Monthly Archives: March 2004
LEGISLATURE REACHES FIRST ADJOURNMENT
First adjournment of the 2004 legislative session arrives in April, with major education issues yet to be decided. The Legislature will reconvene on Wednesday, April 28 for the “wrap-up” or veto session. During this period, the House and Senate will be considering additional budgetary matters and any bills vetoed by the Governor. The veto session is scheduled to last up to ten days then the House and Senate will adjourn for the 2003 session.
HOUSE PASSES “2004 KANSAS PATRIOTIC EMPLOYER ACT”
On Final Action this Thursday the House passed HB 2752 which contained the provisions from a bill I introduced earlier this year (HB 2818) strengthening the penalties against an employer for knowingly employing illegal aliens. The legislation calls for changing the current penalty from a class C non-person misdemeanor ($500 fine, up to one month in jail) to a Class A non-person misdemeanor ($2500 fine, up to one year in jail). The legislation also provides for an additional monetary penalty of $10,000 for each subsequent employer violation. Finally, it also establishes a hotline within the Kansas Attorney General’s office for receiving tips from the Kansas public regarding potential employer violations and redirecting these calls to local authorities for follow-up investigation and possible prosecution.
My intentions in introducing this legislation are three-fold: 1) to protect honest Kansas small businesses who are having to compete on an unlevel playing field, 2) to protect Kansas citizens and legal immigrants with skills in these affected trades from suffering wage erosion and job losses, and 3) to stop the resulting exploitation of illegals who are used in these situations.
I have received complaints from business owners both within and outside my district regarding the ever-expanding use of illegal labor throughout our state. Small businesses, particularly in the residential and commercial building sectors, are being squeezed by an growing number of unscrupulous operators who knowingly employ illegal immigrants typically in an independent contractor relationship and are thus able to provide much lower bids for contractor services.
Businesses that play by the rules are thus unable to keep their existing employees working, let alone expand for new business opportunities. What is the impetus for ANY Kansas business to pay worker compensation insurance and unemployment taxes, let alone fair wages that drive our economy, when no one will hold the “bad apples” accountable for their actions? By providing a practical enforcement mechanism and imposing harsher consequences, this legislation will force those who skirt the law to change their employment practices and better control their subcontractors.
I want to be particularly clear regarding the following points concerning this legislation:
- This legislation is a small business protection bill; it is not an anti-immigration bill.
- The focus is on employers who knowingly employ illegal aliens. This legislation is not intended to entrap employers who unknowingly may have directly or indirectly employed illegals;
- This legislation, if implemented, would not impose any additional administrative or paperwork requirements on businesses;
- This legislation provides a workable method of enforcement that at present is woefully lacking at both the Federal and State level.
KASSEBAUM & REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP EDUCATION PLANS PASS IN HOUSE
On Wednesday, an education funding plan was unveiled by Rep. Bill Kassebaum (R- Burdick). The plan provides a $155.4 million increase in school funding:
- Increases the Base State Aid per Pupil by $100 ($58.5 million),
- Increases the “at risk” student weighting from .10 to .15 in the formula ($27.1 million),
- Increases the bilingual student weighting from .20 to .22 in the formula ($1.2 million),
- Increases special education funding from 82.2 to 100 % ($54.3 million),
- Increases the “Local Option Budget” to 30% / state contribution ($14.3 million).
I feel very positive about this plan as I believe it is a good first step in addressing some of Judge Bullock’s concerns regarding the current school finance formula. The plan was amended into HB 2940 on Thursday and passed in Final Action by a vote of 72 to 52 on Friday. I voted for the bill.
The additional funding is paid for by a two-tenths of a cent increase in sales tax ($90 million in additional revenues) and a 4.5% personal income tax surcharge ($66 million in additional revenues). There are NO state-leveled increases in property taxes.
This week the House also debated the Republican House Leadership’s education funding plan for the State of Kansas. This is the third plan for school finance introduced this session. The plan is termed a one-year stop gap fix. The Republicans are not convinced that the ruling of Judge Bullock, which found the current school finance formula was not fair to all Kansas students, will be upheld by the Supreme Court of Kansas.
The plan provides $28.5 million from existing state resources to increase at-risk and bilingual student funding and a teacher mentor program. Provisions to give local school districts the ability to raise $62.6 million in local property taxes were removed and the plan also allows fifteen districts to further increase property taxes to make up for a higher cost of living. Moreover, the plan does not provide a source for the $28.5 million from state funds.
The plan failed on its final vote on Wednesday, after having been tentatively passed on Tuesday. After the bill’s failure, the bill was brought back for debate. During this time, several amendments were offered to the bill. The first removed the section of the bill allowing local boards to assess the 20-mill levy on the first $20,000 of a home’s appraised value. This amendment passed, taking away a major source of funding for the bill.
Following the changes to the bill, the House passed the bill on a final vote on Thursday. This plan has received widespread criticism from school boards across the state, many maintaining that the bill’s provisions will further current inequalities in schools. I voted against this bill.
HOUSE PASSES BUDGET BILL
The House passed a $10.2 billion “all funds” budget for fiscal year 2005 this week. This budget decreases state spending by two-tenths of one percent. The budget follows many of the recommendations set out by Governor Kathleen Sebelius this January.
The budget provides for the funding of all state programs, excluding education and transportation, which will be debated at a later time. The budget leaves an ending balance of $108 million. The plan also provides state employees with a three percent pay raise. The most striking change in the House’s budget from the Governor’s is in the allocation of funds for early childhood education. The Governor recommended allotting $6.8 million for the statewide expansion of Smart Start programs, which help families that have young children with daycare and parenting education. The House reduced this amount to $4.1 million, adding $2 million for family preservation programs and $200,000 for infant and toddler health. The Senate is expected to pass a budget very soon. The current budget in the Senate is similar to the House plan. When the legislature come back into session in April, a compromise will be reached.
TRANSPORTATION COMPROMISE REACHED
A bill passed by the House this week will ensure that the state’s comprehensive transportation plan will be completed with no project cancellations. Governor Sebelius introduced a plan earlier this session to shore up the highway program and to ensure proper funding throughout the implementation of the plan.
The plan passed this week uses a combination of $150 million in bonds, as well as sales tax revenue to shore up the transportation plan. The plan also relies on an additional $300 million in federal monies to fund the highway plan. The Secretary of Transportation believes this amount of federal aid is over estimated.
A bipartisan agreement facilitated the outcome of this bill. It was passed on a final vote of 119 to 6. I voted in support of this legislation.
BILL TO INCREASE SPEED LIMIT PASSES HOUSE
A bill passed this week in the House increase speed limits on four lane highways in rural areas from 70 miles per hour to 75 miles per hour. This bill would affect speed limits on Interstates 35 and 70.
Economic development has been cited as a reason for such a change. Currently, many travelers supposedly bypass Kansas’s I-70 for Nebraska’s I-80, which currently has a 75 miles per hour speed limit in rural areas. This has allowed many businesses to spring up along I-80, including shopping, restaurants, and service stations. Many believe that this law would bring similar development along Kansas highways.
Under this plan there still exists a 10 mile per hour buffer where speeders’ tickets would only show on their driving record if the speeding violation was 10 mph or greater. I voted against this legislation because I am concerned about the possibility of having 18 wheelers traveling on Kansas interstate roadways approaching speeds of 85 m.p.h.
VICTIMS’ COMPENSATION FUND TO BE EXPANDED
Senate Bill 256 passed the house this week and will expand the victims’ compensation benefits to victims of crimes overseas. The victims’ compensation fund was established to assist victims with expenses that could not be covered by the offender, the federal government, the workers’ compensation system, disability benefits, or some other source.
Jeanette Stauffer, the mother of Shannon Martin, a University of Kansas student who was murdered in 2001 Golfito, Costa Rica, testified before the committee. She and her husband had expenses reaching up to $100,000 after their daughter’s death. Under current Kansas law, crime victims overseas cannot receive benefits unless they are the victim of terrorism, making Shannon Martin’s family ineligible for benefits.
BILL TO “HELP AMERICA VOTE” PASSES HOUSE
A bill was passed this week to put Kansas in compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act. Last session Governor Sebelius vetoed a bill that would put Kansas in compliance with the federal Help America Vote Act, which was passed in response to problems in Florida after the 2000 presidential election.
The governor vetoed the bill last session, because she believed that the bill was more restrictive than required by the federal law, including a provision requiring voters to provide identification to vote. This year’s bill offers a compromise on the identification issue. In this bill, only first time voters would be required to provide identification. Those registering by mail and applying to advance vote by mail could provide a drivers’ license number or the last four digits of their social security number.
There are also concerns about a provision in the bill that would require touch screen voting machines at all Kansas polling locations. This would allow disabled people to cast their vote independently and secretly, which is required by the federal law. Opponents are still leery of paperless voting systems and have concerns regarding security. A second bill was passed that provided resources to help make polling places accessible to disabled people. Both bills were passed this week. I voted for both bills.
REPUBLICAN LEADERSHIP INTRODUCES EDUCATION PROPOSAL
This week Republican Leadership introduced a new plan to fund education in the State of Kansas. This is the third plan for school finance introduced this session. The plan is a one-year stop gap fix. The Republicans are not convinced that the ruling of Judge Bullock, which found the current school finance formula was not fair to all Kansas students, will be up held by the Supreme Court of Kansas. The plan provides $28.5 million from existing state resources to increase at-risk and bilingual student funding and a teacher mentor program. It also gives local school districts the ability to raise $62.6 million in local property taxes and allows fifteen districts to further increase property taxes to make up for a higher cost of living.
The plan does not identify a source for the $28.5 million from state funds and opponents are concerned that the property tax increases will hurt the poorest Kansans. This property tax increase comes from a local school board’s ability to assess the state-wide 20-mill levy for schools on the first $20,000 of assessed value on residential property, which is currently exempt. I believe that the use of property taxes as a major source of education funding will only serve to increase inequities in the formula. I also contend that this plan would not be a viable solution to the current lawsuit against the state.
TRANSPORTATION DEBATED IN COMMITTEE; NEW PLAN INTRODUCED
Work will have to be done this session to ensure that the state’s comprehensive transportation plan is able to be completed with no cancellations of projects. Governor Sebelius introduced a plan earlier this session to shore up the highway program and to ensure proper funding throughout the implementation of the plan.
This plan has yet to be passed out of the House transportation committee to be heard on the House floor. Meanwhile, several other plans have been introduced to address the comprehensive transportation plan. One plan would have allowed for the reinstatement of a sales tax revenue immediately and at a greater amount for highway funds. Opponents of this plan feared that this amount of sales tax being allocated to highways could put other programs in jeopardy.
A plan introduced this week uses a combination of $150 million in bonds, as well as sales tax revenue to shore up the transportation plan. The plan also relies on an additional $300 million in federal monies to fund the highway plan. The Secretary of Transportation believes this amount of federal aid is over-estimated. Opponents of this new plan fear that the reliance on federal funds before those funds have been approved could be detrimental to the highway plan. Revenue estimates on the sales tax transfer to the highway plan also differ between the Governor’s plan and the new plan.
HOUSE REQUIRES FILTER ON LIBRARY COMPUTERS
The House passed a bill last week requiring all libraries in the state to use a filter on computers that blocks pornographic websites. The bill also prohibits libraries from checking out R-Rated movies to minors under eighteen. This bill will now move on to the Senate for debate.
Many librarians are opposed to this bill saying it forces unnecessary regulation on state libraries. Some libraries currently use filter software, provided at no cost by the state library system. Additionally, opponents object to the eighteen year age limit on the renting of R-Rated movies, since minors that are seventeen can currently view R-Rated film in movie theaters. Under an amendment attached in the House, Libraries would not be required to buy a filter unless the state provided the required funding.
HOUSE AND SENATE COMPROMISE ON ENHANCED 911
Because the House and Senate passed different versions of an enhanced 911 (E-911) bill, a compromise was reached in a conference committee this week. E-911 allows emergency dispatchers to locate a caller when called on a wireless phone.
Currently, if a wireless user calls 911, the dispatcher only sees a phone number, not a location, making it difficult to send assistance. Land-line users currently have E911 service. The House bill called for a fifty cent fee to be placed on wireless bills, twenty-five cents going to the local area the user lived in and twenty-five cents going to less populous areas. The Senate bill added an additional twenty-five cents to go to wireless companies. The final compromise allows for a fifty cent fee, with a only a twenty-five cent fee for Sedgwick, Shawnee, Johnson, and Wyandotte counties. Now that a compromise bill has been reached, it must again pass both houses before going to the Governor for approval.
BUDGET BILL PASSES HOUSE APPROPRIATIONS COMMITTEE
The House appropriations committee passed a $10.2 billion budget this week. This budget keeps state spending at the same level as last year and omits budgets for school finance and transportation.
The budget follows Governor Sebelius’s budget recommendations for the most part, with only a few exceptions. The committee did endorse the 3% cost of living increase for state employees, but changed the Governor’s funding plan for Smart Start, a program providing services to parents of children age five and under. The Governor allocated an additional $6.8 million to Smart Start, but the current budget adds $4.3 million plus $2 million for family preservation programs and $500,000 for children’s mental health services.
The budget exceeds the Governor’s original budget by only $1.5 million. It leaves $107 million in cash reserves at the end of the next fiscal year. The Senate Ways and Means committee is expected to vote on a budget proposal next week. Decisions on education and transportation are expected to be made later in the session.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT PACKAGE MOVES THROUGH HOUSE
The House tentatively passed several bills March 18 included in the Governor’s Economic Development Plan. Senate Bill 417, the Rural Business Development Tax Credits, provides for tax credits to be awarded to individuals and businesses that give money to establish regional business development funds. This bill would allow $7 million in tax credits across the state over three years. These funds would provide capital for entrepreneurial efforts in rural communities.
Senate Bill 393 sets up the Kansas Center for Entrepreneurship, which is a resource center ensuring collaboration and efficient use of resources with existing economic development agencies across the state. This center will also manage the Kansas Community Entrepreneurship Fund, which will provide funds to rural and low-income communities for entrepreneurship. The Angel Investment Tax Credit, Senate Bill 480 , was also passed, creating Angel Networks that provide seed and start-up capital for entrepreneurial ventures. Senate Bill 520, also passed, is the Kansas Downtown Redevelopment Act, which promotes, stimulates, and develops downtown areas in low income and rural communities.
Senate Bill 394 makes changes to the IMPACT program, which is funded through state withholding taxes. It gives the Secretary of Commerce the ability to make direct investments in educational and workforce development institutions. It will redirect existing dollars that are currently used to pay the administrative costs of schools into a workforce training trust fund. These funds will then be reinvested in our schools for the purpose of infrastructure, human capital, and training expertise programs.
These bills will have final vote in the House on Friday. If they pass, they will move on to the Senate for debate.
BILL WOULD MAKE RACIAL PROFILING A MISDEMEANOR
A bill being heard in a house committee would make the use of racial profiling by a law enforcement officer a misdemeanor. The bill would create a citizen review board to review complaints made by citizens and would give officers found in violation demerits, or suspend or remove them from service.
This bill would also require law enforcement agencies to report data to the attorney general. Opponents believe that agencies are already addressing the problem, without the added expense and manpower necessary to report to the attorney general. The bill would require that law enforcement agencies set up training and educational programs for officers regarding racial profiling.
The legislature ordered a study on racial profiling in 2003 and the study found that African-Americans are twice as likely to as white people to be pulled over by police. Several other studies have found similar results. Many legislators believe that this statistic makes it imperative to end the practice of stopping people based solely on race.
GOVERNOR’S GAMING BILL WORKED IN SENATE COMMITTEE
The Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee is currently working on the Governor’s Expanded Gaming Opportunity Act. The committee has started making changes to the bill that would increase the share of gaming revenue for horse and dog track owners. An amendment was passed allows the number of slot machines allowed at tracks to be increased from 2.500 to 4,000.
The Expanded Gaming Opportunity act calls for a board that will review proposals for state-owned casinos. State-owned casinos, though owned by the state, would be managed by outside parties, such as developers and tribal groups. The Kickapoo and Sac and Fox tribes have already made a proposal for a resort casino in Wyandotte County near the Kansas Speedway. In their initial proposal, the tribes asked for exclusive rights to a casino in the state. Exclusive rights means that they would be the only group allowed to have a casino in Kansas that is not on a reservation. The Governor and her staff continue to negotiate with the Kickapoo and Sac and Fox tribes. The Woodlands Racetrack has also expressed interest in building a resort casino at their racetrack.
BILL WOULD HELP SUPPORT GRANDPARENTS RAISING GRANDCHILDREN
Bills in both the House and Senate would make low-income grandparents eligible to receive state support for caring for their grandchildren. Currently, grandparents caring for grandchildren can become licensed foster parents and receive the same support other foster parents receive, $608 per month. If they do not become licensed, low-income grandparents can only receive $140 per month from Temporary Assistance for Families.
This bill would allow grandparents to receive 70% of the amount licensed foster parents receive without having to become licensed, about $456 per month. This would be available to grandparents whose incomes fall below 200% of the federal poverty guidelines. This will give many grandparents the financial means to continue caring for grandchildren, keeping families together.
The Senate version of this bill passed this week.
OPEN RECORD BILL STALLED IN SENATE
The Kansas Open Records Act, which provides for public access to all governmental records is currently being reviewed in the Senate Federal and State Committee. The bill H2889 sailed through the House with a final vote of 123-2. However, the Senate Federal and State Committee has been slow to act on the bill. Testimony was heard on March 18 with final work on the bill on March 19, 2004.
Currently there are exemptions to the law that deal with the compensation and employment contracts of personnel at public institutions. All exemptions to open records are slated to expire in 2005 unless the Legislature takes action. The House amended the section on personnel records and made public actual compensation and employment contracts. Also included in the bill is a provision that requires public notification of any donation that is made directly to any public official or employee.
HOUSE CONTINUES SCHOOL FINANCE DEBATE
This week legislators had several opportunities to debate the school finance issue. A property tax bill was amended to include the first year of the Governor’s Education First plan, a $30,000 minimum salary for teachers, and an increase in the standard deduction for married couples filing jointly. An amendment providing the funding for the Governor’s plan failed. The bill failed in final action on Wednesday.
Although the bill failed, many hope that this will open up the debate on school finance and the House can continue to work toward an education funding solution. Additionally, the amendment calling for funding increases provided in the Governor’s Education First Plan did pass the house on a voice vote, despite the bills ultimate failure. This shows a willingness on behalf of the legislators to increase funding to schools.
On Thursday, the House debated an alternate plan for school finance, House bill 2807. This bill locks into place the current system for distributing funds for education at the existing spending levels, including local option budgets, and eliminates at-risk weighting, and low-enrollment weighting.
The bill will then allow local communities the ability to choose a spending level locally and spend to that level, given appropriate support from taxpayers. This bill provides little state control on statewide educational spending and each district will set the level of funding for their district. Opponents of this bill are concerned that it will further increase disparities between wealthy and poor school districts and shift more school tax burden to property taxes. It provides no restrictions on money raised locally through property taxes.
BILL ESTABLISHES CHILD ADVOCACY CENTERS
Child Advocacy Centers across the state will be established with the passing of House Bill 2569. These centers will work to assist children that have dealt with sexual, physical, mental, or emotional abuse. These centers have to meet several criteria, but all non-profit centers meeting those criteria would be eligible for state funding. House bill 2568, also passed this week, provides for the establishment of the Children’s Advocacy Center Fund. This fund would be administered by the Attorney General and would be used to pay for the operations of qualified centers. The fund would receive $100 payments from defendants convicted of a certain crimes where the victim was a minor.
Rep. Jan Scoggins-Waite, former Executive Director of the Crisis Center of Dodge City states ”As one who was integral in getting Meadowlark House Child Advocacy Center started in Dodge City I am thrilled to see this legislation come before the House. Meadowlark House was, as I recall, the third Child Advocacy Center in the State of Kansas and continues to be a vital force in providing services for children in our community. Legislation like this will assist other communities to develop or enhance their Child Advocacy Centers.”
CONCEALED-CARRY WEAPONS BILL PASSES HOUSE
The House of Representatives passed a bill last week to allow Kansans to carry concealed weapons. House bill 2798 passed 78 to 43. The bill will now go to the Senate for debate. The bill allows Kansans to carry a concealed weapon after paying a $150 application fee and passing a background check by the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. Permit holders are also required to complete a firearms safety and training course. After the background check and training, the KBI would issue a permit.
The bill prohibits concealed weapons from many locations, including police stations, prisons, courthouses, polling places, government offices, establishments that serve liquor primarily, schools, and mental health facilities.
In the committee testimony, many rape victims testified in support of this bill. These women currently carry concealed guns illegally to protect themselves. Several amendments were offered for the bill on the house floor. One amendment, which failed, would have allowed cities that currently prohibit concealed weapons to hold a referendum on concealed weapons. If the people voted against concealed weapons, the city would be exempt from the bill.
Another failed amendment would have revoked the permit and weapon of someone found to be carrying a concealed weapon in one of the prohibited locations or a business that has specifically barred concealed weapons. Proponents worried that the amendment did not provide appropriate punishment for people who made violations. Opponents believed that the amendment went too far by taking one’s weapon as well as their permit.
BILL TO DELAY STREAMLINED SALES TAX PASSES HOUSE
This week, the House passed a bill to help businesses comply with the Streamlined Sales Tax passed last session. The bill was amended on the House floor to include a provision allowing for a one-time $1000 tax credit for small businesses to cover the cost of complying with the streamlined sales tax. Another provision added on the floor would have allowed the Department of Revenue to waive interest and penalties for businesses making a good faith effort to comply with the law. A third provision raised the monthly filing threshold, thereby allowing thousands of businesses to file four times a year instead of twelve times as is current practice.
An amendment offered by Rep. Bruce Larkin, of Baileyville, would also allow small businesses, when the law is fully implemented by Congress, to keep 0.5% of sales tax collections to cover collection costs.
Following a lengthy debate, the House passed House Bill 2599 this week, which delays implementation of Kansas’s Streamlined Sales Tax Law until Congress has acted on this issue. The Streamlined Sales Tax Law, which calls for destination-based sourcing has caused some problems for small businesses, causing several legislators to call for its repeal.
Destination-based sourcing requires businesses to charge sales tax based on the point of delivery, rather than the location of the business. This is a complete change in sales tax collection in Kansas. Kansas has joined into the Streamlined Sales Tax Project, the combined effort of 40 participating states and the business community working to establish uniformity among the several states’ sales tax laws.
After last session, Governor Sebelius asked for a moratorium on implementation of the law in order to give businesses time to learn how to comply. At the same time, the Department of Revenue was updating its technology to ease implementation and collection. Software is now available on the Department of Revenue’s website that allows a business to figure sales tax by using an address. Many Kansas businesses have already taken the necessary steps to become compliant with this law.
Also, several large online retailers, such as Amazon.com, Toys R Us, Babies R Us and Target are remitting sales tax on Kansas orders. When fully implemented, the Streamlined Sales Tax law will also assist cities, school districts and the state by capturing an estimated $71 million to $150 million that is lost in sales tax revenue to these out-of-state companies. That is money that could be used to strengthen our schools and provide essential services to Kansans and hold down taxes for Kansas residents.
It is expected that the implementation delay will fail in the Senate, as many Senators have expressed their support for streamlined sales tax.
MARRIAGE AMENDMENT PASSES HOUSE
The House passed a concurrent resolution this week seeking an amendment to the Kansas Constitution. This amendment defines marriage to only include one man and one woman. There is currently a statute in the books that states the same thing, yet several courts in other states have ruled similar laws unconstitutional. Opponents believe that a constitutional amendment would prevent that from happening in Kansas.
Opponents have stated that amending the constitution is a serious action that should not be undertaken without a clear need. Therefore, we should wait to see what happens in the courts to see if such an amendment is necessary in Kansas.
The resolution received the necessary two thirds majority in the House of Representatives and a two thirds majority is required in the Senate. If it passes both houses, it would be placed on the ballot for Kansas voters to decide. The measure would have to be passed by a simple majority of Kansas voters in order to be added to the constitution.
STATE CAR AUCTION SURPASSES $1 MILLION GOAL
In response to recent findings of underutilized state vehicles by the Department of Administration, Governor Sebelius authorized a sale of state vehicles to both the public and local unit of government. As of this week, this sale has brought in $1,163,123 for the state with the sale of 287 vehicles. A second auction will be held for car dealers will be held March 18 for the sale of an additional 242 vehicles.
Last fall, the Department of Administration audited the state car pool and found that there were 135 state vehicles not being used. The Governor then disbanded the state motor pool, ordered a moratorium on the purchase of new cars, and decided that excess cars would be sold.
BILL INTRODUCED TO RESTRICT USE OF UNDOCUMENTED LABOR
A bill has been introduced in the Commerce and Labor committee by Representative Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, that would toughen current Kansas statutes regarding the employment of illegal immigrants or their use as independent subcontractors. Throughout Kansas, small businesses that employ trained and skilled workers are losing business to unscrupulous subcontractors that hire illegal immigrants as independent contractors. This problem is particularly pervasive in industries including the housing construction, roofing, and plumbing industries and is rapidly spreading throughout the commercial construction sector, as well.
The amendment raises the current penalty from a class C non-person misdemeanor (up to one month imprisonment and a $500 fine) to a Class A non-person misdemeanor (up to one year imprisonment and a $2,500 fine). Any subsequent violations cited for the employer would result in an additional fine of $25,000. This bill also establishes a hotline within the Attorney General’s office that would be able to accept tips from Kansans about businesses using undocumented labor.
Proponents believe that this will increase success for law abiding businesses and remove the unfair advantage those employers with undocumented workers have. This amendment would also help prevent employers for exploiting undocumented workers and paying them sub-standard wages. Many have expressed concern that major industries in the state have opposed the proposal.
A related bill offered earlier in the session by Rep. Nile Dillmore, of Wichita, stipulates that any business found to have employed illegal aliens would be prohibited from receiving contract work with any level of government in Kansas for a five year period. Additionally, the legislation includes a clawback provision which would result in the loss of any tax incentives or abatements for those employers for five years and would require that money already received from the state be repaid. This legislation was opposed by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce & Industry.
IN COMMITTEES THIS WEEK…
Ethics and Elections – The committee is holding hearings on Senate Bill 479, which changes Kansas Election Law to make Kansas compliant with the Federal Help America Vote Act of 2002. Kansas must become compliant with this law in order to receive federal funds for elections. The committee rejected accessibility amendments requested by disability advocacy organizations.
Tourism and Parks – The committee will be hearing Senate Bill 334 regarding agritourism. Economic Development- The committee had hearings this week on Senate Bill 520, establishing the Kansas Downtown Redevelopment Act. Corrections and Juvenile Justice- The committee is holding hearings on Senate Bill 422 which provides a life sentence without parole as an alternative to the death penalty. They are also holding hearings on House Bill 2439 redefining metal retardation for death penalty cases.
Judiciary- The committee is holding hearings on Senate Bill 460 which prohibits the use of taxpayer identification numbers for receiving drivers’ licenses. They will also hold hearings on Senate Bill 256 which provides victims compensation for Kansans that were victims of crime outside of the United States.