognize their service. I was glad to be able to vote for this bill.

I proudly voted for the passage of a new law protecting the Second Amendment rights of Kansans, which soon will take effect. The provision states no firearm manufactured, sold and owned in the state of Kansas can be confiscated by the federal government. It is an effort by Kansas to defend itself against federal overreach and to ensure its sovereignty as a state.

Finally, many Kansans believe their hard-earned tax dollars should not be used to directly or indirectly fund abortions. That's why I voted for the passage of HB 2253.

It protects the lives of hundreds of unborn children by stripping away public funding from facilities that provide non-emergency abortions. The legislation prohibits any school district or education service providers from offering abortion services.

The measure also protects schools from abortion providers from sponsoring any course material for classroom use.

The bill affirms what the majority of Kansans believe, that life begins at conception and all state law needs to be interpreted to protect the rights, privileges and immunities of the unborn child.

Thank you so much for allowing me to serve you this session. I look forward to hearing from you with questions or concerns.

Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell,

represents the 40th District in Kansas.