The Kansas House moved forward with legislation Tuesday requiring the Kansas Department of Commerce and state legislative auditors to bring an unprecedented level of transparency to income and property tax breaks awarded to businesses to recruit and retain jobs.
Bipartisan support emerged for the bill mandating that the commerce department place on a public website detailed information about large incentive programs. The measure also would require auditors working for the Kansas Legislature to analyze the performance of inducements offered to companies. Information on incentives tied to confidential agreements executed before July 1 would remain secret under the bill.
"It allows all of us to join together and be more accountable to our constituency and be more organized, and make sure that whatever economic developments that have been passed along actually work, they do what they're supposed to do," said Rep. Kristey Williams, an Augusta Republican.
Rep. Stan Frownfelter, D-Kansas City, Kan., said independent assessment of the state's return on investment was overdue and the high degree of secrecy attached to the state's role in commercial projects had to end.
"This has been needed for a long time," he said. "We need to make sure every dollar we spend, that the bank of Kansas is getting an ROI back."
The House is scheduled to take final action on the economic-incentive bill and more than two dozen other pieces of legislation on Wednesday.
Rep. Megan Lynn, R-Olathe, led debate leading to tentative approval of House Bill 2198, which would speed medical treatment of patients and their partners who contract chlamydia. It is a common sexually transmitted disease that can infect women and men. Under the bill, the infected patient could receive medication for himself or herself and drugs to care for infected partners.
"The partner would not then need to be seen by a physician to receive treatment," she said. "This is really important because it could potentially decrease the rate of STD in Kansas and improve female and maternal health."
The practice is common in 43 other states, Lynn said. The Kansas Department of Health and Human Services would create rules and regulations to limit the treatment approach to chlamydia, she said.
The House also moved ahead with a bill removing potential of law enforcement agencies being required to obtain a special search warrant to transfer to another state for laboratory analysis seized cellphones, computers and other devices storing electronic information.
Rep. John Wheeler, R-Garden City, said House Bill 2191 would enable the original search warrant used to legally seize devices to cover movement of the evidence outside Kansas.
The House amended legislation on funding of the 911 system in Kansas to moderate a proposed tax increase on telephones. The existing monthly fee of 60 cents for each landline or cellphone in a home would be increased by House Bill 2084 to 82 cents per month for each device.
The bill originally would have raised the rate to $1.03 monthly to finance upgrades in a 100-facility emergency network, but the lower rate was approved on a vote of 64-56.
Rep. John Carmichael, D-Wichita, convinced the GOP-controlled House to moderate the increase by arguing the funding was sustaining 911 centers receiving only a handful of calls each day. He said the practical consequence was that telephone owners were forced to subsidize general operations of county sheriff's offices across the state.
"Enough is enough," Carmichael said. "This is not a piggy bank. It's a telephone tax."