Kansas Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act
I would like to preface my remarks with compassion for any woman who has undergone an abortion - no one knows what she was told, what she was led to believe, and the pressure she was under or the coercion she was experiencing.
In addition, science has given us much more information and evidence than was available forty years ago. In the not too distant past, the unborn child was often called "a blob of tissue." Now technology shows us the human life that exists through ultrasound imaging, the development, growth and movement of the child - stretching, yawning and kicking. He or she is an independent member of the species homo sapiens, male or female at the moment of existence, with unique human DNA.
For years, I worked hard on encouraging legislation that would ban the horrific procedure of dismemberment abortion. On Thursday, the Senate considered a bill that would protect unborn children from that procedure which, as U.S. Supreme Court Justice Kennedy described, "the fetus in many cases, dies just as a human adult or child would: it bleeds to death as it is torn from limb from limb."
This particular method is currently used in around 8 percent of abortions performed in Kansas, - that is approximately 600 lives a year. It is a barbaric procedure used in the second trimester on a living human being.
The "Unborn Child Protection from Dismemberment Abortion Act" or SB 95 is ground breaking, first-in-nation legislation. For fair press coverage of the debate on the Senate Floor see the following: http://tinyurl.com/l7fljdm
Even those who advocate for abortion should be able to see the need to ban this gruesome procedure. We must protect the life of those who cannot yet speak for themselves. We do not even treat animals in such a manner.
The bill, co-sponsored by 25 Senators, passed on a final action vote of 31-9. I voted yes. The bill
will now go to the House for consideration. If you wish to get involved in this issue, I urge you to contact your representative in the House to let them know how you feel about SB 95.
Alcohol and Tobacco Taxes
During his State of the State address, the governor made mention that he would find ways to cover the state's $600M shortfall project for the upcoming fiscal year. To do so, he introduced a bill that would increase taxes on the sale of tobacco and alcohol products. HB 2306 was introduced last week and the House Committee on Taxation held two days of hearings Wednesday and Thursday of this week.
The governor proposed almost tripling the sales tax on cigarettes from 79 cents to $2.29. He also wants to increase the taxes paid on beer, wine and liquor from 8 percent to 12 percent. The Kansas Department of Revenue estimates the sales tax increase will bring in around $212 million over two years, though this number has been disputed by opponents. If passed and signed into law, the tax increase would begin in July 2015. Legislators who live near the state-line are nervous consumers will travel to other states to buy their products, losing on additional sales tax all together.
At this point, I do not envision supporting any effort to raise these taxes.
Rural Opportunity Zones
This week the Senate Committee on Assessment and Taxation held hearings on SB 187, which extends the Rural Opportunity Zone (ROZ) program.
You might recall that in his first year in office, the governor proposed the plan which was adopted by the Legislature to create ROZs throughout the state. The program was adopted in an effort to attract new industry, jobs and residents to certain counties that suffer from a decline in population and high poverty rates. Recent graduates who apply for the program, and accepted, are eligible to receive up to $3,000 per year for student-loan repayment; and, for those from outside the state, they can receive a five-year state income-tax exemption. Since then, 77 counties have been designated as a ROZ territory.
Since its inception, like many incentive programs, the ROZ issue has been somewhat controversial. While many taking advantage of the program see a direct benefit and encourage the expansion of these programs, others argue the state should be eliminating special provisions and making an effort to leave the tax base as broad and low as possible. I am also concerned that by making the program extend to so many areas, it weakens our ability to measure its success and end up negatively impacting the few counties who are not eligible for the program.
This general argument will rest at the core of many of the debates we have this year regarding tax policy. SB 187 will allow the program to continue in an effort to promote rural Kansas employment. If SB 187 is not adopted, the ROZ program will end on July 1, 2016. The hearing took place on Tuesday. The committee has not scheduled any further action but the bill is exempt from next week's impending deadline.
Scrap Metal Theft Reduction Act
With Kansans seeing a continued increase in scrap metal theft over the last decade, especially with copper, Senator Mike Petersen (R-Wichita) crafted a proposal that garnered broad support. Senate Bill 11 (SB 11) establishes the "Scrap Metal Theft Reduction Act" by giving the Attorney General additional jurisdiction and enforcement powers with regards to scrap metal thefts. The bill would establish a fee fund that allows scrap metal dealers to be licensed with an annual registration fees ranging from $500 - $1500. SB 11 would also establish a database to regulate the scrap metal sales, and would establish civil penalties. The information from the database would help track scrap metal theft. A scrap metal dealer would be required to photograph the seller and any regulated items being sold. The dealer would then keep the photographs and transaction record to be turned into the database. The data collected would be confidential and only released to law enforcement officials with authorized uses. Civil penalties would be set by the Attorney General and would range from $100 - $5,000 for each violation of the act made by a scrap metal dealer. Those who commit the crime of scrap metal theft would face a minimum of 2 ½ years behind bars.
SB 11 passed out of the Senate unanimously with a vote of 40-0. I voted yes.