Legislative News
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Senator Rick Billinger ~ Newsletter

March 15, 2021

  One of the first priorities of the Senate was to address property tax reform. The bill requires local government to practice “Truth in Taxation” when they desire to use revenues from higher property valuations to increase taxes. This legislation is similar to legislation that has been used in several states, including Utah for over 20 years.  The highlights of the bill:

  Transparency-The bill would establish new notifications and public hearing requirements for taxing subdivisions seeking to increase property taxes above those provided for by their “revenue-neutral rate.”  A taxing subdivision would be prohibited from levying taxes exceeding its revenue-neutral rate without first approving a resolution or ordinance in accordance with the procedure provided by the bill. It requires county clerks to notify the public about the intent to exceed the “revenue neutral rate” via publishing such notification on their website, as well as via a mailing to each taxpayer impacted. The public hearing would have to be held by September 10. The governing body of the taxing district would have to vote to exceed the revenue neutral rate by a majority vote. Those entities not complying would be required to refund the property taxes.

  Regular Maintenance of Property-The bill would prohibit an increase in the appraised value of real property solely as a result of normal repair, replacement, or maintenance of existing structures, equipment, or other improvement on the property.

  Payment Plans-The bill would authorize county treasurers to accept partial payments and establish payment plans for all property taxes. Current law allows treasurers to accept partial payments for delinquent property taxes. Finally, this bill will eliminate the property tax lid, which currently requires a public vote or certain property tax increases by cities and counties. The process of navigating the property tax lid could be cumbersome and often resulted in no practical benefit to the taxpayer.

  The process included with SB13 greatly enhances the ability of Kansas taxpayers to understand what their local government is doing and then object. By requiring local officers to vote to exceed a revenue neutral rate, taxpayers can hold local officials accountable. The House amended the bill to include all local taxing jurisdictions in the state, including school districts. The Senate accepted the amendments, and the bill is now headed to the governor.

  The Kansas Senate voted on SB50, which will provide fairness to main street businesses in Kansas that are attempting to compete with out-of-state online retailers. SB50 would mandate the collection and remittance of sales and compensating use tax by most marketplace facilitators beginning July 1, 2021. Entities with an annual gross receipt from sales into Kansas in excess of $100,000 would be subject to the mandate, which also would apply to out-of-state retailers with annual receipts from sales sourced into Kansas in excess of $100,000.
  In the Wayfair decision, the United States Supreme Court made it clear that states needed to have a threshold in order to be in compliance. This will help level the playing field with Kansas businesses that are already collecting sales tax on sales in Kansas.

  The Senate Ways and Means Committee completed our work on the budget last week and the budget bill is scheduled to be debated on the floor Tuesday.

  It is an honor and pleasure to serve the 40th Senate District of Kansas. Please do not hesitate to contact me by e-mail at rick.billinger@senate.ks.gov. You may also call me with your questions or concerns. My office number is 785 296-7399, or my cell number is 785 899-4700.

Kansas Will Move to Phase 3 and 4 of COVID-19 Vaccine Distribution

~ State to begin vaccinating Kansans who qualify in

Phase 3 and Phase 4 on March 22, 2021~

 

  The state will move to Phase 3 and 4 of Kansas’ COVID-19 vaccination plan on March 22, 2021. With this move, individuals between ages 16 and 64 with a preexisting medical condition and other non-healthcare workers in critical infrastructure will be eligible for vaccination.

  Kansans now eligible to be vaccinated include:

• Those aged 16 through 64 with conditions that increase the risk for severe illness from COVID-19, including:

o Cancer

o Down Syndrome

o Certain heart conditions

o Type 1 & 2 diabetes

o Pregnancy

o Asthma

o Cystic fibrosis

o Liver disease

o Neurological conditions like dementia

o And other medical risks.

• And other non-health care workers in critical infrastructure who cannot work remotely, including:

o Agricultural and food workers not included in previous phases

o Workers performing in-person activities indoors

o Utility workers

o Social service and government workers not included in previous phases

o Logistics workers, such as truck transportation workers and couriers

o Water and wastewater workers

o Shelter, housing, and finance workers

o And information technology and communication workers

  This announcement made one week ahead of time, will give counties with vaccination events planned an opportunity to finish vaccinating Kansans in Phases 1 and 2 and will ensure providers have enough time to prepare and notify Kansans who will be eligible in the newly combined Phase 3 and 4. Under this expedited timeline, Kansas is expected to move into the final phase of vaccinations by no later than May 1, 2021.

  Additionally, Governor Kelly announced the state will activate more providers to complete vaccinations, including safety-net clinics, pharmacies, hospitals, and medical practices. Kansas will also partner with the federal government to set up mass vaccination sites in Kansas to increase the number of vaccinations possible per day.

Kansans who need help identifying if they are eligible should contact their local health department. Kansans can also utilize the “Find My Vaccine” mapping tool at KansasVaccine.Gov to locate a provider near them with vaccines available.

Legislation Introduced to Address Trucking Industry Driver Shortage

 

  This week, U.S. Senators Jerry Moran (R-Kan.), Todd Young (R-Ind.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) introduced the Developing Responsible Individuals for a Vibrant Economy (DRIVE-Safe) Act to address the driver shortage in the trucking and logistics industry and enhance safety training and job opportunities for young truckers.

  Though 49 states and the District of Columbia allow individuals to obtain a commercial driver’s license (CDL) at the age 18, federal law currently prohibits those operators from moving goods from state to state until they are 21. The DRIVE-Safe Act establishes an apprenticeship program that would allow for the legal operation of a commercial motor vehicle in interstate commerce by CDL holders under the age of 21.

  “Kansas is the birthplace of the U.S. Interstate System and continues to provide a network of safe and reliable routes for interstate commerce and travel,” said Sen. Moran. “As we saw during this pandemic, a shortage of truck drivers impacts our ability to move goods across roads and highways to support our economy, including transporting Kansas products. The DRIVE-Safe Act allows young CDL holders that meet rigorous safety standards and performance benchmarks to move goods from state to state, addressing the driver shortage while continuing to deliver commodities across Kansas and the country.”

  “Today, 18-year-olds can drive more than 200 miles from New Albany to Gary and back, but they aren’t allowed to drive two miles from New Albany to Louisville,” said Sen. Young. “The DRIVE-Safe Act will eliminate this ridiculous regulation and in doing so address the driver shortage while providing new career opportunities for young Hoosiers.”

  “Now more than ever, young Montanans need more opportunities to get comprehensive job training, access higher paying work, and grow their careers early on,” said Sen. Tester. “This bipartisan bill will do just that, allowing younger truck drivers to get top-of-the-line apprenticeships that kick their careers into gear, all while providing a big boost to the thousands of communities across the Big Sky who rely almost exclusively on trucks to move goods in and out of the state.”

  The apprenticeship training program would help ensure these drivers are trained beyond current standards while instituting rigorous safety standards and performance benchmarks. The apprenticeship program established by the DRIVE-Safe Act would require young drivers to complete at least 400 hours of on-duty time and 240 hours of driving time with an experienced driver in the cab with them.

  All trucks used for training in the program must be equipped with safety technology including active braking collision mitigation systems, a video event capture system and a speed governor set at 65 miles per hour or below.

  U.S. Senators Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Angus King (I-Maine), Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) joined as original cosponsors of the bill. U.S. Representative Trey Hollingsworth (R-IN-09) introduced a companion bill in the House.

American Rescue Plan Programs for Kansas

 

  On Thursday, March 11, President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan (ARP), providing $1.9 trillion in economic stimulus to assist in the long-term recovery from the economic and public health impacts related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

  “The American Rescue Plan will provide critical relief to Kansas families and businesses who have struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Governor Laura Kelly. “While I disagreed on the allocation formula, these funds will allow us to make targeted and strategic investments in childcare, broadband, education, and our business communities to aid our recovery from COVID-19.”

  The ARP aims to move beyond the COVID-19 pandemic, return children to school, vaccinate the population, provide direct assistance to families, and stimulate economic growth.

  As a part of the American Rescue Plan, the state of Kansas will be eligible for a variety of funding. Below are some of the programs and initiatives available to Kansas; many more will be made available through strategic coordination and investment: 

•          Direct aid to Kansans in the form of $1,400 checks per person for incomes up to $75,000

•          Extension of unemployment benefits

o          The ARP extends benefits from March 14 to September 6

o          Enhanced benefits will stay at $300/week

•          Provide direct housing and nutrition assistance

o          Emergency rental assistance, utility assistance, and homeowners’ support

o          Key investments in food security, including extending Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits, Women Infants and Children (WI) benefits, and Pandemic-EBT programs

•          Strengthen support for farm communities, growers, and producers

o          Investments in infrastructure that support food safety

o          Debt relief for socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers

•          Expand access to safe and reliable childcare through Child Care and Development Block Grant

•          Expand the Child Tax Credit and an improved Earned Income Tax Credit

  The federal government will release more information and guidance in the coming weeks regarding funding for Kansas.

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