Capitol Update: Rep. Esau details work on property tax effort, stance on Value Them Both amendment

Rep. Charlotte Esau. Photo courtesy Rep. Charlotte Esau.

Each legislative session, we provide Shawnee Mission area legislators the opportunity to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Charlotte Esau, Rep. Nancy Lusk and Sen. Pat Pettey are scheduled to send updates this week. Rep. Esau’s column is below.

I serve on the House Transportation and Public Safety Budget Committee, where we’ve now heard and worked budgets for the Kansas Board of Indigents’ Defense Services, Abstracters Board of Examiners, Board of Technical Professions, Kansas Commission on Peace Officers’ Standards and Training, Emergency Medical Services Board, Kansas Bureau of Investigation, Kansas Sentencing Commission, Kansas Adjutant General, Kansas Highway Patrol, Kansas State Fire Marshal, and this week we will hear and work budgets for the Kansas Department of Corrections and Kansas Department of Transportation. All of our committee recommendations are then presented to the House Appropriations Committee where they can accept them as presented or make amendments.

Speaking of KDOT, I am excited to tell you about a new feature on their front page. The last time Secretary Lorenz was in our committee giving an update, I mentioned it might be good if citizens had a way to report road issues as they come across them. They took my idea and had it live two days later! Check it out next time you discover one of those pesky potholes that appear to reproduce overnight! The link is the orange cone you’ll see on the front page at ksdot.org. I know that waiting for the scheduled repairs on I-435 is frustrating but at least we have a way to report those potholes quickly! (Also, if you know someone who is looking for work and might be interested in a job with this department, they are always hiring.)

On another subject, several Johnson County legislators and I have been working to find a way to bring tax relief to homeowners who have seen rapidly escalating property values along with mill levies remaining the same or increasing with the result that their property taxes quickly grow beyond their planned home budgets. This hits low income and fixed income folks especially hard, so we’ve introduced the Taxpayer Relief Act in House Bill 2668. The bill is still in the early stages of being considered by the House Taxation Committee. That committee has also passed out bills I’m watching closely, including raising the personal exemption for Kansas tax filers and allowing Kansas filers to choose to itemize even if they do not do so on their federal return. How these will all get through the process is yet to be determined but I remain hopeful we’ll see progress.

As you can see, there is a lot going on in committee work this time of year. The headlines of course say otherwise, that everything in Topeka is at a standstill while we work to resolve two very important issues: protecting Kansans from paying for elective abortions with their tax dollars via Medicaid and ensuring that reasonable safeguards remain in regard to abortion clinics. There are some misconceptions regarding the Value Them Both constitutional amendment, so let me close with this: A yes vote does not ban all abortions. It does not impose any additional restrictions we didn’t already have before last year’s Kansas Supreme Court ruling. It simply says we will let the people vote. Your voice matters on this and I want all of you to have the opportunity to voice it in August.

If you’re at the Capitol, stop in and say hello. It is an honor to represent you this year in the Kansas House of Representatives.