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Work continues in Statehouse

On Wednesday, which also was Kansas Day and the 153rd birthday of Kansas' statehood, the Capitol was visited by hundreds of Kansans for the building's dedication. The renovations of the Capitol took nearly 14 years to complete, and now the interior of the building -- especially the new public entrance and visitors center -- now are complete. I am honored to serve in this majestic building that serves as the people's house for the state of Kansas.

The dedication began at noon on the first floor of the rotunda, and the master of ceremonies of the event was John Holt from Fox 4 in Kansas City and formerly of Barton County. Some of the honored speakers who addressed the crowd during the dedication were Jennie Chinn, executive director of the Kansas Historical Society; Ray Merrick, speaker of the House of Representatives; and Susan Wagle, president of the Senate. During the dedication, historical re-enactors portrayed famous Kansans in our state's history, such as Cyrus K. Holliday, Topeka founder, and Minnie J. Grinstead, the first female elected to the state Legislature.

The Capitol then officially was dedicated by Gov. Sam Brownback, who unveiled a plaque commemorating the dedication.

In addition to the new visitors center, some of the other areas of interest now open after the Capitol renovations are: an auditorium, Notable Kansans Hall, Construction Hall, Hall of Native Peoples, the House of Representatives and Senate Chambers and the dome.

The Agriculture and Natural Resources Budget committee had an informational hearing on the Kansas Aqueduct Study, which will update a 1982 study regarding the Ogallala Aquifer. The premise of the study is to construct 360 miles of canals and pipelines from the Missouri River by White Cloud to a receiving reservoir in southwest Kansas. The reservoir would have a water storage capacity of 700,000 acre feet and would be used for seasonal irrigation demands. The funding to update the study is $300,000 and is being paid by federal funds, the Kansas Water Office, GMD No. 3 and in-kind contributions. The only state dollars used for the study is from the Kansas Water Office, and that amount was $37,500.

One of the most contentious bills so far in the 2014 legislative session is Senate bill 298, the elimination of the mortgage registration fee. The statute regarding the mortgage registration fee allows the register of deeds of each county to collect the fee at a rate of 26 cents for every $100 borrowed for a property recorded by a mortgage. A portion of that fee also is allocated to the Heritage Trust Fund at the Kansas State Historical Society receiving 1/26th of the fee, with an annual cap of $100,000 for each county. The general fund of each county receives the remaining amount.

This mortgage registration fee, once again, only is imposed when there is a mortgage filed with the county during the transfer of property. I have heard from each county government in the 109th House District regarding the issue. In the emails, conversations or telephone calls I have had with either county commissioners, register of deeds or other county personnel, they all have indicated if the state of Kansas eliminates the mortgage registration fee, then the only recourse the counties will have in order to recover the loss of funds from this fee would be to increase the mill levy. Depending on the county, and their loss of revenue, I have received resolutions from county commissioners from each of the counties in the district that they will need to increase the mill from 1.0 to 1.3 mills in order to recover the loss.

The advocates for the elimination of this fee are the Kansas Bankers Association and the Kansas Realtors Association. Their main argument is the fee is unfair and is not imposed by other states in our region. While the state of Kansas is one of the only states to have this fee type in our region, almost all other states have what is referred to as a "transfer tax" paid anytime a property changes hands.

Rep. Troy L. Waymaster, R-Luray, represents the 109th House District, which includes portions of Smith, Osborne, Russell and Rush counties.

troy.waymaster@house.ks.gov