State lawmakers spent most of last week debating and voting on numerous bills ahead of the February 28 house-of-origin deadline. House and Senate committees will begin deliberations this week on bills that have passed the other chamber. Below is an update on bills important to the livestock industry.
     Property taxes on agricultural land - SB 178, which would make dramatic changes to the methodology of appraising agricultural land for property tax purposes, remains alive for consideration this session. The bill is estimated to increase the assessed statewide valuation of agricultural land from $1.7 billion to $9.74 billion and raise property taxes by more than 500%. SB 178 may be scheduled for a hearing by the Senate Committee on Assessment and Taxation in the coming weeks. KLA is opposed to SB 178.
     Sales tax on farm machinery - A bill recently was introduced that would repeal the sales tax exemption on farm machinery and equipment, repair and replacement parts, and labor costs for repairing farm machinery and equipment. A hearing on SB 264 by the Senate Committee on Assessment and Taxation is expected before the end of this session. KLA opposes SB 264.
     Sales tax on utilities - A second sales tax bill was introduced, which would impose sales tax on gas, electricity, heat and other fuel sources used by agriculture. The bill, SB 261, also would tax the sales of utilities for residential use.
     Augmentation to remedy impairments - The House passed a KLA-supported bill last week that would allow the chief engineer to use water augmentation to remedy cases of impairment of senior water rights. HB 2059 was introduced because the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service filed an impairment claim on its senior water right in the Rattlesnake Creek basin that threatens a majority of water users upstream. The bill also would require the chief engineer to notify the groundwater management district (GMD) if an unlawful diversion of water occurs. If the diversion occurs outside a GMD, the chief engineer would be required to notify adjoining landowners. A similar augmentation bill, SB 52, also has passed the Senate.
     Mitigation of watershed dams - The House has passed a bill that would authorize the Kansas Department of Agriculture’s State Conservation Commission to acquire and administer conservation easements necessary for the mitigation of new dams sponsored by watershed districts. KLA supports HB 2061.
     Veterinary Training Program for Rural Kansas - Current law authorizes the College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University to provide forgivable loans for new students who agree to practice veterinary medicine full time in a Kansas county with a population of less than 35,000. The program provides up to five new, four-year scholarships each year. This program, by law, is scheduled to terminate July 1, 2016. The House passed HB 2364 last week to extend the program beyond that deadline. KLA supports the bill.


KLA Communications Program Manager Scarlett Hagins says the first step in enhancing the beef checkoff was taken earlier this month when NCBA members voted to support a memorandum of understanding developed by eight industry groups.