Dear , 

  

We're almost there!   The end of the regular session is just a week away.  This week was only three days but action-packed, as both chambers spent three full days on the floor voting on a long list of legislation, including the budget.  

 

Wednesday was the deadline to get most bills passed so they could be sent to conference committee, where differences will be worked out from what the House passed.  We will then vote up or down on the final version of each piece of legislation on the floor.

Budget


The main item of note this week was the Kansas State Budget.  Here are the details:


The Senate approved a biannual budget for FY 2016 and FY 2017 on Wednesday with a vote of 26 to 13. House Bill 2135 (HB 2135) makes up the 43% of the budget that was not included in the school block grant bill that passed the Senate two weeks ago. The budget funds state agencies and core services with a $6.48 billion general fund. When all funding sources are included (such as federal aid), the state budget total comes to approximately $15.47 billion each year. During the debate on the floor, five amendments were added to the final bill. They include allowing the University of Kansas and Kansas State bonding authority for various campus projects, allowing money earned from the Kansas vs. Nebraska water rights case to be deposited to the Attorney General, and restoring $420,000 to the Families Together program which serves children with special needs. 


Restoring the funding will allow Kansas City to keep its branch of the program. The budget does not include funding for the Judicial branch as the Senate will fund them in a separate bill later this session. Additionally, K-12 funding was addressed in the Block Grant legislation approved by the legislature and signed into law by the Governor on Wednesday. The budget now awaits action from the Kansas House.


The Budget funds all core services including:

  • The Kansas Department of Transportation receives $1.1 billion for FY 2016 and $1.5 billion for FY 2017.
  • The Department of Children and Families receives $603.5 million for FY 2016 and $608.9 million for FY 2017.
  • The Kansas Highway Patrol receives $78.6 million for its operating budget for FY 2016.
  • The Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services receives an operating budget of $1.6 billion that includes $1.9 million from federal Medicaid funds for FYs 2016 and 2017.
  • The Department of Corrections will be funded with $202.1 million for FY 2016 and $206.3 million in FY 2017 from the State General Fund.

The Senate adjustments for FY 2016 also include:

  • Adding $3.0 million, all from the State General Fund, to hire an outside professional consulting service to evaluate the efficiency of state government.
  • Adding $4.3 million, all from the State General Fund, for Hepatitis C medications in the Medicaid Program for FY 2016.
  • Adding $12.0 million, all from the State General Fund, to the Department of Children and Families for potential funding issues with federal Title IV-E foster care audit
  • Adding $2.1 million, all from the Children's Initiatives Fund, for the Kansas reading success program for FY 2016

As I noted at the outset, the budget passed 26-13.   I voted No.   While the budget is a good step towards more fiscal responsibility, I felt the spending pace was still beyond what I was comfortable with.  


Other Legislation

 

KPERS

 

Another intricate piece of legislation that was not included in the overall budget bill, but is directly related to the state of our finances is HB 2095 regarding the bonding of our KPERS system. The bill as amended and passed by the House will allow the Kansas Development Finance Authority (KDFA) to issue bonds, in one or more series, in an amount not to exceed $1.5 billion plus all amounts required to pay the costs of issuance


Back in February, the Senate passed SB 168 which would authorize the state to bond $1.0 billion for the Unfunded Actuarial Liability for the Kansas Public Employee Retirement System (KPERS) and amount to $1.8 billion in savings to the state. The savings from the reduced interest rate would be paid into the KPERS for the employer contributions


Now that the House and Senate have passed positions on the issue, they will proceed to work out their differences in a bipartisan conference committee made up of members from both chambers. Once both sides have an equitable agreement, they will submit their report back to their respective chambers and each body will take a vote on the conference committee report.

 

Lifeline 911

 

Substitute for Senate Bill 133 grants immunity from underage drinking charges to those 21 and under who request law enforcement or emergency medical services for someone one in need. Proponents of the legislation believe the bill will help save lives and takes away the fear of underage drinking charges when they or someone they know need medical attention. Currently 21 states have similar lifeline 911 laws. This legislation was introduced with the help of university students from across the state. The bill passed with a vote of 34-5.   I voted yes.

 

Freedom from Unsafe Restraint and Seclusion Act

 

Senate Sub. For Sub. for HB 2170 creates the freedom from unsafe restraint and seclusion act. The act would prohibit public schools from physically restraining or secluding children with special needs unless they posed a danger to themselves or others. If the child needs physical restraints or is put in a seclusion room parents would need to be notified by the next day. The instances would also be documented and the data processed and sent to the KS Department of Education. Seclusion rooms would be required to be a normal sized classroom and be ventilated. Proponents of the bill state that the act would provide protection to disabled children. They also believe the measure gives parents peace of mind and the ability to hold schools more accountable for such actions. Additionally, because this measure deals with some very complicated subject matter, HB 2170 calls form the creation of an advisory committee comprised of educators and parents to discuss potential policy changes going forward.

 

The bill passed with a vote of 38-1.  I voted yes.

 

Removal of Presidential Primaries

 

Senate Bill 239 (SB 239) would remove the need for presidential primaries and allows the Republican and Democratic parties the opportunity to select their own nominees according to the party procedures. The measure will save the state $1.75 million. The last time Kansas held a presidential primary election was in 1992 - and similar legislation has been introduced and approved every four years since. The bill passed unanimously with a vote of 39-0.  

 

The ABLE Act

 

House Bill 2216 (HB 2216) makes changes to the Kansas Money Transmitter Act and the Kansas Mortgage Business Act. An amendment was added on the floor by Senator Greg Smith to establish the Kansas Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE Act) savings program.

The amendment was added because the ABLE act was essentially blocked from passage by those wishing to advance Medicaid Expansion. Member of the disabilities community were upset that this common sense piece of legislation was blocked by partisan games in the House and pushed for the Senate to take action.

 

Supporters of the  ABLE act believe that the measure empowers the individual, not government, by allowing parents or guardians of children with disabilities to set up a state level tax free savings account to help pay for needed services and future expenses.  Similar legislation was approved at the federal level and allows up to $14,000 a year be deposited for future tax free expenses like social security or Medicaid. The federal ABLE act allows states to set up their own account program and Kansas would be one of the first in the nation through HB 2216.

HB 2216 passed 40-0.  I voted yes.

 

Kansas Charitable Gaming Act

 

Two years ago, the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission submitted a ruling that the state statute prohibits a number of charitable games that are common practice in Kansas. As a result, Kansas voters overwhelmingly approved a constitutional amendment clarifying that charitable raffles are permissible. Therefore, legislation was needed to clarify that such activities are legal and regulated. Sub for House Bill 2155 (Sub HB 2155) does just that. The measure creates the Kansas Charitable Gaming Act and amends the Kansas Lottery Act. Sub HB 2155 makes updates to the Lottery Act by keeping license fees for bingo at $25 and removing the restrictions on prize amounts.  During debate an amendment was added to the bill to rectify another ruling by the Racing and Gaming Commission. The amendment clarified that Fantasy Football is indeed legal practice in the state of Kansas and those participating are not subject to legal penalties.

 

Sub HB 2155 passed unanimously with a vote of 38-0.

 

Constitutional Carry

On Wednesday, the House took up and debated the "constitutional carry" bill which passed out of the Senate almost a month ago on a vote of 31-7. If you recall, SB 45 would remove the requirement for a class or a permit to carry a concealed weapon in Kansas. The law currently allows anyone to open carry in the state and this bill would aim to unify open carry laws with concealed carry laws.

After the bill passed on a final action vote of 85-39 and the Senate concurred with the amendments made by the House to the bill the same day.

 

SB 45 is now awaiting the Governor's signature in order to become law.

 

Ban on Dismemberment Abortions

 

I am very happy to report that the House has now adopted the ban on dismemberment abortions, which previously passed the Senate.   The House vote was overwhelming - 98-26 - and protects unborn children from a procedure that dismembers their bodies as a means to end their life. During our discussion on the Senate floor the topic of abortion was very difficult and emotional for members and the debate on Wednesday in the House was no different. At times the discussion became heated, but the outcome is what is most important - protecting the life of those who cannot yet speak for themselves, particularly in this most gruesome version at a point in which the unborn child is able to feel pain.

The bill will now proceed to the Governor's desk for his signature.


 

Expungement of DUIs

 

The Senate debated changes to DUI law this week contained in Sub for HB 2159. Specifically, the bill would amend the statues pertaining to the expungement of DUIs for first time offenders. For these individuals, after five years have elapsed and the offender has satisfied the sentence or diversion agreement, they may petition for expungement of a first DUI conviction. The bill also increased the time period on expungment of anything after a first time offense to ten years. While all decisions on expungement still remain at the sole discretion of a judge, the law cleans up previous language, and stiffens penalties for habitual offenders.

 

The Senate passed Substitute for HB 2159 on a final action vote of 39-0.

 

The Kansas Economy

 

For the month of February Kansas tied for first in private monthly job growth in the nation. According to the Federal Bureau of Labor Statistics Kansas added 9,500 jobs in February. In fact, Kansas beat Texas by 2,400 jobs; Texas is usually the one of the fastest growing job markets in the country. Overall, Kansas is 14th highest in the nation for total jobs. When added to the strong jobs numbers the last few months, Kansas is on a strong path to prosperity and increased economic growth.

 

The Kansas City Star referenced the February job growth in this article.

 

 

 

 

 

 

What's Next?

Next Friday is the last day of the regular session, also known as "drop dead day", as most bills not passed by this point are considered dead for the year. 


 

Conference committees - composed of three members from each chamber - are currently meeting to resolve differences between bills.   As those committees forward us legislation, we will debate and vote on the final version, and if it passes both the House and Senate, will then go to the governor.

We expect a long week.  If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact me.

  

In honor of your liberty,


 
Mary Pilcher-Cook



Mary Pilcher Cook
913-396-9306
mary@pilchercook.com

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