Legislative Breakfast Series – January Recap

by | Feb 4, 2019 | Chamber Blog

The Legislative Breakfast meeting series kicked off on January 26 at the Overland Park Doubletree Hotel. Hosted by JCPPC, which is made up of the nine Johnson County Chambers, plus the Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, the breakfast provides a forum during which area business owners and stakeholders can discuss legislative issues of common importance to businesses in Johnson County. These breakfast gatherings are a great opportunity to talk one-on-one with State elected officials and hear up-to-date information on the deliberations in Topeka. There are three more scheduled during this legislative session. Sign up to attend future meetings.

The Kansas elected officials on the panel included Representatives Croft, Neighbor, and Parker, plus Senators Denning and Baumgardner.

Chamber President & CEO, Kevin Jeffries was on hand to connect with local and state elected officials about key issues that impact your business.  In addition to hearing from members of the panel, Kevin also connected with Representative Brandon Woodward and Senator Barbara Bollier.

Key issues identified by the panel as likely to receive a lot of attention during the 2019 Kansas Legislative session include:

  • Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) funding – it would appear that the panelists agree that additional funding needs to be directed to maintaining and improving our highway system. Highway 169 and 68 have significant safety concerns that need to be addressed, and Highway 69 has capacity problems.
  • Decoupling Kansas income taxes from the Federal income tax rules – this will get a lot of attention early on. Currently, if you do not itemize on your Federal tax return, you cannot itemize on your State return. Since the standard deduction was increased so dramatically at the Federal level, many Kansans will be precluded from itemizing on their State return, even though their itemized deductions would greatly exceed the Kansas standard deduction. This was a very hot topic at the end of the last session, but legislators were very cautious to address fixing this consequence of the Federal tax law changes. Look for fairly quick action on this in the current session.
  • Food Sales Tax – Kansas taxes on food (specifically groceries) are higher than a lot of our neighboring states, however a full repeal of the State tax on this would have significant repercussions on the State budget. Look for quite a bit of discussion on this issue.
  • Internet Sales Tax – look for continued discussion on these items, with Kansas looking to capture more taxes on sales occurring within our state.
  • Sports betting – we will likely see legislation on this in the current session, as it is a potential source of additional revenue diversification for our state.
  • Industrial hemp – since rules are now in place legalizing the growing of hemp, this could prove a significant cash crop for Kansas. Hemp is a very hearty plant that can grow well in low moisture environment.
  • Education funding (K-12) – There is a strong desire to get the whole education funding adequacy discussion out of the courts. While some favor a change in the constitution and formula, specifically how education funding is calculated and apportioned, many feel that the current formula is fine. Watch for continued discussion of this issue. For 2019, the legislature allocated funding so that all Kansas high school students could take the ACT for free. If this is continued, funding will need to be extended this session.
  • Medicaid Expansion – if the legislature can find a solution that will not put a significant long term strain on the Kansas budget, look for more legislators to support a Kansas-based solution to the gap in Medicaid coverage for around 150,000 Kansans, many of whom are working but unable to afford insurance.
  • Organizational Health Insurance Plans – there are 6 bills currently under consideration that would allow associations to offer group health insurance plans to their members, arguably providing greater access at a more affordable cost to these association members.
  • Economic Development – business recruiting and retention programs, as well as funding for the staffing of the Kansas Department of Commerce will be under consideration. Look for more details on this as the session progresses.

If you have specific questions on legislative bills and activities, please contact Leawood Chamber president, Kevin Jeffries at KevinJ@LeawoodChamber.org. Also, check out the Chamber calendar to sign up to attend any of the remaining 3 legislative breakfasts schedule for the balance of the session.