Unfit by any standards, legislators run amok
The Kansas City Star
Your Senate on steroids
The Kansas Legislature has made many jaw-dropping moves these last few months, but a Senate vote this week leaves us especially agog.
By a 25-14 vote, senators agreed to eliminate property taxes for many of the state’s private gyms and health clubs.
Seriously. The state that can’t figure out how to balance its budget after binging on income tax cuts last session is now contemplating an additional tax break to a special group of businesses, at a cost of around $4 million a year.
The move is another flagrant show of disregard for local governments and school districts, which would also lose property tax dollars.
So why did 25 senators, all Republicans, think it was so important to help the fitness industry?
The official reason: It’s only fair. Nonprofit rec centers and YMCAs get tax exemptions, so their competitors should also.
That’s completely bogus. Community recreation centers and YMCAs serve multiple civic-minded purposes and often discount services for senior and low-income citizens. Lawmakers know they aren’t obligated to put private health clubs on an equal footing.
The actual reason surely has more to do with the $45,000 in campaign contributions that a part owner of Genesis Health Clubs in Wichita passed around to Senate Republicans in last year’s campaigns.
The House must put a stop to this craven piece of legislation. As for the Senate, the new conservative majority has lost any standing to lecture Kansans about the need for fiscal responsibility.
Buttinskys strike again
For a Legislature that can’t figure out how to fund state government, the Kansas House and Senate have no inhibitions about telling others how to do their jobs.
Both chambers have now passed a bill instructing the University of Kansas Medical Center to establish a center devoted to advancing stem cell research — or at least the forms of stem cell research deemed acceptable by anti-abortion lawmakers.
Normally hospitals start up new programs after extensive analysis and planning. But Kansas lawmakers apparently think they are better qualified than hospital administrators to determine research and medical priorities.
In mandating the creation of a “Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center” (yes, the Legislature has even dictated the name) lawmakers proposed no new funding for the university medical center.
Officials said such a center would require more than $1 million to set up, and about $750,000 a year for operating expenses. No problem, legislators said. The university could raise that in grants and gifts. Never mind that the medical center is looking at a possible budget cut from the state of 2 to 4 percent.
That, people, is called an unfunded mandate. Lawmakers despise those, unless they are doing the mandating.
Enjoy that ham now
The neighboring lawmakers in Jefferson City have actually been working rather diligently on matters like the state budget.
But you know a few dubious actions are going to seep out.
This week, the House approved an agricultural bill which, among other things, would exempt livestock farmers from any new state or local laws or regulations.
It’s very curious to contemplate the state passing a law that allows farmers to not follow future state law. But more seriously, this is an infringement on the authority of local communities to protect the qualify of life of all citizens.
A resolution calling for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the “right to farm” is also working its way through the legislature. According to a report from one of the sponsors, Rep. Jason Smith of Salem, this is needed to protect Missouri farmers.
Smith added: “The next time you sit down for dinner with your family to enjoy a juicy steak or a succulent ham, imagine what things would be like if the radical animal rights groups had their way — they want to take the food off your table and out of the mouths of your family.”
That would be bad, we agree. But no industry should be given a free pass from new regulations.