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Dear Friend:

It has been a busy two weeks in Topeka as we begin to wind down the session. We have two weeks remaining before the regular session ends. We will be off most of April while legislative staff completes the paperwork created during the regular session, then we will return May 1 for veto session. There’s still much work to be done on the most important issues – schools, Medicaid expansion, and roads.

On the Home Front
Thanks to those who came to our town hall meeting on Saturday. It was a pleasure to host Melissa Rooker, my former House colleague who’s now the director of the Kansas Children’s Cabinet, as well as Annie McKay, director of Kansas Action for Children.

Please save the date for our next town hall meeting on Saturday, April 13, 9 am in the Leawood City Hall Council Chambers.

Around the Capitol
Thanks to Phoebe Neeld, Adele Van Lieshout, Caroline Place, and Casey Whitworth for serving as legislative pages at the Capitol, and to their moms for spending the day.

Senate District 11 Resources:

Max Ashford and Haden Witbrod were pages for Senator Skubal on Monday, March 25. In addition, the two pages and Jenifer Ashford, Max’s mother,  enjoyed a tour of the Capitol. Senator Skubal bought pizza lunch for all three.
A number of groups came by the office over the past two weeks. It was helpful to meet with them: 
  • The Senate had the opportunity to honor this year's Kansas Master Teachers. Linda Vena is an elementary reading specialist at Mission Trail Elementary, in the heart of the 11th Senate District, and is the only winner in Johnson County. Congratulations, Linda!
  • Emporia State University's new president, Allison Garrett, visited with others from the college. Kaw Valley Engineering (where I do my "real" job when I'm not in Topeka) recently opened an office in Emporia, so I look forward to learning more about that community.
  • I also attended the Stand With Jerusalem rally on the steps of the Capitol.
Medicaid Expansion 
The House did great work last week by passing Medicaid Expansion to help 150,000 Kansans have access to health care. HB 2066 passed the House 69-54 and I hope the Senate will give it the attention it deserves. Surveys show 77% of Kansans support passage, and support from my Senate District was even greater in this year’s survey:

School Finance
The Senate heard and passed a simple bill (SB 142) to comply with the Kansas Supreme Court’s order to add inflationary costs into school finance calculations. It passed 32-8, I voted YES. Meanwhile, the House is attempting to rewrite the entire funding formula. Briefs are due to the court by April 15, with oral arguments on May 9. The Attorney General has asked for swift action so they can prepare for these events. It’s time to stop wasting time on postcard votes and get a bill to the governor’s desk.

On the Senate FloorFloor Livestream – Senate Calendar
Sub S 75 is the Senate’s budget bill. A few highlights include: 
  • $6 million to reduce waiting lists for Kansans with intellectual/developmental disabilities
  • $7.6 million for Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs)
  • $1.5 million for Hepatitis C treatment for inmates – there has been an outbreak of the disease among our prison population. 
  • 2.5% pay increase for state employees
  • We were able to add another $350,000 for the Parents As Teachers program
As a member of the Ways & Means Committee, there is an expectation that you took the opportunity to make changes to the budget in committee so that by the time the bill came to a Senate debate and vote, you could support it. The bill barely passed, but there’s enough I like to override the parts I don’t. It passed 21-18, I voted YES.
 
SB 150 would protect domestic abuse victims living in rental properties. When applying for a lease, they could not be denied based on those circumstances. Additionally, a tenant could not be evicted or found in violation of a rental agreement based on those circumstances. This bill passed the Senate without opposition.
 
SB 99 would require an emergency medical service provider to be fingerprinted and submit to a criminal background check. It passed 36-2, I voted YES.
 
Utility rates have been an increasing concern over the last year or two. The Kansas Corporation Commission did a rate study which was presented to the legislature. However, the Utilities Committee wanted additional information. Sub SB 69 would require the Legislative Coordinating Council (LCC) to authorize a study of retail rates of Kansas electric public utilities to provide information for future legislative and regulatory efforts in electric policy. It passed 38-1, I voted YES.

Committee Work 
Transportation – Live Audio
This committee heard the Senate’s version (SB 189) of a hybrid-electric vehicle fee bill, similar to the House version heard in the Tax Committee (HB 2372). Hybrid cars would be assessed a $55 fee and electric cars a $100 fee to recapture revenue they would normally be paying in gas tax to use public roads.
 
If you’ve been to the Plaza lately, you’ve probably had to step over electric scooters with colorful lights pulsing like a dance floor. HB 2126 would regulate these scooters for roads and highways by making them illegal to operate on state or federal highways. In addition, the bill gives local governments authority to regulate the electric scooters within their cities. We passed the bill to the Senate, which passed it last week. The Senate made amendments to the bill from what passed the House, so a conference committee will negotiate a compromise. 
 
We took the contents of SB 192 and inserted them into HB 2007 to 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. Amending a bill that has already passed the House will speed up the process. We passed the bill to the full Senate and I assume it will pass. The House could then agree with the Senate’s amendments and the bill would go directly to the governor’s desk. 
 
You may have seen reports of “ATV flash mobs” endangering metro interstates. Under current law, all-terrain vehicles are prohibited from using any interstate, federal or state highway, which makes sense, but there’s an exception to every rule. HB 2248 would allow an individual operating an all-terrain vehicle to cross an interstate or federal highway that separates the individual’s property by the most direct route. The House approved this legislation, 122-2. View hearing testimony here
 
HB 2125 would require individuals operating motor vehicles to promptly hand over their driver's licenses upon demand by the police or other authorized individuals. Bill supporters indicated some individuals display but refuse to allow an officer to handle their licenses, which is necessary to establish authenticity. In addition, it’s safer for officers to record or check driver’s license information inside their police vehicle rather than when exposed to traffic. Read hearing testimony here.
 
Finally, we combined a bill (HB 2246) to reduce the total number of distinctive license plates ordered for initial production, with a bill (previously HB 2007) to establish distinctive plates for each branch of the U.S. Armed Forces. Again, we passed it out of committee and once the Senate passes it, the House could simply concur with our changes and send it to the governor.
 
Ethics, Elections & Local Government – Live Audio
HB 2188 would allow the City of Atchison to assume responsibility for the maintenance and repair of all watershed lakes, dams and other projects in the White Clay Watershed District beginning January 1 of next year. At that point, the City will assume rights and duties of the water district. Read hearing testimony here. It passed the House unanimously.
 
Utilities – Live Audio
Have you been frustrated that Uber can find you, but an ambulance can’t? I’m hoping we can fix that, especially across the rural areas of I-70. HB 2084 includes technical amendments to the Kansas 911 Act and public safety answering points (PSAPs), which are 911 call centers, as well as a small increase in the service fee to improve NG911 (next generation 911) services throughout rural Kansas. Additionally, technology is changing quickly, so the bill would allow the Kansas 911 Coordinating Council to adopt rules and regulations for establishing training standards and programs related to technology and operations of various statewide next generation issues without coming to the legislature each time. We passed the bill out of committee.
 
Ways & Means– Live Audio
We debated, amended, and passed the committee’s budget recommendations for this year to the full Senate, as discussed above under Floor Action.
 
We also held two days of hearings on SB 186, which would direct the Department of Transportation to start a Transportation Planning Program (TPP) to plan the development and operation of modes and systems of transportation across the state, including but not be limited to preservation projects, expansion and economic opportunity, or modernization projects. I look forward to seeing this effort develop to get our state’s transportation planning back on track. 

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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