2019 Legislative Policy for the City of Lawrence

Thank you for your dedicated service on behalf of our community! Please carefully consider the Lawrence City Commission’s 2019 legislative priorities set forth below. View a printable Legislative Priorities document here.

The City Attorney’s Office coordinates tracking of legislation and testimony. When testimony is provided, whether in oral or written format, by a city representative, that information will be posted below.

Support of House Bill 124: The Kansas Energy Fairness Act

Lisa Larson letter to Senator Ty Masterson and the Chair of the Senate Utilities Committee

City of Lawrence Testimony:

Support of House Bill 2184: Massage Therapist Licensure Act

Tom Markus letter to Senator Marci Francisco

City of Lawrence Testimony:

Support of House Bill 2135 Regulating Political Signs by Cities and Counties

Lisa Larson letter to Representative Kent Thompson and Committee Members

City of Lawrence Testimony:

Support of Senate Bill 105 Mandating Changes to the Timing of Municipal Elections

Lisa Larson letter to Senator Elaine Bowers Barker and Committee members.

City of Lawrence Testimony:

Support of House Bill 2009 to change Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day

Lisa Larson wrote a letter to Representative Barker and House Federal and State Affairs Committee members.

City of Lawrence Testimony:

Opposition to cuts to Amtrak’s Southwest Chief passenger rail service

Mayor Boley wrote a letter to the Congressional delegation requesting assistance to preserve the Southwest Chief Route in Lawrence in May 2018.

The City of Lawrence signed on to a petition from the Rail Passengers Association supporting existing rail service on July 11, 2018.

City of Lawrence Testimony:

Commercial Property Valuation
In response to an informational hearing on large commercial property valuations from the Senate Assessment and Taxation Committee, the City of Lawrence has provided a letter of concern.

City of Lawrence Testimony:

Expansion of KanCare
In conjunction with the adopted legislative program for 2018, the City of Lawrence has signed on to a letter prepared by the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas which encourages the expansion of KanCare during the 2018 legislative session.

Federal Legislation – Tax Cuts and Jobs Act
The United States House of Representatives recently introduced a large overhaul bill pertaining to many sections of the Internal Revenue Service Code entitled the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  The House Committee on Ways and Means on November 6, 2017 began initial hearings on the legislation.  There are several areas of the proposed act that would impact municipalities.  These include changes to the tax exempt status of some municipal bond issuances and repeal of historic tax credits and new markets tax credits.  Kansas 2nd congressional district Representative Lynn Jenkins serves on the House Ways and Means Committee.  City Manager’s Office staff prepared and sent the attached letter to Rep. Jenkins, detailing the impacts this legislation would have on Lawrence.  Staff will continue to monitor this legislation.

City of Lawrence Testimony:

City and University Relationships

The City of Lawrence will collaborate with and support both the University of Kansas and Haskell Indian Nations University on their legislative issues and agendas.

City of Lawrence Testimony:

Support for Home Rule and Local Control
Locally elected officials are in the best position to make decisions for Kansas cities and are accountable to voters for those decisions. The City of Lawrence strongly supports the Home Rule Authority of Kansas Cities granted to municipalities under Article 12, Section 5 by the Kansas Constitution. Cities and other municipalities have seen local control eroded by the Legislature in measures imposing a tax lid on cities, changing annexation laws, changing conceal carry laws, and moving local elections, to name just a few.

City of Lawrence Testimony:

State Support for State Services: Avoid Shifting State Responsibilities to Local Taxpayers
As the 2017 Legislature works to correct the effects of the 2012 tax cuts, we strongly urge the Kansas Legislature to avoid shifting the State’s responsibility to adequately fund State services to local taxpayers. Reductions in key State funded services ranging from mental health and children’s services to State support for infrastructure programs will have a crippling effect on cities. Failing to adequately fund critical services only shifts the burden to local taxpayers.

Greater Transparency in Legislative Process
The City of Lawrence urges the Legislature to increase transparency in the legislative process. Tax and budget proposals should have adequate public hearings and public notice. Recent sessions have seen the Legislature wait until the eleventh hour to finalize budgets and work bills in the wee hours of the morning – making the legislative process inaccessible to your constituents.

Local Taxing & Spending Decisions Should be Made by Local Officials
The Lawrence City Commission urges the Legislature to remove the tax lid imposed on municipalities. Local elected officials should determine the appropriate spending and taxing policies of their community. The tax lid measures adopted during the 2015 legislative session and the revisions adopted during the 2016 session present unworkable constraints for local governments. A repeal of these tax limits would return budgetary authority to where it should be – local units of government.

City of Lawrence Testimony:

Transportation – Safety and Infrastructure Improvements & Connecting Links Program
The City of Lawrence supports restoring KDOT funding. The City of Lawrence opposes any transfer of the T-WORKS funds to balance the State’s General Fund. State highway funds should be used for highway improvements only. The City-County Highway Fund is essential to maintaining local roads and should be fully funded. The City also supports increasing the amount of State funding which supports maintenance of State highways within city limits. The City of Lawrence encourages increased funding for the connecting links program.

City of Lawrence Testimony:

Transportation Support Submitted to Federal Legislative Delegation:

Identification of Funding for west leg of K-10 Expansion
The City applauds KDOT for the completion of the South Lawrence Trafficway (SLT) in 2016 and encourages the State to fund the four-lane expansion of the west leg of K-10. Now that the four-lane, eastern leg of K-10 has been opened, traffic on the western leg of K-10 between I-70 and Iowa Street has increased. Funding to expand the lanes and improve the safety of at-grade intersections should be identified.

Rail Service & Intercity Transit
This City of Lawrence supports existing and enhanced passenger and freight rail service in Kansas. We support efforts to expand Amtrak service in the state via the Northern Flyer route. The State should also support maintenance of passenger train routes and should explore light rail development in the Kansas City metropolitan area. The City encourages state involvement to help neighboring cities and counties use public transit to reduce traffic congestion on state highways.

Property & Sales Tax Exemptions
The City of Lawrence believes the existing property tax base should be protected and encourages the Legislature to resist any expansion of exemptions from taxation. The city supports the existing definition of machinery and equipment and the exemption should not be expanded. The Legislature should review existing exemptions in order to determine whether they are still appropriate and needed. The City of Lawrence supports current law that exempts local government and public construction projects from sales tax.

Gender and Marriage Equality
The City of Lawrence supports marriage equality in Kansas and opposes any legislation that fails to recognize marriages between two people of the same sex. We also strongly encourage the State to amend the Kansas Act Against Discrimination to prohibit discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.

Alcohol and Liquor Tax Funds Are Critical
The City of Lawrence opposes any efforts to divert the distribution of local alcohol taxes to the State. One-third of the alcohol tax revenues are allocated to the City’s General Fund, one-third to the Special Recreation Fund and one-third goes in the City’s Special Alcohol Fund. Resources in the City’s general fund provide support for a number of city services, while monies deposited in the City’s Recreation Fund provides resources for a number of park and recreation activities. Many local not-for-profit agencies rely on the funds from the City’s Special Alcohol Fund for their programs.

Unfunded Mandates
The City of Lawrence opposes unfunded mandates that take limited local tax dollars to support priorities and needs of state and federal governments. If the Legislature is going to impose new requirements on municipalities, it should provide adequate funding to the municipalities to comply with those requirements.

Biosciences and Technology Business Center
We urge the Kansas Legislature and our local delegation to continue providing support and funding for biosciences and technology development, including support for the BTBC.

KPERS and KP & F Funding
The City’s ability to hire and retain qualified public employees is dependent upon an attractive and well balanced benefit package including the KPERS (and KP & F) retirement programs. Any modifications to the KPERS and KP & F programs should not negatively impact public organizations’ ability to recruit qualified professionals to public service. The State of Kansas must honor its statutory and contractual obligations to ensure that KPERS has sufficient funds to pay the required benefits to the public employees who are participating in the plan.

Sales Tax Fairness
Small businesses are the lifeblood of local communities. The City of Lawrence strongly supports Congressional action to collect mandatory sales taxes on all goods – purchased locally or through the Internet. The Kansas Legislature should urge Congressional action on this key portion of tax fairness. As the Legislature begins to tackle the State’s significant budget shortfalls, it should remember that sales taxes are regressive and place a disproportionate share of the tax burden on the poor, low income, and fixed income elderly citizens of the State. Increases in the state’s sales tax should be avoided.

City of Lawrence Testimony:

Cities must also protect their authority in regards to annexation of property. Cities must have authority to plan for population growth, economic growth, and for infrastructure expansion. The ability of cities to grow is inherent to the ultimate success of annexation powers as they are currently established in state statute. The City of Lawrence opposes further statutory changes that would limit the authority of cities to grow through annexation.

State Funding for K-12 and Higher Education
The Lawrence City Commission urges the Kansas Legislature to provide robust funding for the education of future Kansans – from our K-12 schools to our higher education institutions, particularly including the University of Kansas. Lawrence and the State of Kansas benefits from a strong education system and we urge the Legislature to include education funding among its top priorities and to engage with local communities on legislation regarding local school financing. Lawrence Public Schools have received no new funding since July 1, 2015, during the two-year, block-grant funding formula. Enrollment growth and increased cost of living have led to reductions in teaching positions, programs, and deficit spending that are rapidly depleting cash reserves the school district relies on for cash flow and emergencies. The City urges changes to the school finance formula that meet constitutional requirements for equity and adequacy.

Extending Period of Exemption for Handgun Ban in City Buildings
Lawrence’s 4-year exemption under the Kansas Personal and Family Protection Act expires in 2018, at which time the City must install costly “adequate security measures” in each City building that the City wants to prohibit the carrying of concealed weapons inside of. The law, as currently written, places the City in the untenable position of determining which City buildings are more important than others and therefore warrant the added expense of installing security measures. All City buildings, the employees who work inside, and citizens visiting them deserve a safe environment, and it should be left to the local governing body to determine how to best secure City buildings. We request the law be amended to return these decisions to local governing bodies. In the alternative, we request the exemption period be extended an additional ten years, and for the State of Kansas to appropriate funds to help cities pay for the costly security measures, if they continue to be required by law.

City of Lawrence Testimony:

Liability for Health Care Expenses
K.S.A. 22-4612 was interpreted by the Kansas Supreme Court in 2015 to mean that a law enforcement agency is liable to a health care provider for health care services rendered to an indigent person if the decision to seek medical care is made while the person is in the agency’s custody. This means that any injuries a person suffers before being taken into custody by City officers or injuries otherwise wholly unrelated to the reason for arrest would be the financial responsibility of taxpayers. These costs can escalate quickly. The City urges an amendment to this state statute so that the cost of such health care expenses is not assessed to the local taxpayers.

Renewable Energy & Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) Legislation
The City supports public and private incentives to encourage investment in renewable energy sources. The City supports the goal of having a 20% renewable portfolio for regulated utilities by 2020. We encourage the State to work with cities to pursue manufacturing facilities for wind, biomass, solar and other energy related industries in Kansas. The City also supports legislation introduced in the 2015 session – HB 2350, and the 2016 session – HB 2649, that would allow for the assessment of clean and energy efficient improvements to properties, to be assessed on a parcel’s property taxes over a period of years. Twenty-four states have adopted such PACE legislation. The proposed bill would allow for the creation of local programs that would have no impact on the State budget while increasing energy efficiency statewide.

Mental Health Issues & Expansion of Medicaid
State funding for community based mental health services must be restored and expanded across the State in order to provide for a mental health system that is stretched beyond its ability to provide the right care at the right time in the right place for Kansas citizens. Since 2008, state funding for mental health services has been severely cut. The state’s Mental Health Reform grant is designed to help community mental health centers fulfill their mission as the state’s mental health “safety net.” However, legislators have slashed that grant by 50% since 2008. The City of Lawrence supports the Kansas Legislature committing to investments to close gaps in the continuum of care and restore the over $15 million in grant funding that has been cut from Community Mental Health Centers across the State of Kansas. Expansion of Medicaid would also provide coverage for those who have a mental illness so they can access needed mental health treatment in their communities. The City of Lawrence is in support of Medicaid expansion and restoration of the 2016 cuts to Medicaid reimbursement rates which have negatively affected our local hospital and treatment providers.

Funding for the Arts
The City of Lawrence supports restoration of State funding for the arts. Funding arts initiatives is another form of economic development for the State and municipalities. Research shows the arts industry provides jobs, generates economic activity, produces tax revenue, and enhances a community’s quality of life.

Children’s Initiative Fund
The City of Lawrence opposes reductions in the Children’s Initiative Fund and opposes transfers from the Children’s Fund to the State General Fund. The Children’s Initiative Fund which receives proceeds from a national settlement with tobacco companies, funds programs that benefit children. SB463 was introduced in the 2016 session that would have eliminated this fund and redirected these settlement funds to the Kansas general fund. An editorial which appeared in the April 24, 2016 edition of the Lawrence Journal World, called this a “Desperate Step.” The City agrees with this assessment and urges the legislature to protect this fund from further cuts.

HUD Housing and Community Development Funding
The City of Lawrence supports HUD funded housing and community development programs and opposes the threatened elimination and/or major cuts to these programs in 2018 and beyond.

City of Lawrence Testimony: