Just in time for Valentine's Day! It's bills I LOVE.
1. SB 109 The No, You Can't Use My Money to Demand More Act
This bill essentially outlaws using public money for lobbying, and if it had a Valentine's Day box on its desk, I would hand it my biggest, prettiest, most heartfelt ode to love.
I've long been disgusted by the sheer amount of my money lobbyists use to demand even more money. It's a close race between the Kansas Association of School Boards and the League of Kansas Municipalities. Good luck finding a single instance in which either of these entities lobbied for less spending on anything.
I have to put a death grip on my gag reflex when either organization suggests they are lobbying on behalf of the children (yeah, right!) or on behalf of the citizens of <insert City here>.
The estimable Bob Weeks, a libertarian-leaning blogger from Wichita has written fairly extensively about the topic here. (Below Weeks' text, there are links to some testimony on the bill. Check it out.)
2. HB2023 The Buh-bye Instant Money for Liberal Causes Act
This bill eliminates payroll deductions for union political activities. As has been mentioned in other places, when the state of Kansas is your boss, the representatives of the people -- those in the KS Senate and House -- get to set paycheck rules. If they don't want to payroll deduct things like union dues or political donations, that's their choice. Public employees need to learn that they work for us. Teachers, firemen, policemen; I am your boss, and if you want to donate your money to political causes, knock yourselves out, but do it on your own time. Thanks. This column on the topic sums it up well.
3. SB 143 and 151 (and some concurrent resolutions) Term Limits, Baby! Act
These bills would limit the terms of legislators and Kansas' Congressional delegation and other statewide officers.
You'll note the virtual radio silence on the matter. I'm certain if you check out the most recent legislative updates from your Senator, they aren't mentioning it. And I'll tell you why: Once in power, people like to stay there. Unfortunately, remaining a normal, reasonable person with the full use of faculties after a few years in office is almost impossible. Power is seductive and corrupting. This is no secret. But individually legislators do not believe they are or can be corrupted. They are kidding themselves. I have yet to meet an elected official who has served more than about 10 years who hasn't "grown" in office. (That is not a compliment.) What's worse is they stack the deck making it very, very difficult for newcomers to challenge them. (I could write a novel on the topic, and maybe some day I will, but that time is not today.)
This legislation will likely not see the light of day. It may be whispered about in dark offices, and applauded by grassroots activists, but if you read about these bills anywhere else, I'll be surprised.
Just in time for Valentine's Day! It's bills I want to push off a cliff:
1. HB 2054 The We Hate Strippers Act
This bill seeks to regulate pole dancing clubs. I'm not a fan of stripping, but they are conducting legal business under the rules that currently exist. They are employing people that we would likely otherwise be forced to subsidize.
Why this bill was granted a hearing (AGAIN -- I think this is the second time in three or four years similar legislation has made the rounds) I will never, ever understand.
Some of the testimony in support of the bill was compelling. For example an ex-stripper Caroline Germann said she was a vulnerable girl in a club in which the bouncers did nothing to protect her.
But it's hard for me to feel sorry for someone in that situation. She wasn't forced into stripping. We can never write enough laws to protect people from harming themselves. It's just not possible.
Thankfully, Brett Hildebrand, a pretty cool cat from Merriam, made several good points about the consequences of regulating strip clubs. Andy Marso wrote a story (that didn't make me feel all shaky and angry) about the hearing here.
2. SB 119 The Legislators are Humanitarians and Deserve Special Privileges Act
This bill protects the full-time jobs of legislators. Sen. Greg Smith, of whom I am a big fan, introduced this bill. When I heard it, my first thought was, "Oh no he di'nt." But yes, yes he did.
The legislation sort of mimics federal rules that require employers to retain the jobs of military men and women who are deployed.
Serving as a legislator and serving in the military are not the same things. Both are volunteer roles (kind of) but in the military once you sign off on that dotted line, your life is no longer your own. You may be deployed (and into combat where the consequences could be death) with little warning. The perks of military life include low pay, and very few steak dinners and basketball tickets from lobbyists.
I would hope there is a benefit to employers for having an employee who serves in the legislature, and I agree that our current system in Kansas makes it very difficult for anyone who isn't a retiree to serve. However, giving another special perk to politicians is out of the question for me.
If you want to run for office, find a job that allows you to do both. The end.
3. HB 2022 The Taking the Risk Out of Running a Business Act
This bill would allow employers to deduct funds from employee paychecks for loans, overpayment or broken or damaged equipment.
Rep. Ron Ryckman introduced this piece of legislation and it was all adorable when his father, who also serves in the Kansas House asked the first question about it. But I do not care for this bill.
Here's the deal: When you start a business, and I have, there are some risks involved. You may purchase uniforms or software for an employee who disappears or stops showing up for work. And now, you're stuck paying for it. It is no fun.
But there are risks in business. There are also great rewards. There is no way to legislate away the risks of hiring an employee. (It's kind of similar to how legislators can't legislate away the risks of unprotected sex. There are powers at work in both cases that are kind of above their paygrade, if you will.)
I am no longer a renter, but I remember regularly having a significant portion of my rental deposits being kept for "carpet cleaning" or whatever. I never fought to keep the funds, but I always thought that was kind of a joke. Whenever I moved out of a place, I did everything short of spit-shining the floors prior to handing over my keys. What they were charging me for was regular wear-and tear. (And now as a landlord, I will never keep a rental deposit unless they've punched holes in the wall or done something really egregious, because I think it's immoral.) I am pretty certain my take on rental deposits is an anomaly because I never got all of one back.
I believe there will be similar unintended consequence from this bill. It will mean individuals who are good employees will never see all of their final paychecks again. This is how business sometimes works. Yes, there are honest business owners -- in fact, most of them. I'm largely thinking here of places like Sprint (I'm not calling them bad, but they have an HR department and directives that come from who knows where and the higher ups don't actually see the human side -- they get a spreadsheet with dollars and cents.)
I've gone on too long. Long story short, I think this bill will be bad for workers and in a strange way, the economy. It makes changing jobs more difficult. It will create a disincentive to climbing the corporate ladder, which often requires changing companies. Not cool.
and finally, The Brownback budget: The We'll-Gladly-Take-Your-Hamburger-Today-and-Pay-You-for-It Tomorrow Act
I love the idea of a fairer, flatter tax AND getting rid of tax incentives like the mortgage interest deduction. (I do not believe government should be in the business of incenting or disincenting behavior. Period.) That said, Brownback wants to eliminate the mortgage deduction and then somewhere down the road lower the income tax more. Um. No. Cut spending. Lower income tax rate first, then eliminate the mortgage deduction. I wrote a little bit about it here.
"While I am an adamant fan of a fair or flat tax, my crystal ball is pretty clear on how this particular plan will go down. We'll end up scrapping the mortgage deduction, which make no mistake, will result in a tax increase for the majority of Kansans, and getting blamed for it. Meanwhile, those proposed steps down the ladder to an income tax rate of zero will never materialize. (Write that one down, too, because a few years from now, I want to be able to say I told you so.)"And while we're on the topic, I'm also disgusted by Brownback's proposal to extend a sales tax that is set to expire this year. Gross. Just gross.