Capitol Comments – April 27, 2017
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Legislators return Monday, May 1, for Veto Session. All of the major issues remain: a budget, a revenue package, and a school funding formula.
During the break, the governor signed into law the adjustments for the 2017 budget. Senate Substitute for Sub House Bill 2052 fills the nearly $300 million shortfall primarily by using one-time money from the Unclaimed Property Fund. This bill passed both chambers with bipartisan support.
Additionally, last week, the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group released updated estimates. Unfortunately, they didn’t change much. Instead of a $1 billion budget shortfall, the state faces $900 million for the next two years. House and Senate budget committees reconvened today to continue discussions on how to address this shortfall.
There is a lot of work left to do, and, ultimately, none of the issues can be resolved without support from 27 Senators and 84 House members. This is the amount needed to override a veto from Governor Brownback.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact me at 785-296-3245 or by email at Anthony.Hensley@senate.ks.gov. Or, stop by my legislative office located in room 318-E of the Statehouse. I also encourage you to follow me on Facebook.com/SenatorAnthonyHensley.
Thank you, again, for your continued support.
Senate Democratic Leader
In this issue:
- Francis Hospital
- Consensus Revenue Estimates
- Budget update
- School funding update
- Bills of interest
ST. FRANCIS HOSPITAL
It has been made clear by SCL Health that Gov. Brownback’s refusal to expand Medicaid in Kansas has contributed to St. Francis Hospital’s financial struggles and has deterred potential buyers, leading to the eventual closure of the hospital.
A statement released last week by SCL Health says, “Additionally, without expanded Medicaid coverage and other challenges related to public programs, St. Francis experienced added pressure. Uncompensated and charity care more than doubled from 2012 to 2016.”
Even if the hospital finds a last minute buyer or is donated, it will still face challenges without Medicaid expansion.
The Legislature must act swiftly to put a bill expanding Medicaid on the governor’s desk when we return next week, and the governor must show his commitment to keeping St. Francis and other Kansas hospitals open by signing it into law. It’s what hospitals and 82 percent of Kansans want.
CONSENSUS REVENUE ESTIMATES
The Consensus Revenue Estimating Group released revised estimates last Thursday, April 20. The new estimates increased revenue by $156.4 million, making the budget shortfall the state faces for the next two years change from $1 billion to about $900 million. The group also identified economic concerns in the areas of agriculture, energy, banking, and manufacturing. (Read more here.)
In other words, this estimate adjustment doesn’t change anything. We still have a self-inflicted budget crisis, inherently unfair tax policies, and underfunded schools. The Legislature has a monumental task ahead of us when we return next week because Gov. Brownback refuses to take any responsibility.
Instead, he continues to falsely claim his tax plan and $360 million in one-time money is somehow going to reduce a $900 million budget shortfall over the next two year. All of this makes it more imperative to override Brownback’s veto on a revenue plan.
Shortly before leaving for break, the Senate passed a budget on a vote of 25-15. It’s not a perfect budget, but it is a solid start.
It does not include funding for Medicaid expansion, K-12 education, the highway fund, or the water plan. However, it begins to restore cuts to higher education and ensures the stability of the Children’s Initiatives Fund by not securitizing the tobacco settlement funds. It also gives state employees a pay increase and provides a rate increase to Home and Community Based Services, which helps elderly and disabled Kansans receive quality care in their homes.
The House and Senate budget committees began meeting, again, Thursday and Friday of this week. It is my hope the House committee will pass the Senate budget out for full House consideration as early as next week.
The Senate budget is $400 million short for Fiscal Year 2018 and nearly $500 million short for Fiscal Year 2019 without a revenue package. With a revenue package like House Bill 2178, which passed earlier this session, the budget would end up with a surplus of more than $200 million for each fiscal year. This makes it critical for the Legislature to reconsider a plan like HB 2178.
SCHOOL FUNDING UPDATE
In addition to providing funding for the Senate budget, the Legislature must pass a school funding formula that provides constitutional levels of funding to K-12 schools. The Senate has not proposed a formula, and if something gets proposed during veto session, there will not be time to fully vet it. This is not how a formula should be passed.
Instead, consideration should be given to what the House passes. They have worked all session to develop a formula, holding countless hearings and receiving buy-in from some education stakeholders.
House Bill 2410 is still in the House Committee on K-12 Education Budget, but it is likely to pass out of committee next week. The bill is similar to the old school finance formula and would increase funding to schools by $752 million over five years.
BILLS OF INTERST
To date, the governor has signed more than 30 bills into law. Here are a few of them:
- STRONGER BEER One of the last bills the Senate considered before adjourning was one that amends current liquor laws to allow the sale of 6.0% alcohol by volume beer to be sold in grocery stores, convenience stores, and drug stores licensed to sell malt beverages. The changes would go into effect April 1, 2019. Under current law, these establishments are only allowed to sell 3.2% or less. House Substitute for Senate Bill 13 passed the House on a vote of 80-45. It passed the Senate on a vote of 27-11; I did not support it because it takes away from small, locally owned liquor stores.
- STRICTER AMUSEMENT PARK REGULATIONS In the wake of the tragedy at Schlitterbahn waterpark last summer, where a legislator’s son was killed on a water ride, the Kansas Legislature approved a bill imposing stricter regulations on amusement park rides. House Substitute for Senate Bill 70 prohibits any ride from being operated without a valid annual permit to be issued by the Kansas Department of Labor and appropriate registration fees paid. Additionally, the bill outlines procedures for park patrons and park owners to report injuries that occur while on a ride. The bill passed the Senate 35-2 and the House 124-1.
- ACCESS TO DIGITAL ASSETS SB 63 authorizes access to digital assets by a power of attorney, a trustee, a guardianship or conservatorship, or a fiduciary acting under a will on or after July 1, 2017. The bill passed unanimously.
- JOEY’S LAW Substitute for SB 74 creates Joey’s Law, which allows individuals to identify themselves as people needing cognition assistance, with either a placard or a decal.
- VESSEL REGISTRATION SB 26 increases the maximum amount the Kansas Department of Wildlife and Tourism is allowed to charge for vessel registration (motorboats and sailboats) from $30 to $60. No other permit or registration fees were changed. This bill passed the Senate 36-4 and the House 79-43.
- LICENSED CARE SB 154 requires any agency providing home health, supportive care, or attendant care services to be licensed. Supportive care services are defined as services to provide daily living assistance including, but not limited to, bathing, dressing, eating, medication reminders, walking, and toileting. The bill passed the Senate 38-2 and the House 122-0.
- WILDLIFE, PARKS & TOURISM LICENSES HB 2191 allows a resident of Kansas charged with violating provisions of law requiring a license, permit, stamp, or other issue from the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism (KDWPT) to avoid being convicted if they present their issue of KDWPT that was valid at the time of the alleged violation rather than the date of an arrest. The bill passed the House and Senate unanimously.
- OPIOD ANTIDOTE HB 2217 requires the Board of Pharmacy issue a statewide opioid antagonist protocol. Essentially, this will allow first responders to administer drugs to combat opioid overdose or symptoms to the patient faster, without threat of civil or criminal liability. This bill passed the House and Senate unanimously.
- ADVANCED BALLOTS House Bill 2158 allows advance ballots postmarked by the date of the election and received no later than the Friday following the election will now be counted. Additionally, any advance ballots received at any polling place in the county prior to the closing of the polls must be delivered to the appropriate special election board to be counted. Finally, it requires notice of at least 30 days prior to an election of changes to polling places.