This Week in Topeka
March 8-12, 2021
Business, Economic Development & Local Government News from the Legislative Session
Lawmakers returned to Topeka Wednesday in what turned out to be a relatively quiet week. The Senate is back to full strength with the swearing in of Ron Ryckman, Sr., who was elected to fill the term of the late Senator Bud Estes. Ryckman previously served in the House and is the father of Speaker Ron Ryckman.
Property Tax – SB 13 is on its way to Governor Kelly after the Senate concurred with amendments added to the bill by the House. The Senate vote was 30-5. Last week the House approved the amended bill, 120-3. A key change made by the House Committee of the Whole was elimination of an exemption for school districts and municipal universities. Now these entities also will have to comply with provision of the law.
The bill eliminates the current property tax lid and replaces it with a new “revenue neutral rate” requiring local governments to hold public hearings and vote on property tax collections beyond the established revenue neutral rate – even if that growth has occurred only through valuation increases.
Proponents have argued that focusing on mill levies, rather than actual revenue, has allowed local governments to capture property tax increases without transparency. The bill also will allow county treasurers to establish payment plans for property taxes and places restrictions on property tax increases resulting from normal maintenance and repair.
Marketplace Facilitators – The Senate gave 35-3 approval of SB 50 on Thursday. The bill requires marketplace facilitators to collect and remit taxes on products sold through its platform if their total sales into the state exceed $100,000. Kansas is just one of three states that hasn’t yet acted on this change that was the subject of a ruling by the United States Supreme Court in its 2018 South Dakota v Wayfair decision.
The bill, which also pertains to transient guest taxes imposed on short-term lodging rentals, is seen as an issue of fairness to brick-and-mortar stores throughout Kansas who must collect and remit taxes while many of their Internet-based counterparts do not.
COVID Shutdowns – On Thursday, the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee started its consideration of legislation that could reimburse businesses for property taxes they had to pay despite being required to cease or limit operations due to the health concerns of the COVID pandemic.
SB 149 would allow owners of commercial property to apply to their county commission for reimbursement if the county ordered a shut down or otherwise placed limitations on how the business could operate.
SB 286 also was scheduled for a hearing on Thursday but, due to time limitations, the hearing was delayed. This bill is similar in concept to SB 149 and calls for the creation of a $100 million fund to pay future court judgements and allow for tax credits as an additional means of compensation.
Both bills are in reaction to a pending lawsuit in which a Wichita gym owner is claiming the government-imposed shutdowns entitles his business to compensation per existing laws and the “takings” clause in the 5th amendment of the United States Constitution.
Licensure – HB 2066 streamlines the process for holders of professional certifications and licenses held in other states to transfer their credentials to Kansas. The bill was passed by the House 103-21 and was the subject of a hearing before the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee on Thursday. The Committee recommended the bill be passed when they met on Friday.
The bill has been discussed for two years and has been amended numerous times to satisfy concerns raised by representatives of several technical and skilled professions. Most concerns have been addressed but representatives from some industries still seek additional changes important to their professions.
Appointments – The Senate took confirmation votes on two of Governor Kelly’s appointments this week. Virginia Powell was confirmed to fill one of the three vacant seats on the Board of Tax Appeals (BOTA) on a 35-0 vote.
Johnson County resident Robin Marx was nominated by Governor Kelly last year to serve on BOTA, but his nomination ran into trouble and his name was withdrawn. She nominated him again this year, but the Senate rejected his nomination on a 27-11 vote after the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee made no recommendation on his confirmation. Concerns were raised with Marx’s involvement in appraisals in Johnson County as to whether these created conflicts of interest with cases before BOTA.
The Senate Insurance Committee held a confirmation hearing on Kathleen VonAchen, Governor Kelly’s appointee to serve on the KPERS Board. Like Marx, VonAchen’s name was sent on to the full Senate without recommendation which doesn’t bode well for her confirmation. Concerns were raised with VonAchen’s role in financial challenges faced by Stockton, Ca., where she previously served.
Governor’s Race 2022 – Attorney General Derek Schmidt officially threw his hat into the ring for the 2022 governor’s race. Former Governor Jeff Colyer has not officially announced his candidacy but is expected to join the race, setting up a primary contest with Schmidt and others who may yet file. At this time no one has filed to force a primary challenge with Governor Kelly.
Kevin Walker, IOM
Senior Vice President of Public Policy
(913) 766-7602 | (913) 526-6855