Capitol Update: Sen. Mike Thompson talks recent votes on abortion amendment, Energy Choice Act

"The freedom of energy choice is being undermined in many areas around the country, with governments seeking to limit or prohibit the use of natural gas," said state Sen. Mike Thompson in his Capitol Update column. Above, Thompson in a file photo.

Each week, we provide Shawnee Mission area legislators the opportunity to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Lindsay Vaughn, Rep. Susan Ruiz and Sen. Mike Thompson are scheduled to send updates this week.

Below is the submission from Republican State Sen. Mike Thompson who represents District 10.

The Kansas Senate continues at a rapid pace. To date there have been nearly 1,200 bill drafts (legislation requested by Senators or Representatives being written up by the revisors) but, I want to focus on four major items we passed over the past few weeks. I voted “yes” on all of them:

Value Them Both

The people of Kansas will now have the opportunity to affirm “there is no Kansas constitutional right to abortion or to require the government funding of abortion, and would reserve to the people of Kansas, through their elected state legislators, the right to pass laws to regulate abortion.”

That wording will now be on the ballot in August of 2022 thanks to the Kansas Senate adopting the Value Them Both Amendment by a vote of 28-11.  This followed action by the Kansas House, which adopted the amendment by a vote of 86-38. 

I was a strong proponent of the Value Them Both Amendment and encourage the voters to adopt it next August.

Energy Choice Act

As Chair of the Senate Utilities Committee, I was proud to carry the Energy Choice Act on the Senate floor. This legislation preserves the right to use natural gas throughout Kansas.  The vote was 27-10, with all 27 Republicans present voting to pass the bill.

The freedom of energy choice is being undermined in many areas around the country, with governments seeking to limit or prohibit the use of natural gas. This poses a growing threat to the 870,000 households in Kansas who use natural gas and rely on it to heat their homes and water, cook meals for their families, and many other uses. Natural gas is the cheapest form of energy, and its continued availability is essential , and this bill protects the use of natural gas in Kansas.

RELIEF Act

This week was a good week for Kansas taxpayers. Last Tuesday, the Senate adopted the RELIEF Act, providing critical support for Kansas families and businesses, all who have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the ensuing shutdowns and restrictions imposed by the government.  

The major items of the bill include:

  • Beginning with tax year 2020, the bill allows individual income taxpayers the option to take Kansas itemized deductions regardless of whether the standard deduction is claimed for federal income tax purposes.  
  • Clarifies that victims of identity theft would not owe Kansas individual income tax on unemployment compensation that was fraudulently obtained by another individual. It also includes items to assist the state in tracking unemployment fraud.
  • Contains several components fixing issues that resulted in an unintended tax increase on Kansas businesses. These provisions provide “decoupling” of the Kansas and federal tax starting with tax year 2021, thereby providing consistency and certainty going forward for Kansas employers.   
  • Raising the standard deduction, and exempting social security and retirement benefits from income taxes.  

This bill will go to the House of Representatives next for their scrutiny.

Tax Credit Low Income Scholarship Program

The Senate adopted SB 61, which expands eligibility for the Tax Credit for Low Income Student Scholarship Program. Contributors can take a tax credit for providing scholarship funds to students across Kansas. Students would still be subject to the financial caps of the program. Each scholarship is limited to $8,000 and there is a $10 million annual cap on the amount of tax credits available to fund the program. This is a common-sense expansion of the current program.

I have several other bills I am working on that are still being written and will provide information on those measures if I get them finished in time for the bill introduction deadlines.