KEPC UPDATE: WEEK 7

  • TURNAROUND
  • ON THE FLOOR: House
  • ON THE FLOOR: Senate
  • TAX
  • SPEND
  • TRANSPORTATION
  • MEDICAID EXPANSION

TURNAROUND

Turnaround marks the half-way point of this session and the first real deadline for legislative action. Bills must be heard and passed from their original chamber and turned over to the other chamber.

Bills not achieving passage are considered dead for the remainder of the session. However, there is a famous saying in Topeka that “no bill is ever really dead.” There are exempt committees, such as Taxation, Appropriations, Ways and Means, Federal and State Affairs, etc. Any time a bill is referred to one of these committees, it is exempt from deadlines. House or Senate leadership can refer a bill to one of these committees and then re-refer it back to its original committee, therefore keeping it alive, i.e. it gets “blessed.” In addition to the work done on the floor of the House and Senate this week, the Speaker of the House blessed 25 bills and the Senate President blessed 9, so those bills will live on for consideration.

ON THE FLOOR: House

The number of bills heard this past week was fewer than years past, but there were a few of note from the house side:

  • HB 2006: The House unanimously approved legislation introduced by Representative Kristey Williams (R-Augusta), that calls for the Department of Commerce to create a database revealing who receives state development incentives, the amount of the incentives distributed and calls for an audit every three years. The Kansas Economic Development Alliance and the Kansas Chamber were opposed to the bill, citing concerns about the disclosure of sensitive business information. The concerns were addressed and the bill was amended to protect sensitive information and to not include names of individuals who’ve invested in a project in order to receive tax credits. We will monitor this bill closely to ensure those concerns continue to be addressed.
  • HB 2144: A bill also introduced by Representative Williams, would require community colleges to publish information on their website about tuition, fees, and the total cost of attending the school. The bill passed the House on a vote of 84-40. The bill was a limited version of what was introduced in the Education Committee. The original legislation, which garnered much opposition, would have given voters the power to stop community college spending on construction projects costing more than $250,000 and required community colleges to lower their tax rate equal to 80% of any increase in funding they received from the state.
  • HB 2167: the “deer bill”, was approved by a vote of 63-60 and allows landowners and tenants on at least 80 acres to sell a deer hunting permit. Why is this bill of note? A version of this bill has been hotly debated every year for several years. During the two days of floor debate, the vast majority of bills are introduced by a member of the majority party, the ranking Democrat on the committee speaks in support of the bill, there is little or no debate, then the bill is approved–on average about 3 minutes for each bill. The deer bill was debated for over an hour. Passions run deep on both sides of this issue.

ON THE FLOOR: Senate

  • SB 162: A bill requiring foster care case managers to report to the governor, the legislature, and local newspapers within 24 hours of a foster care child going missing. The bill passed the Senate 40-0.
  • SB 81: Passed by a vote of 34-4, a bill that would allow, if local authority approves, law enforcement to follow suspects at high speed without emergency lights and or sirens.
  • SB 16: Allowing school districts to spend “at-risk” funding for non-school programs aimed at improving student performance. Senator Hensley offered a floor amendment to add a two-year finance bill that accounts for inflation in last years passed education funding bill, a move many believe would satisfy the supreme courts’ ruling to adequately fund K-12 education. The amendment failed 28-12.

TAX

On Monday, the last day of Committee meetings, the House Tax Committee amended SB 22, the bill dealing with the federal tax windfall. On an 11-11 vote that Chairman Johnson broke with a yes vote, the bill was amended to add a 1% reduction on the sales tax on food. The committee also added a tax on out-of-state Internet sales. With the new provisions, the fiscal note of SB 22 is $207 million. House leadership did not put SB 22 on the calendar this week, leading some to speculate whether or not there are currently enough votes for it to pass the House. Governor Kelly has not indicated whether or not, if presented with the bill, she would veto it.

MEDICAID EXPANSION

Next week the House Health and Human Services Committee will hold “roundtable discussions” (not to be confused with hearings) with stakeholders to help lawmakers understand the pros and cons of expansion. On Thursday, March 7 at 10:00 a.m., the Greater Kansas City, Wichita, and Pittsburg Chambers, the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas, and the Kansas Hospital Association are hosting an event at the Capitol: “The Economics of Expansion – Moving Kansas Forward.” A copy of the invitation is available here.

It looks like when the Legislature reconvenes next Wednesday, things will start to heat up.

Until then, please feel free to contact me with any questions or comments. Thanks and have a safe and warm weekend.

–Patty