Dickinson County Public Information office
Rep. John Barker, (R-Abilene) representing the 70th House district, updated Dickinson County Commissioners during a work session Thursday, July 14 on issues addressed during this year’s legislative session and recent developments.
Commissioners asked about the Revenue Neutral Rate tax lid and Barker said it was for transparency. The RNR adjusts the effective tax rate for changes in assessed valuation and requires that statements be sent out to taxpayers and a public hearing.
Also of concern to local county commissioners has been an ongoing lack of compensation for the county treasurer’s office, which does work for the state. The issuance of motor vehicle tags, titles and driver’s licenses is a state function, but county treasurers’ offices across Kansas have long been doing the work with little or no financial help from the state, meaning county taxpayers are footing the bill. Barker said he was not aware of the situation.
House Bill 2380, which would have increased some title and registration fees on vehicles, would have helped counties cover some of those extra costs. However, the bill failed.
In his remarks, Barker commented on the following:
Panasonic factory: A new Panasonic battery plant, which will be near DeSoto in Johnson County, will bring 4,000 jobs to the state and has the potential of bringing in a total of 8,000 jobs with other associated businesses coming in with it. The new plant should be completed by 2025.
Barker said the Kansas Legislature worked on the incentives, which should make a move to Kansas more attractive for other companies.
Last week, Gov. Laura Kelly made the announcement that Panasonic would be building a $4 billion factory that will produce electric vehicle batteries for a Tesla plant in Texas and other automotive manufacturers.
In recent years, many companies located in California have been leaving that state, which creates an opportunity for Kansas to attract more business. Since the Panasonic deal was made, 12 other companies are looking seriously at Kansas, Barker said.
Budget: The state budget is $4 million higher than the previous year because the state received additional money due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The House will use a portion of the $4 million to pay off debt. That included investing money into the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System. They also created a rainy day fund to help prepare for a recession.
Also, the legislature cut taxes and has raised the $20,000 exemption on the assessed valuation for property taxes to $40,000, which saved Kansans more than $133 million overall.
Although Kelly recently signed the bipartisan “Axe the Food Tax” bill, Barker noted that the Legislature had passed HB 2002 and Kelly vetoed it in 2019. If Kelly would have signed the bill in 2019, the state sales tax on food would be gone by New Year’s Day, Jan. 1, 2023.
Ballot questions: Barker mentioned the “Value them Both” constitutional amendment which will be on the Aug. 2 primary ballot. He also spoke about a question on the November general election ballot that would ensure the position of sheriff be an elected position, rather than become an appointed position.
Barker said that some county commissions, particularly in the east end of the state, want to be able to appoint the sheriff and eliminate the elected position. The question is designed to make sure a county’s top law enforcement officer is not beholden to elected officials.
Other: The “Every Child Can Read Act” will require every Kansas school district to implement a reading literacy program, designed to ensure every student learns to read by third grade.
The Legislature passed a bill establishing the number 988 as a suicide prevention hotline. The number, which should be operational this month, is a statewide 24-hour, seven-day-a-week suicide prevention hotline.
House Bill 2001 for COVID vaccine exemptions requires employers who implement COVD-19 vaccine requirements to allow medical and religious exemptions and authorizes employees to file complaints with the Secretary of Labor for violations.
Senate Bill 160, the Fairness in Sports Act, was vetoed by Gov. Kelly. The Senate had the required votes to override the veto, but the House did not.
The Parents Bill of Rights, which would have given parents the right to oversee, inspect and challenge educational material in their child’s curriculum, died when the House did not have sufficient votes to override the governor’s veto.
The Gold Star Family Act authorizes the construction of a monument honoring Gold Star families on the statehouse grounds. Gold Star families are the immediate family members of a serviceman or woman who died while serving in a conflict.