This past week marked the beginning of the 2017 session of the Kansas Legislature.

On Jan. 9, members of the House of Representatives, including 46 freshman legislators (31 Republicans and 15 Democrats) were sworn into office. Leadership elections were held in early December to elect caucus leadership, which was officially confirmed on our first day in session.

Speaker of the House — Rep. Ron Ryckman (Olathe) Speaker Pro Tem — Rep. Scott Schwab (Olathe) House Majority Leader — Rep. Don Hineman (Dighton) House Minority Leader — Rep. Jim Ward (Wichita)

State of the State

On Jan. 10, Governor Sam Brownback gave his seventh State of the State address to a joint session of Kansas Representatives and Senators.

Also in attendance was the Governor’s cabinet and family. The speech covered an assortment of areas from health care improvement and educational internet access across rural Kansas, and challenging state institutions to develop a $15,000 bachelor’s degree program.

Governor’s budget proposal

On Jan. 11, Shawn Sullivan, Director of the Division of the Budget, presented the Governor’s Budget Recommendations to a joint meeting of the House Appropriations and House Taxation Committees.

The stated goals of the Governor’s FY ’18 and FY ’19 budget proposal are to protect core services, gain additional efficiencies, and achieve structural balance with more ongoing revenue than ongoing expenditures.

Additionally, the Governor’s budget set a goal of having an ending balance greater than 7.5 percent in FY ’19.

The Governor’s budget reflects a focus on increasing Medicaid reimbursement and addressing critical rural health care services and a rural teacher scholarship program.

Tax

The House Taxation Committee began its work on Tuesday with an update from the Kansas Legislative Research Department on Tax Facts publication; Briefing Book—selected tax rate comparisons; Tax law changes since 2012; fiscal notes for selected tax bills; and Briefing Book—Sales Tax Exemptions.

On Jan. 11, the Committee joined the House Appropriations Committee to receive the Governor’s Budget Recommendations, which included the Governor’s tax proposals. The committee also heard from Acting Revenue Secretary Sam Williams on Wednesday afternoon when they received presentations from Williams and his staff on different taxes collected by the Department of Revenue.

Next week, the Committee will have a presentation on the specifics of the Governor’s Tax Plan and have a hearing on HB 2023, which addresses the LLC exemption, requiring non-wage business income to be included as income for Kansas income tax purposes.

Floor action

Vacancy Elections [House Bill No. 2017] – This bill was brought forth to improve the process of replacement elections for Congressional vacancies. The bill would change the minimum number of signatures of registered voters required for an independent candidate to petition for nomination to fill a congressional vacancy to 3,000.

Congressman Mike Pompeo of Wichita was recently tapped to head the Central Intelligence Agency in the President-elect Trump’s Administration, which will leave a vacancy in the Fourth Congressional District.

An amendment was adopted to specify that petition gathering could not begin until the Governor made a proclamation of the vacancy.

The bill passed the House on a Final Action vote of 122-1.

— Les Mason represents Kansas’ 73rd District in the Kansas House of Representatives.