Senators in the Kansas Legislature on Tuesday embraced sweeping changes to restrain county appraisers and property valuations that increase local tax burdens.
The Senate passed legislation that would prohibit appraisers from increasing property valuations because of normal maintenance made to the property. They also couldn’t raise valuations while valuations are being appealed.
Other bills that received favor would mandate training for county appraisers and members of the State Board of Tax appeals and would ban someone from serving as county treasurer or appraiser if they previously had been removed from such a position.
Additionally, public hearings and notices would be required for some local tax increases.
Senators also praised a former chamber leader and debated legislation concerning mental illness.
Sen. Caryn Tyson, R-Parker, led the charge for changes in property tax law.
She supported legislation that would “encourage people to take care of their property” without fear of getting sacked with a higher tax bill.
"We have a situation in Kansas where we have individuals or property owners that will not take care of their property because they're afraid of their property tax increasing as a result,“ Tyson said.
Sen. Pat Pettey, D-Kansas City, objected to the lack of explanation about what could be considered maintenance and whether this was the best way to address frustrations raised by homeowners about property valuations.
"My real concern is when we legislate and we put in words like 'normal maintenance' that have no real definition, and what that does to then create conflict within our communities about what is 'normal maintenance,’ " Pettey said. ”It seems that what people often are concerned about is that the house next door to them sells for a certain amount of money. That impacts their valuation and often has little to do with what might be considered, I guess, painting or putting on a new roof."
Senators considered a motion by Sen. Tom Holland, a Democrat from Baldwin City, to force a debate on legislation he introduced with Sen. Molly Baumgardner, a Republican from Louisburg.
Holland and Baumgardner co-sponsored a bill that would require health insurance providers to expand coverage for treatment of mental illness and substance abuse. The bill was drafted in response to a woman who killed herself after she was denied access to crisis services.
The bill never received a hearing in committee.
Holland said Kansas is enduring “a suicide epidemic, and it’s situations like this that we must act on as a Legislature."
Baumgardner said the legislation needs more work at the committee level.
"We will continue to move forward on this piece of legislation, but we want a real solution, not a feel-good vote,“ Baumgardner said.
Senators rejected Holland’s motion on a party-line vote.
The Senate also passed a bill to rename a portion of K-7 highway as the Senator Paul "Bud" Burke Memorial Highway.
Burke, a Republican from Johnson County, served as Senate president from 1989 to 1997. He died in 2017.
"He was always affable,“ said Senate President Susan Wagle, a Republican from Wichita. ”He always had a smile. He was very friendly. He was very straightforward, very honest. He was very easy to work with."