The 2013 Kansas legislative session is underway. Area legislators and others with special interests in the session offered their views on what Kansans can expect from their representatives in Topeka.
Sen. Garrett Love, (R) Dist. 28, was elected to serve as Majority Whip for the Senate and also chosen to chair the Senate agriculture committee. Here are his thoughts.
Globe: What issues do you anticipate being significant in this session?
Love: As always, the budget is the biggest responsibility we have during the legislative session. We will work to make government more efficient and fight to be responsible with taxpayer dollars. As Chair of the Senate Ag Committee, I will be working closely with farmers and ranchers, the many agriculture organizations in our state along with the Department of Agriculture on strengthening agriculture in Kansas. Ag is the number one industry in our state and by far the top industry in our region, so I am thankful to be serving in this position.
Globe: Do you have any comments on the issues our county administrator identified: the fixtures reclassification issue, the transparency on reporting and using increased property valuation, changes to sentencing guidelines?
Love: The fixture reclassification issue is a very complicated one. The numbers that were cited in an earlier story on this issue were based on a total tax exemption for all "fixtures." The only bill out there that did that was killed last session and I don't believe a part of any new discussions going on now. There are certain counties in our state that have had out-of-state appraisers reclassifying equipment from personal to real property with the main intent appearing to be finding another way to raise their taxes. Fortunately, that has not been going on in our part of the state, but we do need to find a way to address the uncertainty that is presented to businesses by these out of state appraisers' questionable reclassifications. We need more firm definitions on fixtures, and that won't be an easy task.
The bill dealing with transparency is not a tax lid. It would still leave the complete power with the local boards and commissions. Currently, with rising valuations, taxpayers are paying more, and in some cases significantly more, in property taxes every year even if the mill levy was staying the same. This bill would simply have the commission vote on if and how much of the valuation increase they believe they need to properly fund their level of government. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on this issue.
Globe: What new responsibilities have you accepted and what will that entail?
Love: I was elected by my colleagues to serve as the Majority Whip for the Senate and also chosen to chair the Senate Agriculture Committee. One of the biggest parts of my job will be communicating between the leadership team and the rest of the caucus. I will be discussing the bills coming before the Senate with the members and getting their feedback. I also look forward to having the chance to advocate for Western Kansas as a member of the leadership team.
Page 2 of 3 - If you would like to contact Love during the session about these or any issues or to receive his legislative email update, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call at (785) 296-7359.
Ronald Ryckman (R-Meade) was elected to his second term as House Representative for the 115th District this November. The 115th District includes southern portions of Dodge City, western Ford County, all of Gray, Clark and Meade Counties, as well as a part of Haskell County. When broken down, election numbers show Ryckman earned 64 percent of the Ford County vote and 75 percent of the district vote. Here are his thoughts on the session:
Globe: What are your goals for the session?
Ryckman: We need to work together to be fiscally responsible for our state while making it easier for farmers and businesses to succeed and expand their business to grow our state’s economy. I will stand up for family values, cutting spending and taxes, and regulations to help Kansas get back on the road to recovery.
Globe: What are you working on within your appointed committees?
Ryckman: I am working on legislation to save our state around $1 million a year on Medicaid Estates Recovery by expanding the time for the State to recover money from six months to a year. I believe this bill will come up in the Judiciary Committee of which I am a member. I am also the vice-chair of Transportation and member of the Utilities and Telecommunications committee.
Globe: When we talked in November, you mentioned concerns with ObamaCare and Medicaid. Are you still concerned with those programs? What changes would you like to see?
Ryckman: I still have concerns with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as the ACA or Obamacare that was passed by Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2009. On June 28, 2012 the Supreme Court upheld the Individual mandate as Constitutional as a tax. The Court also said the federal government cannot use the threat of withdrawing all current Medicaid funding to coerce Kansas into adding the additional 150,000 people to its Medicaid rolls.
With the federal government budget problems, I question how will it will fulfill its commitments on ACA and Medicaid reform.
Kansas has not had a comprehensive Medicaid reform for over 45 years and state spending on Medicaid alone has increased over $400 million in just a few years and totals $2.8 billion when federal dollars are combined with state funds. The Administration’s plan for reforming the state’s Medicaid system is called KanCare. The reform plan is based on three criteria — improving quality of care, controlling costs, and creating long-lasting reforms. Time will tell if it succeeds.
Globe: What can southwest Kansans expect from you during this session? Anything different from your previous term?
Page 3 of 3 - Ryckman: I plan to keep the people in southwest Kansas informed on the issues and welcome their input. We have many challenges and I want Kansas to be the best place to work and grow a family.
If you would like to contact Ryckman during the session about these or any issues or to receive his legislative email update, send an email to email@example.com or call at (785) 296-7644.