Thanks to KTPS in Wichita who hosted interviews with women legislators prior to the session!
Thanks to the folks from ITC Great Plains for a $10,000 gift to update the property at Rock City in Minneapolis.
Sen. Bowers and I received a special honor from the Mitchell County Hospital and the Kansas Hospital Association for our work on health care issues in 2017.
Thanks to the team from Beloit for coming to present on their Innovative Schools model!
Finally, it’s always nice to see Bethany College President William Jones on Higher Education Day.
Constituent Resources Real ID
Anyone boarding an airplane or entering a federal facility, such as a military base, using a state issued ID or driver’s license on October 1, 2020, will be required to have a credential that is Real ID compliant. Fees have not changed due to this requirement.Find your local driver’s license office and bring:
Valid passport or birth certificate
Proof of social security such as a social security card, current W-2 or 1099, or current pay stub with full SSN
Proof of residency, which can be a utility bill, your vehicle registration, or your current driver’s license
All documents should be unlaminated originals. For more details and a checklist that will help make sure you bring everything you need when you go to the driver’s license station, visit ksrevenue.org/realid
Floor Action This week’s legislative calendar The first two weeks have been “gavel in, gavel out” kind of days on the House floor as we wait for bills to come through the committee process. The most eventful activities in the House Chamber have been the State of the State and State of the Judiciary addresses by Governor Sam Brownback and Chief Justice Lawton Nuss, respectively.
As Governor Brownback’s final State of the State, he spent quite a bit of time thanking those in service to our state, his wife, and other dignitaries. The most surprising element was his support for complying with the Kansas Supreme Court’s order to adequately fund schools, and he proposed a $600 million funding increase as part of his budget amendment for the year.
The State of the Judiciary was a stark reminder of the state of our state’s budget. Chief Justice Nuss spent much of his speech reminding us of the chronic underfunding of the judiciary as a whole in Kansas. While many of us are sympathetic to the low pay of the non-judicial staff, we have other departments who are vastly underpaid for their skill level and experience (Wildlife & Parks, prison guards, etc.). Many state employees are moving to better paying positions, leaving us short staffed which requires overtime, contract employees and neglect. We are dealing with these issues, but the reality is we are in a huge budget hole. The lack of revenue from the Brownback Experiment has put us in quite a pickle.
It was great to see my friend, Court of Appeals Justice Karen Arnold-Burger following the State of the Judiciary event!
Committee Work Appropriations – Livestream link The first week or so of every session is “catch up time” briefings on what has happened in the committee’s subject area since adjournment in June. Budget Director Shawn Sullivan walked us throughGov. Sam Brownback’s proposed budget, in which he recommended $600 million in additional K-12 school funding. This is a gallant proposal, but he gave no recommendation for where this funding should come from making the budget not balance, therefore unconstitutional. It’s not the first time Governor Brownback has presented us with an unconstitutional budget, but it will be the last!
Taxation – Livestream link The state’s budget situation took center stage in hearings this week in the committee. Members reviewed the November 2017 consensus revenue update; State General Fund receipts through December 2017; and other adjustments to the budget. We also hosted a presentation on Kansas tax revenue and how other states keep track of and evaluate tax credits and exemptions.
Health & Human Services We had the opportunity to tour KU’s Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center at the University of Kansas Medical Center. I carried the bill in 2014 that established the Midwest Stem Cell Therapy Center. It was very fulfilling to see the work in progress. Also that day, the Health Committee toured Children’s Mercy Hospital, where we saw many heart wrenching situations and the dedicated staff attending to them. We are blessed to have both these incredible institutions serving the health needs of Kansans.
Education The topic looming over our heads this session is our response to the education funding opinion from the Supreme Court. The 3 choices are: raise taxes, cut the budget, or ignore the court. Not good options. Let’s consider these:
Raise taxes? Which of the big three – property, sales or income. Property taxes would have to increase 35% to fill the anticipated void. Sales would be extremely difficult as some counties are already over 10% when you figure in the local tax. Income would be pre Brownback levels plus and, well….you’ve seen the postcards.
Cuts? The Special Committee on a Comprehensive Response to the School Finance Decision shared in their report a glimpse of what these cuts would look like. It would require an 18% cut across the board to every agency except K-12. Each agency shared what that looks like for them. Corrections would require prison closures (potentially 3), eliminate parole services and community corrections. Judiciary would have to close courts statewide for 70 days. Department of Aging & Disabilities would reduce spending at the state hospitals currently suffering from lack of proper funding for a very long time. Department of Health & Environment would cut 24 of 98 administrative positions and cut $3.1 million from public health. Department of Children & Families would see the closure of 8 service centers and the elimination of the following programs: Prevention & Protective Services, Economic & Employment Services, Food Distribution Program, Head Start, Childcare & Development matching, Faith-Based Community Initiatives Program, Human Trafficking Program, Adult Protective Services Grant, Foster Care Federal Disability Advocacy Contract, Foster Care & Family Services Grants to four tribes, Chaffee Independent Living Program, Family Preservation Program, and reduction of foster care contracts by 12%.
Ignore the Court? Probably not an option we want to test. It will be far better to work together and find a solution acceptable to the Court that we can live with. It’s going to take a lot of work and we are slowed by another school finance study commissioned by the Senate due in the middle of March. In the meantime we are looking for solutions that will address the needs of the At Risk students, which is part of Court opinion.
Thank you for the opportunity to serve and represent you in Topeka.