Archive for Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Working toward deadline

March 17, 2010

The Kansas Legislature is working toward its next major deadline. Next Wednesday, March 24, marks when a bill must have been approved by both chambers — or it stands a strong chance of not becoming law. Overall, lawmakers have been very selective on the bills they send to the governor because of the budget crisis.

Unemployment Rate Goes Up

A few weeks ago I told you about state tax revenues not meeting predictions. So it came as no surprise last week when it was announced more Kansans are unemployed.

The Kansas Department of Labor reported the jobless rate went from 6.2 percent in December to 7.3 percent in January. The report also showed the state lost 54,100 jobs during 2009 — about a 4 percent decrease. The hardest hit job sector was manufacturing — most of those were in the aerospace industry. Only the education and health services sector posted a gain in 2009 — most of the 2,400 new jobs were in health care.

House Passes Jobs Bill

The Kansas House passed a bill aimed at growing jobs in our state. House Bill 2538 would expand a business incentive program to encourage companies to bring or retain jobs in the state. Known as “PEAK”, the program allows businesses to keep 95 percent of the income taxes withheld from their employees' paychecks if they move jobs from another state to Kansas and meet certain criteria. It has been extremely successful during its short time of existence and is credited with bringing hundreds of jobs to the state.

HB 2538 would expand the types of companies and non-profit organizations that could qualify for the PEAK program. The bill would also require wages paid by the company to meet the community’s median wage (instead of average wage). It also allows a break to companies that buy Kansas firms and keep the jobs in the state.

Bill Closes Education Funding Loophole

A bill that would close a loophole for catastrophic funding for special education is making its way through the Legislature. The issue came to light after an audit report discovered three Johnson County school districts found a legal way to make claims for millions in catastrophic aid — funding that otherwise would have been shared with all Kansas school districts to cover special education costs.

The catastrophic aid is meant to help schools serving students with extremely expensive needs. Senate Bill 359 would increase the qualifications required to receive the catastrophic aid and eliminate provisions that allow school districts to “double dip” for funding.

Bill Provides Incentive for Private Health Coverage

Skyrocketing insurance premiums have some businesses dropping their employees’ health coverage. Supporters say House Bill 2682 would give another option to small businessowners who want to help their employees with health insurance but can’t afford a group policy.

The measure would allow small business owners to offer their employees money so they could buy their own coverage. The bill would also allow a deduction in employees’ Kansas adjusted gross income in the amount paid.

Senate Combines Texting and Seat Belt Bills

The Senate approved a measure last week that combines two bills they had already approved in separate bills. Senate Sub for HB 2437 pulls together a ban on mobile phone text messaging while driving and a primary seat belt bill that would allow law enforcement to pull a vehicle over if any adult is not wearing a seat belt.

The move would allow a motion for the House to simply agree with the combined bill and avoid any debate or changes by House members. The House rejected a primary seat belt bill last year but has yet to discuss a ban on texting bill.

— Rep. Lee Tafanelli, R- Ozawkie, represents the 47th House District. To read more from his column, go to tonganoxiemirror.com.

And finally — congratulations to Phil and Sally Holman-Hebert, owners of Sweetlove Farm, LLC, for being named one of the state’s 2009 Emerging Businesses of the Year by the Kansas Small Business Development Center. They started their diversified farm located in Jefferson County in 1999 and saw their business really take off last year when they began selling their produce and meats at the Lawrence Farmers Market.

The Kansas House recognized Phil and Sally and the other owners of 2009 Emerging and Existing Businesses of the Year on the House floor Tuesday. Small businesses like theirs are what drive our state’s economy.

— Rep. Lee Tafanelli, R- Ozawkie, represents the 47th House District.

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