Thank you for your dedicated service on behalf of our community! The City of Lawrence has a long history of working closely with our Douglas County legislative delegation on issues of mutual concern in Topeka. Please carefully consider the Lawrence City Commission’s 2019 legislative priorities set forth below.
Support for Home Rule and Local Control
The City of Lawrence strongly supports the Home Rule Authority of Kansas cities granted directly by the people of this State through an amendment to the Kansas Constitution. Locally elected officials are accountable to voters for the decisions they make on behalf of their communities. The Kansas Legislature should not erode Home Rule Authority.
The City strongly supports funding for the construction of the western leg of the South Lawrence Trafficway/K-10 expansion. The City does not, however, support the use of a toll road as a means to fund this expansion. Funding to expand the lanes and improve the safety of at-grade intersections should be identified.
The City of Lawrence supports full restoration of KDOT funding and appreciates legislative efforts in 2018 that partially restored funding for state highway projects. 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. The last increase in funding for this program was in 1999 – nearly twenty years ago.
City and University Relationships
The City will collaborate with and support both the University of Kansas and Haskell Indian Nations University on their legislative issues and agendas. The City supports increased state funding for higher education in Kansas. Investment in higher education is investment in Kansas cities. Aging infrastructure and buildings on state and federal college campuses should be supported by renewed investment, improvements and facility upgrades where needed.
State Support for Affordable Housing Initiatives
The City of Lawrence has identified access to safe and affordable housing and neighborhoods as a strategic goal of the City. The City is currently pursuing various strategies to fund and find solutions to affordable housing in the Lawrence community. However, affordable housing is not just a City of Lawrence issue. The State should partner with Kansas cities to study the problem and find solutions and tools for cities to use.
Local Taxing & Spending Decisions Should be made by Local Officials
The City Commission joins the League of Kansas municipalities in supporting the repeal of the property tax lid imposed on municipalities. Local elected officials should determine the appropriate spending and taxing policies of their respective communities. If the tax lid cannot be repealed, the City of Lawrence supports removing the election process under the tax lid and replacing it with a protest petition. We also support additional exemptions to make the law more workable.
Sales Tax Fairness
The recent United State Supreme Court decision in the case of South Dakota v. Wayfair, Inc. et al., has opened the door for state collection of remote sales taxes. The City of Lawrence supports state legislation to establish a program for statewide collection of state and local sales and compensating use taxes due from in-state purchasers. Remitted taxes should be distributed using existing methods and formulas for the state and local governments. Such legislation will bring tax fairness to our local businesses.
State Sales Tax
The City of Lawrence does not support raising the state sales tax rate.
Alternative Property Valuation
Big box retailers have challenged local appraisers’ methods of assessment for property tax valuations. Commercial properties should be appraised at their highest and best use. The City of Lawrence supports legislation requiring the Kansas Board of Tax Appeals to consider the three proven methods of valuation – cost minus depreciation, sales comparison and income when determining a property’s true value.
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 municipal services 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.
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 – BTBC
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. State and local partnerships of this kind are vital to the growth of our economies.
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 and retain qualified employees. The City of Lawrence supports full funding of the KPERs and the KP&F retirement systems, taking into consideration the ability to pay and other matters of local concern.
The City of Lawrence supports allowing cities to make their own decisions regarding growth through annexation. We oppose legislation that limits local elected officials’ decision-making authority regarding annexation.
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 PACE legislation 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.
The City of Lawrence encourages legislation and programs that encourage our citizens, businesses, and local governments to invest in energy efficiency improvements.
Mental Health Issues & Expansion of Medicaid
State funding for community based mental health services must be restored and expanded to address the growing need for these vital services. Cuts to grant funding for the Community Mental Health Centers across the State of Kansas should be immediately restored. The City of Lawrence supports Medicaid expansion in Kansas and urges the Legislature to restore the Medicaid reimbursement rates that were previously cut.
Funding for the Arts
State funding for the arts is important. It was short-sighted of the Legislature to eliminate State funding for the arts, and we ask that the funding be restored. 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 Children’s Initiative Fund (CIF) was created in 1999 to fund programs devoted to early child development and education. The CIF receives annual payments from the Master Tobacco Settlement Agreement. In recent years, CIF funds have been swept into the State General Fund. The City of Lawrence opposes transfers from the Children’s Fund to the State General Fund.
AMTRAK Rail Service & Intercity Transit
The City of Lawrence supports existing and enhanced passenger and freight rail service in Kansas. We applaud the efforts of our Kansas Congressional delegation to encourage Amtrak to retain service on portions of the Southwest Chief Route. We support efforts to expand Amtrak service in the state via the Northern Flyer route. We urge the State to support maintenance of passenger train routes and to 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.
Ad Hoc Committee Report on Bonding Practices, Fines, and Fees in Municipal Courts
An ad hoc committee appointed by the Kansas Supreme Court in 2017 to review bonding practices, fines, and fees of Kansas’ municipal courts presented its findings in September 2018. The City encourages the Legislature to authorize municipal and district court judges to modify mandatory minimum fines when there is sufficient evidence of the defendant’s inability to pay, as the Committee report recommends. The City also supports the Committee’s recommendation that municipal court judges should be able to determine whether a driver’s license should be suspended, rather than having it automatically suspended by law. Losing the ability to drive can have dire consequences on a defendant’s ability to get to and from work, and to handle other critical personal and family obligations. Further, the City supports the recommendation to provide municipal judges with the explicit legal authority to impose nonfinancial conditions on appearance bonds to protect the public's safety and to diminish the discriminatory impact of a money-only bail system on defendants of lesser financial means.