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Dear Friend:

The legislature is officially adjourned until May 1st, completing my first regular session as your State Senator.  I will, however, return April 26, 27 and 28 to meet with the House Appropriations and Ways and Means committees.  It has been the most frustrating, humbling, and fulfilling few months. I anticipated needing to pick between the Senate and my City Council position, and I recently resigned my Overland Park seat so I can serve the 11th Senate position in a full time capacity. I will miss my Council friends and the great Overland Park staff.

Around the District
Please join Rep. Jan Kessinger and me for a happy-hour event sponsored by the Mainstream Coalition. “Step Up to the Bar” will be at Red Door Woodfired Grill, 11851 Roe Ave, Leawood TONIGHT! April 19th at 5:30pm - 7pm.

Thank you for responding to my first legislative survey. Your answers have been very helpful in my decision-making this session on the big issues facing the Senate. Here are the results for budget cuts and taxes. Medicaid Expansion and Uncork results are included as part of those bill summaries below.

Senate District 11 Resources:

Demographic Profile
Kansas Legislature
Kansas Cash (find your unclaimed property)
Register to Vote
Vote by Mail

In The News
Medicaid Expansion Veto Override
The House and Senate passed Medicaid Expansion and it was sent to the governor for consideration at the end of March. He vetoed it the next morning. After reviewing the numbers, meeting with health professionals, hospital executives, business leaders, or Chambers of Commerce, and with your overwhelming support, I voted to override Governor Brownback’s veto, but the vote failed 25-13 (27 required for override).

School Finance
The heavy lifting on this issue is undoubtedly being done by the House K-12 Education Budget Committee. They’ve met for dozens of hours crafting a hard-fought compromise that I believe recognizes and meets the needs the vast economic, linguistic, and educational diversity of Kansas students, while at the same time meeting the expectations set forth by the court and the Kansas Constitution.

Funding will increase by $750 million over the next five years, portioned out on a per-pupil basis, and increases will be tied to the Consumer Price Index after that. Policy provisions in the bill also include:
  • Support early childhood education by funding all-day Kindergarten beginning this fall and investing $2 million per year in at-risk 4-year old programs.
  • Allows districts to choose the higher of this year’s enrollment, or last year’s.
  • Allows utility bills to be paid with capital outlay funding instead of out of the per pupil funding.
  • Retains the 33% local tax commitment level and changes the name to Local Foundation Budget (LFB) to reflect the community’s foundational role in school funding.
Specifically for our districts, if this bill passes in this form, we will see the following in new funding:
Blue Valley School District
  • State Aid: 7,507,516
  • Local Foundation Aid: $2,575,436
Shawnee Mission School District
  • State Aid: $9,170,153
  • Local Foundation Aid: -$802,299
The legislature has hired former State Senator Jeff King to consult on the constitutionality of the bill so we don’t end up starting from square one with very little time left before the June 30 deadline set by the court. 
On the Floor
If you look at the Senate Calendars for last week, you’ll see we didn’t do much except watch the House. It was a frustrating week to be in Topeka, but the silver lining is I was able to catch up on email and paperwork.
Flat Tax
We heard in early April the governor would consider a bill to repeal the LLC tax break if it was combined with restructuring the tax code to a flat tax. SB 214 would make several changes to the Kansas individual income tax structure and reduce the sales tax on food. Some highlights include:
  • Repealing the small business tax exemption for non-wage income that has been the law since 2013.
  • Flattening the tax rate for all Kansans to 4.6%, and repealing future, scheduled rate reductions.
  • 100% medical expenses deduction
  • 100% deduction for property taxes paid
  • Reduce the sales tax on certain food and food ingredients from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent, with future rate reductions of .2 percent per year possible, depending on State General Fund receipts.
Those few who supported the bill were also among those in the Senate who railed against the original tax bill (HB 2178) because the 2.7% tax rate on the lowest tax bracket was regressive and disproportionately impacted the middle class. The current income tax rate for our lowest income citizens is 2.7% and the top is 4.6%. I could not in good conscience increase taxes on those who can least afford it, while in effect lowering total taxes for those who can most afford it. The bill failed miserably (3-37, I voted NO) and was the Senate’s strong message to the governor.
Uncork “Lite”
For more than a decade, convenience, grocery, and drug stores have sought to sell “strong beer,” wine, and spirits, but naturally, the liquor stores have fought the change. Similarly, the liquor stores also freedom to sell grocery items like pop, mixers, lemons, and limes in their traditional stores instead of through a separate outlet and a cumbersome sales process. The final action of the 2017 regular session was a long-sought compromise between the two industries and aptly, it was passed on National Beer Day.
  • SB 13 would allow convenience, grocery and drug stores to sell alcohol with a 6% alcohol by volume (ABV), and would allow liquor stores to sell grocery items to complement beverage sales. The Senate agreed to this change made in the House on a vote of 27-11, I voted YES. The bill is on its way to the governor and if signed, will go into effect April 1, 2019.
Schlitterbahn Tragedy
You are likely familiar with the tragedy at Schlitterbahn Waterpark last year, that took the life of my colleague, Rep. Scott Schwab’s son, Caleb. Scott worked hard on a bill in hopes this happens to no other Kansas family. H Sub SB 70 makes changes to permitting, registration, moneys collected, injury reporting, death of patrons, insurance, definitions, qualified inspectors, inspections, records, standards, testing, violations, and rule and regulation authority. The House-Senate compromise passed the Senate 35-2, I voted YES.
Joey’s Law
Sub SB 74 would enact Joey’s Law, to authorize placards for use in vehicles to individuals who need assistance with cognition, including those with autism spectrum disorder. The bill would authorize:
  1. A decal to be affixed to a license plate,
  2. A placard, as well as
  3. Placement on a driver’s license of an indicator that the person needs assistance with cognition.
The bill passed the Senate, 28-11, passed the House unanimously, and was signed into law this week.
Simon’s Law
Sub SB 85 would require a do-not-resuscitate order (DNR) or similar doctor’s order could not be instituted for an unemancipated minor unless at least one parent or legal guardian of the minor has been informed, verbally or in writing. A reasonable attempt must be made to contact the other parent if he or she is reasonably available and has custodial or visitation rights. Known as “Simon’s Law,” it passed the Senate, 29-9 (I voted YES), passed the House, 121-3, and was also signed into law this week. 

It is an honor to serve you in Topeka. Please do not hesitate to contact me about these or other legislative issues. 

Very truly yours,

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

Copyright © 2017, All rights reserved.

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