Icy conditions deterred some local city officials from attending the regional dinner for the League of Kansas Municipalities Thursday at Marion Community Center.
Council members Todd Heitschmidt, Jerry Kline, Jerry Dieter, and Mayor Mary Olson attended the meeting, as well as Goessel Mayor Dave Schrag, and other representatives from cities in the north central district of the league.
The League of Kansas Municipalities is a group made up of city leaders throughout the state that lobbies in the interest of communities across Kansas.
Before the meeting, Olson, interim city administrator Roger Holter, and Dieter discussed the workings at the state capitol with Rep. John Barker. He said he believes one of the issues to be brought up before state officials during the next session will be taxing farm ground.
“Right now a person with a $500,000 house pays substantially more than someone who owns farmland worth $500,000,” he said. “It will be a good and bad issue for Kansans, but with a governing body made up mostly of Johnson County or big city people, they don’t understand how that could hurt farmers and see it as unfair.”
He said he can see both sides. Raising taxes might deter out-of-state corporations or citizens from buying premium farm ground at inflated prices for hunting property. On the other side, farmers who make a living off the land would pay substantially more in property tax.
“It’s one of many things, but I can guarantee it will be at least discussed,” he said.
When asked what other issues he thought would be brought up by government leaders, Barker said, “If I had a crystal ball I’d tell you.
“It’s hard to tell what could or could not come up,” he said. “Sometimes when you’re sure things will come up, they don’t and sometimes things you don’t expect become the heated topic.”
Rep. Don Schroeder was also in attendance. Officials from congressman Tim Huelskamp and Jerry Moran’s offices were unable to attend.
At the dinner, Director of LKM Don Moler outlined issues that might come up at the next legislative session in January.
He said five major items are outlined in this year’s league agenda, opposing any restriction between state and local governments, opposing any change to local elections, keeping tax decisions at the local level, and urging Congress to take action to implement the mandatory collection of sales tax for Internet sales, and allow local governments to divide the tax money how they see fit, not the state.
“When we testify, we try to give the big picture and educate people to the big impact these issues could have for communities,” Moler said.
He said one of the biggest issues that may come up in Topeka is to change local elections from April to November to coincide with national and state elections during odd years.
“Yes, voter turnout is low, but usually people that vote in those elections are informed about issues,” Moler said. “So it’s OK that turnout is lower because people are making a more informed vote.”
If the vote is moved, all candidates, even at local levels, will have to declare a political party in order to run.
“This would be detrimental for local elections,” Moler said. “Local leaders and school officials should not be chosen based on political party. Voter turnout is not something that should be traded for all the downfalls of a voting process that has been in practice since Kansas became a state.”
Moler also advised those attending that issues dealing with the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System or KPERS, and open-carry gun laws would also be discussed in the next legislative session.
“These things have come up during the last session and we can probably look forward to them coming up again and when they do we want to know what to do about them and that’s what the league does,” Olson said. “I personally don’t think all their views fit ours all the time but when we need guidance and they provide that.”