Capitol Comments – April 3, 2017
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We are days away from first adjournment, the end of regular session for the 2017 Kansas Legislature. Legislators will returnMay 1 to begin veto session. In the past week, much has happened, but there is still a lot of work to do.
The Senate passed Medicaid expansion and sent the bill to the governor. The governor vetoed it. The House then made the motion to override the veto, but the motion was tabled. The Senate also passed a budget, but without a revenue package it is $400 million short, and it does not include funding for K-12 schools. No work has been done and no action has been taken in the Senate on a school funding formula.
On a lighter note, last week, I also had the privilege of honoring two 5A state champion teams, both from Shawnee Heights High School, on the Senate floor. The boys’ basketball team and the volleyball team had outstanding seasons. The basketball team earned their first state championship since 2002. The volleyball team earned their first state championship since 2001. Congratulations, T-Birds!
If you have any questions about any of the legislation being considered, feel free to contact me at 785-296-3245 or by email atAnthony.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/
Thank you, again, for your continued support.
Senate Democratic Leader
In this issue:
- March revenue down
- Medicaid expansion
- Budget update
- Civil service protections
- Wildfire assistance
- Consolidation of agencies
- Bills of interest
On Monday, Secretary of Revenue Sam Williams announced a revenue shortfall of nearly $12 million for the month of March, leaving the Kansas Legislature with a budget hole of nearly $300 million to fill before June 30.
In the statement released by the Department of Revenue, Williams indicated that he chose to delay refunds for taxpayers who needed it the most, those claiming Earned Income Tax Credits and Additional Child Tax Credits. By doing this, Williams inflated the revenue numbers for the months of January and February.
The Brownback administration once again misled Kansans by making revenue numbers appear to be better than they really are for the sake of continuing his reckless economic policies. The only thing these revenue numbers indicate is a need to pass a revenue package and balance the budget in a manner that allows everyone to pay their fair share.
More than 150,000 Kansans were one step closer to having better access to health care after the House and the Senate passed a bill to expand Medicaid. But, then, Governor Brownback vetoed it. The House made the motion to override the veto Monday morning, but were short 3 votes. The veto is sustained.
Expanding Medicaid is the right thing to do for Kansans and for Kansas because:
- It helps close the gap for thousands of working Kansans who earn too much to qualify for Medicaid, but not enough to afford a private health care plan;
- It gives Kansans opportunities to reduce their personal debt load, which improves credit scores allowing them to more easily purchase reliable transportation or qualify for better housing;
- It makes them healthier, giving them more opportunity to find and keep better jobs;
- It ensures rural hospitals, clinics, mental health centers, and other health care providers remain open by reducing the cost of uncompensated care;
- It creates thousands of new jobs.
Governor Brownback’s refusal to expand Medicaid has already cost our state more than $1.7 billion of our own taxpayer dollars. And, in District 19, the Stormont Vail clinic in Lyndon closed. Residents in the area not only lost access to health care, they also lost jobs.
As your State Senator, I was proud to cast my vote for Medicaid expansion, and I will keep fighting for it. Read my full editorial here.
During the most recent debate on a revenue package, many argued the Legislature needed to pass a budget first so that it would be known how much money would be needed from a revenue package. On a vote of 25-15, the Senate passed a budget bill that does just that.
It gives the Legislature a solid start, and is a clear rejection of Governor Brownback’s recommendations. Our work, however, is not done as this budget does not include funding for Medicaid expansion, K-12 education, the highway fund or the water plan.
With this budget, though, we begin to restore cuts to higher education and ensure the stability of the Children’s Initiatives Fund by not securitizing the tobacco settlement funds. These are positive steps in proving the value of adequately funding education at all levels.
We give state employees a pay increase, which, for some, will be the first in almost a decade.
We also provide a rate increase to Home and Community Based Services, which helps elderly and disabled Kansans receive quality care in their homes.
With the passage of this budget, we now have an idea of how much revenue we need and can begin working, again, on a revenue package. When we return for veto session, we will also begin working on the omnibus budget and make the necessary adjustments.
An amendment I offered to restore civil service protections to state employees failed last week on a vote of 14-26. The amendment would have repealed the bill passed in 2015 that converted all vacant positions to unclassified. Gov. Brownback has stripped our state workforce of their classification system, forcing most to choose between employment protections or a pay raise. State employees deserve to have their civil service protections restored. They should be hired and promoted based on their merit, not on their politics.
After quickly passing both chambers, the governor signed into law this week a bill that provides much needed relief to the farmers and ranchers affected by the recent wildfires. House Bill 2387 creates a sales tax exemption for agricultural fencing destroyed during the recent fires. The bill also contains a retroactive provision for fences destroyed in fires that occurred in 2016. To read more about the exemption and what it applies to visit http://www.ksrevenue.org/
A bill to consolidate the Kansas Securities Commission with the Kansas Insurance Commission passed the Senate this week on a vote of 28-12. This was a recommendation of Governor Brownback’s as a way to pinch pennies for the sake of his failed fiscal policies. I voted no.
Kansas became the first state to pass a law regulating the sale of investments in 1911, 23 years before the Securities and Exchange Commission was created. Since then, the Kansas Securities Commission has worked to protect the citizens of Kansas from fraud and scams in the securities industry.
Completely dismantling this independent agency is completely unjustified. The Commission would be better served with new leadership at the top rather than dividing its important work between the Insurance Commission and the Attorney General’s Office. This bill is bad public policy and does more harm than good.
- PROHIBITED OFFENDERS The Senate passed House Bill 2304, which expands the list of offenders who cannot reside, work, or volunteer in child care facilities to include arson or any person convicted or adjudicated of a crime require registration on the sex offender lists and/or any person who is on the Kansas Child Abuse and Neglect registry or any similar registries. The bill also outlines safe sleep practices to be used by children care facilities for children under 12 months of age. The bill passed 27-13 and will now go to conference committee.
- FIREFIGHTER’S COMPACT Pending the governor’s approval, Kansas will now have the ability to enter into a compact to share resources with other states when extinguishing wild fires when they happen. House Bill 2140 promotes effective fire prevention and control. The bill passed the Senate 40-0. It is now on its way to the Governor’s desk for final approval.
- OPEN RECORDS Senate Bill 86 establishes fees for public records and copies for Kansas citizens, specifying only citizens of the State of Kansas may request records. Those outside of the state must request on behalf of a Kansas citizen. The bill was also gives limited public access to investigation records in unsolved missing person cases than more than 25 years old, as amended by Senator Tom Holland (D-Baldwin City). The bill passed the Senate 30-9, and now goes to the House for consideration.
- AUTOMATED LOTTERY TICKETS With approval from the governor, lottery ticket vending machines may be coming to a grocery store or gas station near you. Both chambers have signed off on House Bill 2313, which amends current law to allow electronic devices that dispense Kansas lottery tickets to be installed. The bill also eliminates the sunset provision for the Kansas Lottery, making it so it will not be abolished on July 1, 2022. The bill passed the Senate 30-10.
- ADVANCE BALLOT DEADLINES 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, the bill was amended to include Senate Bill 78, introduced by Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau (D-Wichita), which requires notice at least 30 days prior to an election of changes to polling places by the county election officer. The bill passed the Senate 40-0. With the amendment, this bill will now go to conference committee.