Daily Archives: May 8, 2009

House approves Senate’s proposed tax changes

TOPEKA – In a nail biter vote, the House narrowly approved a tax bill Friday night that nets the state $61 million through a variety of means.

The Senate substitute for House Bill 2365 passed 65-56 with little debate. A bill needs 63 votes to pass the House. The measure now goes to the Senate for concurrence.

The package is the final piece of the budget solution lawmakers cobbled together to close a $328 million budget gap. Both the tax bill and the budget bill, which included a 2.75 percent cut to most government agencies, came from the Senate and passed through the House with no changes.

The tax package would:

Waive penalties to get delinquent taxpayers to pay up about $35 million in back taxes.

Shorten the time people can file for sales tax and use tax refunds from three years to one year, to bring in about $13.7 million in fiscal 2010.

Suspend a tax credit for film production companies working in Kansas for two years, netting $1 million each year.

Decrease other tax credits 10 percent for two tax years to save $9.2 million in the next fiscal year.

Lawmakers are working toward adjournment, and with this vote that is more likely to happen tonight. Most of the measures that are left are important but of a less critical nature.

Fire alarm in the Statehouse – that’s one way to stop the debate

TOPEKA – Just when you think things at the Capitol are dragging, life gets interesting.

The House was in the middle of debating a procedural point – essentially arguing if they could or could not re-debate a measure allowing law enforcement to pull people over for not wearing a seat belt – when the emergency lights started flashing and klaxon blaring.

Rumor is a fire alarm triggered on the first floor of the Statehouse, but it could easily be a false alarm or dust kicked up from the renovation construction.

In the House at least, most people’s first reaction was to wait and see if the alarms such off. Then lawmakers started to slowly wander out.

Even in an emergency, the rules must be followed. Just before leaving, House Speaker Rep. Mike O’Neal, R-Hutchison, declared the House in recess.

Lawmakers, lobbyists, visitors and even journalists are milling about outside the building while the Topeka Fire Department checks out the alarm.

While the weather is lovely and it’s nice to be out side, this is a somewhat unwelcome disruption. Lawmakers are nearing the end of session, they could adjourn late tonight or early tomorrow.

After a busy night, the Senate is recessed to the sound of the gavel waiting for the House to take action on a handful of bills.

Earlier this morning, the House sent a energy bill to the governor’s desk. The measure way part of a negotiated agreement that allows one coal plant to be built in Western Kansas.

UPDATE: People are starting to trickle back in at 12:45 p.m. and the fire trucks are leaving so everything must have been given the all clear.

Topeka Fire Battalion Chief Ron Hufford said water leaked into a sensor in a construction area on the South side of the building triggering the fire alarm.

At 12:58 p.m., O’Neal gaveled the House back in.