Legislative forum held here
Despite the Kansas House of Representatives not adjourning until after 1 a.m. on Saturday morning, Reps. Francis Awerkamp (R-St. Marys) and Randy Garber (R-Sabetha) were both eager to update Jackson County constituents on this year’s session during a Legislative forum here that same morning.
About 35 people attended a Legislative forum Saturday at the first-floor meeting room of the Jackson County Courthouse in Holton hosted by The Holton Recorder and Jackson County that included Reps. Awerkamp and Garber. Senator Dennis Pyle (R-Hiawatha) was invited but did not attend.
During the forum, which lasted an hour and 45 minutes, the representatives discussed a variety of proposed bills, constitutional amendments and the new redistricting map approved by lawmakers this session, which has adjourned until April 25.
Rep. Awerkamp serves on the federal and state affairs committee and, the joint committee on state-tribal relations, the taxation committee, the commerce, labor and economic development committee and the 2021 special committee on taxation.
Rep. Garber is the vice-chair of the joint committee on state-tribal relations this session. He also serves on the federal and state affairs committee, the agriculture and natural resources budget committee and the insurance and pensions committee.
Awerkamp said that, as a father of six children, he is in favor of Gov. Laura Kelly’s proposed “Axe The Food Tax” bill that would eliminate state tax on food purchases.
He said the elimination of the 6.5 percent state sales tax on food would cost the state between $400 to $500 million a year. Instead of cutting the tax to zero immediately, there is a proposed bill that would decrease the tax in increments.
“It’s Topeka in an election year,” Awerkamp said. “The leaders in the Senate and the House make the call on that. It’s a chess game as they figure out what helps with an election.”
Holton resident Mark Pruett asked what areas would see an increase in taxation to offset the loss in revenue if the state food tax is eliminated. Awerkamp said he didn’t know and wished there were more “business minded” lawmakers in the House and Senate.
Awerkamp also highlighted worked completed at the state to reduce unemployment fraud. Prior to COVID-19, the state was paying an average of $5 million a week in unemployment benefits, which spiked to $23 to $25 million during the pandemic.
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