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Dodge City Daily Globe - Dodge City, KS
  • Delegates talk elections, mortgage fees and EPA regulations

  • Reps. Bud Estes and John Ewy and Sen. Garrett Love came to Dodge City for the second of three planned open forums during the legislative session.
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  • Members of the local legislative delegation were mostly against two bills that would change the municipal election calendar, though Sen. Garrett Love said he is undecided.
    Rep. John Ewy said he has heard "overwhelmingly" that city and school districts were against changing their election calendars to the fall.
    "Until I hear something better, that's where I'm at," Ewy said.
    Likewise, Rep. Bud Estes said the idea stemmed from the eastern part of the state, and that west Kansans did not want the re-arranged voting calendar or make races partisan, a part of SB 211.
    "I think there are two clear sides and I can see both of them," Love said.
    The low rate of voter participation in municipal elections is a problem that needs to be taken seriously, Love said, but "On the other side, there'd be a lot of elections on the ballot."
    "I'm still trying to figure it out and piece those pieces together."
    Coalitions of cities and counties have generally opposed the two bills, citing complications that could arise from longer ballots and principles of "home rule."
    The House bill, which would set municipal elections, including city commissions, school boards and college trustees, to November in odd-numbered years, will likely die despite making it out of committee.
    The Senate bill would tie elections to the federal calendar, and require all races be partisan.
    The delegates also spoke about a Senate bill to repeal the mortgage registration fee, a tax paid primarily to counties when a mortgage is used to purchase property. Counties have been opposed to the repeal, fearing that the lost revenue would lead to increased mill levies, and cities have been concerned that it would remove funding for the Heritage Trust Fund.
    SB 298, which has passed a committee vote, would replace the mortgage registration fee with a transfer fee, and use that new fee to fund the Heritage Trust Fund.
    The original version of the bill "would have been a big burden to put on the counties and I didn't want to do that," Love said. Instead, a transfer fee will be more consistent, expand the tax base and allow for a lower fee.
    "It doesn't make a lot of sense the way we currently do it," Love said, referring to the fact that cash purchases currently do not pay a similar fee.
    Estes said a transfer fee would also be fair to existing homeowners who have already paid the fee compared to a straight repeal. "And it won't take a bite out of anyone."
    When pressed by a member of the audience, the legislators would not say whether or not they would vote to join a multi-state lawsuit against the federal government and the EPA's proposed new rules on carbon emissions.
    Page 2 of 2 - All three said they would have to see the language of a bill proposing such a lawsuit before coming to a conclusion.
    Republicans in Congress, including Sen. Pat Roberts during a recent trip to Victory Electric, have said the rules would increase the cost of electricity by limited the expansion of coal-burning power plants, including the Holcomb plant owned by Sunflower Electric.
    All three delegates on the panel opposed the proposed stiffer regulation of emissions.
    Estes said he believes in the effects of climate change, "but not to the point some people do."
    "Do we need to watch out pollutants? Of course we do," and the U.S. has been making strides in cleaner energy. China, though, has not, he added.
    "I know you have to protect the climate for years to come," Ewy said. "There's a lot of concern for it, but we have to survive, first." He said he is worried what stricter regulations could do to the cost of energy.
    Love said the costs and benefits need to be weighed against not building new "clean coal" power plants, but regarding the most recent EPA proposal, he is against it.
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