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Dear Friend:

After the turnaround break, we had a few days off when I worked at my “real job” at Kaw Valley Engineering. Now that we’re back in Topeka, we have a lot of work yet to do, but the lack of substantive policy debate has been a frustrating marker of this session. 

On the Home Front

It's always a good day when the Kansas Parents As Teachers Association comes to the Capitol. I'm grateful for the wonderful work they do! Each year, they set up blocks, books, and play spaces in the Capitol Rotunda. Here's a picture the organization posted on Facebook:

 
Around the Capitol
School Finance
The Senate Select Committee on School Finance held a hearing on the governor’s school finance plan (SB 142) and immediately passed the bill to the full Senate for consideration without discussion or amendment. As the bill passed out of committee, I am supportive so we can close this chapter and move onto other priorities. However, it is yet to be seen what will happen as the bill is debated before the full Senate. 
 
Transportation
Transportation talks are finally underway in response to last year’s Joint Legislative Transportation Vision Task Force. Here are a few examples of the bills under consideration: 

Senate District 11 Resources:

  • SB 189 would add $150 and $75 fees to electric and hybrid vehicles respectively to level the playing field for those who use the roads but do not pay the gas taxes required to build and maintain them.
    • According to the Sunflower State Journal, this sector is expected to grow by 400% by 2040. Right now, Kansans drive more than 11,000 hybrid and 1,300 electric cars.
  • Similarly, SB 187 would double the fees for oversize and overweight vehicles. 
  • Another bill (SB 192) would give the Department of Transportation authority to work with localities on road partnerships to build roads that are partially paid by tolls and partially by KDOT and local funds. 
Medicaid Expansion
The House Health & Human Services Committee hosted a “Medicaid Expansion Roundtable Discussion” with more than 40 participants for three days last week. I’m frustrated with the dragging-of-feet on this issue and it seems this discussion is paying lip service to the issue while avoiding debates and votes because neither leadership team supports expansion, but they know there are more than enough votes for it to pass in their respective chambers. 


On the Senate FloorFloor Livestream – Senate Calendar
Even though it was turnaround week, we just didn't have much substantive work as we seem to be holding the biggest issues until the last few days of the session to add pressure (and usually the unintended consequences of doing things at the last minute). Here are a few bills we passed:

HB 2044 would create a new income tax credit for items purchased from Kansas businesses which provide a certain level of health insurance benefits and where at least 30% of the employees are Kansas residents with disabilities. It passed the House 115-1, and the Senate 37-1, I voted YES.
 
SB 16 would specify that school districts are to use at-risk education funds only on evidence-based learning programs, the personnel needed to operate such programs and services contracted by the school district to provide such programs. The bill added Boys and Girls Clubs of America to the list of programs eligible to receive state appropriations for providing support to students and assisting them with achievement goals. The other programs eligible to receive funds are Jobs for America’s Graduates and Communities in Schools. It passed 39-1, I voted YES.

The following bills passed unanimously:
  • SB 105 would change current law regarding terms of office for state, district, county and township officers to include municipal officers, and move the beginning of the term no later than the second Monday in January following the office’s election. 
  • Current law specifies 4 fire drills, 3 tornado drills, and 9 crisis drills are required in schools. SB 128 would free up those requirements to meet the needs of each district, with at least four fire drills, two tornado drills (one in September and one in March), and three crisis drills. The bill sets a floor for local school boards to build on if they feel more is needed.
  • SB 162 would require foster care management contractors to alert the Department for Children and Families (DCF) within 24 hours of a report of a missing child or when a child spends the night in a contractor’s office. DCF must then notify the governor and the legislature. Failure to do so would incur a $500 per day fine. 
  • SB 193 would allow for licensure reciprocity for doctorate degree holders who are psychologists, marriage and family therapists, addiction counselors, social workers, professional counselors, as well as master’s degree level psychologists to allow individuals licensed in other states and jurisdictions to be licensed in Kansas.
  • HB 2035: As the state moves toward a partial “uncork” of beer sales on April 1, when grocery stores will be able to sell full-strength beer, the ABC asked for uniformity in issuing citations to new sellers of alcoholic beverages. The bill also passed the House unanimously, but technical changes were added in the Senate, so either the House will agree with those changes and the bill will go straight to the governor, or the House will disagree and the differences will be negotiated in a conference committee.
  • SB 130 would require county election officers to contact individuals who have submitted advance voting ballots where there is no signature, or where the signature does not match the one on file, to allow them to correct the signature before the start of the final canvass.
Committee Work 
Transportation– Live Audio
We held a hearing on SB 192, which is the change to toll roads described above.
 
Ethics, Elections & Local Government– Live Audio
The committee heard a presentation on election trends from the National Conference on State Legislatures.
 
Utilities– Live Audio
SB 124 is a bill to end penalties for Kansans who use residential solar energy. Current law allows electric utilities to change rates based on energy patterns, rather than a home’s usage. This bill would prohibit that practice.
 
Ways & Means– Live Audio
We're a little farther along on the budget than I thought we were, which is the main sticking point before we adjourn. 
 
We heard subcommittee reports for the School for the Blind and the School for the Deaf, and a presentation on Rural Opportunity Zones. The committee also spent the latter part of the week listening to subcommittee reports on more than two dozen budgets. Our Transportation Budget Subcommittee’s report is due on March 12, so it will be nice to have that budget off our shoulders.
 
Finally, we held a hearing on SB 210, which would provide membership in the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS) to certain direct support positions in community developmental disability organizations upon completion of a two-year training period.

It is an honor to serve you in Topeka. Please feel free to contact me anytime regarding these or other legislative issues. 

Very truly yours,

John Skubal
Senator, 11
th District
913-469-6641 (H)

Copyright © 2019, All rights reserved.


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