It wasn’t easy, but the legislature adjourned Friday, May 4th, Sine Die (without day – meaning the official last day). I say it wasn’t easy because we had a few very tough votes, including finalizing the budget for next year, which I am proud to say continues to set us on the right path to state solvency.
If you’re looking for a reason to be optimistic in today’s political climate, look no further than the Kansas House of Representatives. While it seems DC is in turmoil, the vitriol in our governor’s race is ramping up, and the Kansas Senate is so deeply divided as to be non-functioning, the Kansas House made measurable, pragmatic steps, working together for the greater good.
Thanks to the Kansas City Star for recognizing my work on Medicaid Expansion these last few years inthis article. The two amendments offered this year were not the right way to change major health policy. The Senate passed a good bill out of committee, but Senate leadership refused to have a floor debate. Without cooperation from the current Senate, we cannot get this accomplished. I have not given up the fight to save our rural hospitals. The potential of floor votes changing as a result of the 2018 election gives me hope, although zero Senators are up for reelection making the battle to expand Medicaid a continued uphill battle.
The Governor signed S Sub for HB 2028, The Kansas Telemedicine Act last Saturday at the University of Kansas Hospital Health Systems. I worked very hard on this bill, and feel significant pride in the success of getting it through. From the 2 bills filed last year, to sitting on the interim health committee studying telemed, to the many stages of this year’s session, I have fought for this bill. It is the right thing to do. It provides coverage parity - meaning any service provided face-to-face which can be provided at the same level of care through telemedicine, will be paid for by insurance at a negotiated rate. A success for rural Kansas, as well as an important tool for the urban areas. BUDGET
Last year we passed the two-year budget plan, but like in your home, as revenues and expenses change, we must amend that budget to recognize those changes. This year’s supplemental budget had the benefit of last year’s tax plan, meaning we could begin to restore funding to basic government services which have been failed in recent years by chronic underfunding: higher education, the elderly and disabled, foster care, corrections, and state employee pay, just to name a few. I am thrilled to see increased investment in areas where proactive intervention, like water and early childhood were included in the final bill. House Substitute for Senate Bill 109passed the Senate,26-14, and the House, 98-23, I voted yes.
5% raise for state employees not included in last year’s raise and 2.5% for those who were. Last year’s raises were focused on bringing judicial branch employees up from their 49th-in-the-country ranking in pay.
$15 million for higher education to begin to restore the cuts made in 2014 and 2015.
KU: $2.6 million
KSU: $1.9 million
KSU Extension: $845,506
KSU Vet School: $284,069
KU Medical School: $2.1 million
Fort Hays: $637,554
Emporia State: $536,405
Pittsburg State: $640,281
Wichita State: $1.4 million
Early Childhood: $1 million for Tiny-K, known as Infant-Toddler Services, $4.2 million for a Pre-K Pilot project, and $1 million for Parents As Teachers
$22 million to restore nursing home Medicaid reimbursement rates.
$5.5 million for the foster care “kinship” program, which would increase payments to family members serving as foster care providers from $3 per day to $10 per day.
EDUCATION TRAILER BILL
As with most bills done in a hurry and/or late at night, the education bill passed at the end of the regular session in early April included an $80 million error to fund the policy passed. This deeply impacted dozens of districts across the state.House Substitute for Senate Bill 61is an attempt to make that right, and while far from perfect, we needed to get a “fix” to the court ASAP. The bill passed the Senate, 31-8, and the House,92-27, I voted yes.
Key policy components:
Requires districts to have at least a 15% Local Option Budget, and that those monies are to be considered part of the state’s investment toward adequate funding.
Key funding components:
Increases per pupil spending by $548 over the next six years (2018-2023).
Beginning in 2024, funding increases would be tied to the average percentage increase of the Consumer Price Index during the preceding three school years.
While I am hopeful this will pass court muster, the overall funding number is possibly not high enough; but it was the best compromise we could reach to garner the “63, 21 & 1” required to pass the House, Senate, and Governor, respectively. Legislation is truly “sausage making” as we fold in parts I like and others I don’t like to collect votes from different factions. This bill doesn’t include everything the court said we need to be constitutionally sound, but it’s the best we could do right now.
With five opinions over the last eight years, the court seems to be growing tired of the back-and-forth. Had the legislature continued to fund the levels deemed constitutional following the 2005 Montoy lawsuit, we would not be in this position. One interesting historical tidbit – had the legislature continued funding Montoy to meet inflation rates over the past decade, funding levels would be higher now than the final year of this year’s bill. Keep in mind, the 2005 Montoy plan is the only funding formula deemed constitutional in the last twenty years…
TAX CUT BILL
Senate Substitute for House Bill 2228 (S Sub HB 2228) is a tax cut bill. Last year’s tax plan has been in effect for a year, so we have a good idea of its impact. Additionally, the federal cut puts even more dollars in Kansans’ pockets – if we let it. This bill would:
“Decouple” Kansas income taxes from the federal, to allow Kansans who do not itemize on their federal taxes to itemize deductions for their Kansas taxes.
Expedite the full medical expense, mortgage interest, and property taxes paid deductions by next year, instead of phasing in the percentage of deductions until 2020.
Install a 15% tax credit on purchases from certain businesses which provide a certain level of health insurance businesses and have at least 30% of their employees who are Kansans with disabilities.
The Senate passed it 21-19, but it failed in the House for lack of 63 votes,59-59. I voted yes because this is a bill we can afford, and I’d rather have this money in your pocket to spend or save in our community.
AGE REQUIREMENT FOR STATEWIDE OFFICE HB 2539would require the following for statewide candidates:
Governor or Lieutenant Governor to be at least age 25 by the filing date for the office (June 1). I voted for the bill, but was disappointed when an amendment setting the minimum age limit at 30 was defeated on the House floor.
Secretary of State, State Treasurer and State Insurance Commissioner must be a qualified elector of Kansas, which means candidates must be at least 18 years.
Attorney General must be at least 18 and licensed to practice law in Kansas.
Unfortunately, the bill takes effect on January 1, 2019, so is not applicable to this year’s races.
The bill also requires any new voting machines purchased after January 1 of next year to provide a paper record to the voter.
It passed the Senate, 32-4, and the House,70-52, I voted yes.
WRONGFUL IMPRISONMENT HB 2579will reimburse Kansans $65,000 for each year of imprisonment and at least $25,000 for each year served on parole or post-release supervision. The bill passed the House and Senate unanimously. These situations are a stain on our state and I’m grateful we are making reparations.
Currently, religious based charities with sincerely held religious beliefs can provide selective foster and adoption services to whom they choose under their specific qualifications. They contract with the two organizations that contract with the state to provide these services. Kansas Catholic Charities is a good example as they provide a number of programs across the state. This bill does not change the way anything is currently done. What is does is protect the charitable organizations from anyone trying to force them to foster or adopt to parents who do not fall under their specifications. The point of disagreement fell on the wording of whether they can or cannot receive any state funds and still be selective in their placements, as is current practice through the contractors. There was a lot of misinformation surrounding this bill on both sides of the issue. My interpretation is this is no different than private hospitals or private colleges receiving state funds. They are not required to sacrifice their beliefs in order to receive payment. Ultimately, I believe it is better for every Kansas kid to continue to have more outlets for foster and adoption than fewer. The bill passed the Senate, 24-15, and the House,63-58, I voted yes.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve and represent you in Topeka.