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Dear Friend:

There’s a lot to say as we head toward the first major deadline of the session. We have been very busy in committees, hearing and passing bills to the full Senate for debate. I’ll get right to it.

On the Home Front

What a turnout! You really make a guy feel loved. In reality, I think you really came to hear our excellent Attorney General, Derek Schmidt. You brought great questions, helpful feedback, and you brought a lot of friends! Keep them coming, our next event is 

Thanks to the wonderful folks at SafeHome for advocating on behalf of domestic violence victims. They joined dozens of groups from across the state to visit legislators at the Capitol. If you feel threatened in your home, please consider calling them at 913-262-2868.

 
On the Senate FloorFloor Livestream – Senate Calendar
The first handful of bills we deal with tend to be annual date changes or non-controversial technical edits. We’ve passed a lot of bills, but most of them have been unanimous because those “rats and cats” bills are the fastest to get through the committee process. Here are a few bills of broader interest:
 
If you’re a car dealer, SB 39 would change the Vehicle Dealers and Manufacturers Licensing Act regarding how new vehicle dealers are compensated for warranty services and how dealers establish markup for parts and labor. A complete description of the bill changes is in the supplemental note. It passed unanimously.

Senate District 11 Resources:

We approved SB 32, that would allow the Kansas Farm Bureau (KFB) to offer health benefit coverage without offering such coverage to those with pre-existing conditions. The coverage sold by KFB would not be subject to the oversight of the Kansas Insurance Department, and the bill would specify that the coverage offered would not be considered “insurance.” Bill supporters said that KFB can offer lower-cost policies to its members, many of whom have limited income. It passed 28-11, I voted YES.
 
SCR 1606 is a non-binding resolution condemning New York law, the Reproductive Health Act. The bill would allow abortions as legal within 24 weeks of the start of a pregnancy – “or at any time when necessary to protect a woman’s life or health.” Read news coverage of the legislation here. The resolution passed 27-13, I voted NO. I signed onto the following Explanation of Vote: 
  • Mr. Vice President: Today’s episode of political theater is as cynical as any that I have witnessed in the last three years. Today, we are wasting our time and the money of Kansas taxpayers. Today, we are pointing out the speck in a neighbor’s eye while we completely disregard the plank in our own. The cynic in me believes that the primary reason we are voting on this resolution is for postcards for 2020 elections. Does the resolution do anything for Kansans? NO! Instead of throwing stones at New York why don’t we get our own house in order? The issues facing our constituents are many. Instead of focusing on New York, why are we not discussing Medicaid expansion, transportation funding, stabilizing our payments to KPERS, ending the litigation on school funding, the 70 children that went missing from DCF on our watch, or the ever- growing waiting list for PRTF beds? How about mental health? These are the issues we should be discussing. These are the issues that affect Kansans! If we truly care about protecting life we would be actually working on policy to protect and invest in the children and families that we are entrusted to represent. 
Committee Work
Transportation– Live Audio
I was fortunate to join Governor Kelly and Transportation Secretary (and Johnson Countian) Julie Lorenz for a press conference announcing $161 million to complete stalled transportation projects:
  1. US-54 Seward County: Expansion project Fall 2019
  2. US-169 Anderson County: Modernization project Fall 2019
  3. US-281 Russell County: Modernization project Spring 2020
  4. US-50 Lyon County: Expansion Project Spring 2020
SB 143 would allow those with revoked driving privileges to submit a written request to have restricted driving privileges for one year. Restricted privileges means the driver could only drive to/from: 
  • Work or school, 
  • Work-related responsibilities, 
  • Doctor appointments or medical emergencies, 
  • Probation or parole meetings,
  • Drug and alcohol counseling,
  • Any place the driver is required to go to by the courts, and 
  • Any religious worship service.
The “Your Uber Is Here” bill: Current law prohibits certain internal lighting, but SB 63 would authorize cities to allow ride share drivers to install lighting devices on the front of their vehicles.
 
Ethics, Elections & Local Government– Live Audio
In response to moving local elections from the spring to the fall, SB 105 would make the regular term of office for city officers begin on a date established by the city, on or after Dec. 1, but no later than the second Monday in January, after the certification of the election. If the city did not establish an alternative date, the term for elected officials taking office would begin on the second Monday in January.
 
You’ve likely heard of many states which allow same-day voter registration and voting. SB 43 would enact this process in Kansas. Election officers would be required to allow a person who: 
  • Visits the county election office to apply for an advance voting ballot, and to register and vote immediately by a regular ballot, or
  • Visits a polling place on election day or visits a satellite advance voting site during the advance voting period to register and vote a provisional ballot. 
These provisional ballots would be required to be counted unless the county board of canvassers determines it was improperly cast or the person had already voted. 
 
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.
 
If you don’t like all the political yard signs cluttering rights-of-way near polling places, you really won’t like SB 132! Currently, signs and other campaign paraphernalia are prohibited inside of 250 feet from a polling place. This bill would reduce that radius to 50 feet, and exempt wearing and distributing campaign gear. Voting is a private and serious matter – it should not be impeded by campaign workers trying to be the last thing you see before voting.

I’m calling this the “21st Century Voting Act” because SB 129 allow all voters within a county to vote at any polling place on election day. Especially for us in Johnson County – when there are 6 or 7 early in-person voting sites across the county and you can walk in and vote at any of them, it’s the same technology to spread that across polling locations on election day. 
 
Utilities – Live Audio
We held a few bill hearings and hosted an update from the Southwest Power Pool (map & transmission lines to left), which oversees the bulk electric grid and wholesale power market in the central United States on behalf of utilities and transmission companies in 14 states.
 
SB 145 would require the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) to investigate utility rates that have been changed by the boards of public utilities if a petition is submitted to KCC that is signed by at least 5 percent of a board’s customers, or 3 percent of a board’s customers from any one rate class. 
 
SB 69 would require the Legislative Coordinating Council (LCC), made up of Kansas legislators, to authorize a study of retail rates of Kansas electric public utilities – even though the KCC has already done so. This seems like the legislature sticking its nose where it has no expertise and second-guessing experts. 
 
SB 171 would set the maximum level of lead allowed in pipes and pipe fittings to 0.25 percent to match the Safe Drinking Water Act and revise the repayment period for Kansas public water supply loans from 20 years to 40 years to match the federal America’s Water Infrastructure Act of 2018. 
 
Ways & Means – Live Audio
One of the most unpredictable – and mandatory – expenditures from year to year is Medicaid caseloads. Oftentimes, state revenues are holding steady, but more people qualify for Medicaid, which wipes out any money that could have been spent on other priorities. SB 2 would create the Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) Stabilization Fund in the Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). This is the percentage match Kansas gets for Medicaid beneficiaries, and it changes based on the state’s personal income. As incomes rise, the Medicaid match percentage falls. In years when the FMAP increases, resulting in more federal money and lower state expense for Medicaid programs, the bill would require a transfer of the amount of those savings from the State General Fund (SGF) to the new stabilization fund. In years when the FMAP decreases, the corresponding dollar amount of increased state share responsibility would be transferred from the stabilization fund to SGF. 
 
The committee listened to subcommittee reports on:
In addition, members received a briefing on stem cell therapy.
 
Ways & Means Subcommittees held hearings on the budgets of the following departments (my Health and Judicial Subcommittees did not meet this week):
 

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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