Government & Politics

New Kansas laws: Higher taxes, less gun regulation

Kansas residents are paying higher taxes on cigarettes, groceries and other consumer goods but no longer have to obtain a state permit to carry a concealed gun under new laws that took effect Wednesday.

The state increased sales and cigarette taxes to avert a deficit in the $15.4 billion state budget for the fiscal year that also began July 1.

A summary of the new laws is as follows:

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HIGHER TAXES

The state’s sales tax has increased to 6.5 percent from 6.15 percent, and the cigarette tax has jumped by 50 cents a pack, to $1.29.

Itemized deductions from the state’s personal income taxes have been eliminated, except for charitable contributions, half the property taxes paid by a homeowner and half the interest paid on a home mortgage.

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GUN RIGHTS

Kansas residents 21 and older can carry a concealed gun without obtaining a state permit, avoiding a requirement for eight hours of training. However, the state still will issue permits so that Kansas residents can carry concealed weapons in other states.

Cities and counties also are prohibited from imposing special fees or taxes on gun sales, outside of their normal local sales taxes.

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WELFARE CHANGES

Kansas has shortened its lifetime limit on cash assistance benefits to 36 months from 48 months, though it will allow a 12-month extension in hardship cases. Cash assistance can’t be used for several dozen items, including tattoos, body piercing, fortune-telling and concerts.

ATM withdrawals of cash assistance are limited to $25 a day, though the state’s secretary for children and families can raise the limit or eliminate it if federal officials threaten to withhold funds.

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TUITION CAP

Increases in tuition at state universities will be capped this fall and next fall at 2 percentage points above the rate of inflation, as measured by the consumer price index. For the coming school year, that’s 3.6 percent.

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HELPING VETERANS

Disabled veterans can use public parking free of charge, and private businesses can have policies preferring veterans in hiring. State agencies that regulate professionals, including architects, engineers, real estate agents and doctors, will have to expedite license applications from members of the military or their spouses.

Also, judges handing down sentences in criminal cases must consider whether a defendant is a veteran suffering from a combat-related mental illness.

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ALCOHOL RULES

Businesses can allow patrons to bring alcoholic beverages for special events and alcoholic beverages are allowed at nonpartisan state functions at the Statehouse.

Farm wineries can sell their products at farmers’ markets, while bars, clubs and restaurants can provide self-service wine dispensers.

Powdered alcohol is banned.

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ELECTION LAWS

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach’s office has the authority he has sought for years to prosecute election fraud cases.

City and local school board elections will be held in the fall instead of the spring of odd-numbered years, in hopes of boosting turnout.

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RENEWABLE ENERGY

The state no longer requires that wind and other renewable sources account for 20 percent of each private utility’s capacity to generate electricity by 2020. Wind energy officials agreed to convert the requirement into a nonbinding goal to avoid a new state tax on renewable energy.

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FANTASY SPORTS

Fantasy sports leagues are considered games of skill in Kansas, not private lotteries in which chance determines the results. The state Racing and Gaming Commission said last year fantasy sports leagues fell under the state’s prohibition on private lotteries, though its opinion never was enforced.

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CRIMES AND PUNISHMENTS

The state has increased criminal penalties for scrap metal theft and allows victims of human trafficking to file civil lawsuits against their abusers.

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RIDE-HAILING COMPANIES

Kansas has enacted its first regulations for ride-hailing companies such as Uber. The rules bar people convicted of violent crimes or sex offenders from serving as drivers and clarifies insurance requirements.

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CIVIL SERVICE CHANGES

Newly hired state government workers won’t be covered by the civil service system and current employees can voluntarily move into non-civil service jobs. More than 30 agencies can convert vacant positions into non-civil service jobs.

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