Legislative Update - April 3, 2017
A few weeks ago, the Kansas Legislature passed a massive tax increase, only to barely sustain a veto by Governor Brownback. That was followed quickly by a House vote on Obamacare's Medicaid expansion, and it seemed legislative leaders were determined to rush through as many left-wing ideas as fast as possible.  For about a month afterwards, however, the votes slowed down a bit, as proponents of higher taxes, more spending, and expansion of ObamaCare worked behind the scenes instead.

Now that spring has sprung, big votes are upon us, or are just around the corner.  One policy, heavy with the agenda of income redistribution, was before the Senate for a vote on Monday - Obamacare's Medicaid Expansion.  Later in the week there was a budget vote that proposes to spend money which we just do not have.  Also in the background is a proposed new school finance formula that would add hundreds of millions of dollars in more spending to the budget, along with a proposed package of tax increases that will have to be large to pay for all the new spending. 

Here is a breakdown of where we are on each of these major topics.   
Medicaid Expansion

Last month, the Kansas House adopted HB 2044, a bill which would expand Obamacare's Medicaid in Kansas.  Why do I call it "Obamacare's Medicaid?"  Because it does not include Medicaid's current population - individuals with disabilities, pregnant women, children, and the elderly who need nursing home assistance.  Obamacare's Medicaid can only be used for able-bodied people.  Obamacare's Medicaid will not allow the state to use Obamacare's Medicaid for the state's most vulnerable citizens.  It's a constant quandary to me - why do the newspapers always leave that information out?
 
Obamacare's Medicaid expansion is a profoundly bad idea that has nonetheless been kept alive in Kansas due to support from many health providers (such as some physicians and hospitals), believing they will see an increase in profits because of the federal funding attached to the measure.  Their view is short-term, as they lose sight of the societal and governmental budgetary consequences that come with it. While some support it out of a genuine desire to help the working poor, and their road is paved with good intentions, the government dependency it creates ultimately destroys human dignity and sharply increases the health care costs to everyone else, throwing them into Medicaid when they can no longer pay their bills.
 
Medicaid expansion, of course, came out of the passage of ObamaCare seven years ago, and despite the fact Obamacare is actively imploding, proponents are still seeking to move forward on their efforts to expand the reach of the failing law in Kansas too.  While efforts in DC to repeal the law did not succeed this month, the failure is largely because the bill did not repeal Obamacare, but instead continued many of its harmful effects, including Obamacare's Medicaid Expansion.  It is most likely that another repeal attempt will be made, and it will include a rollback of Obamacare's Medicaid Expansion. 

Regardless of what ultimately happens in Congress, we should stand firm against expanding Obamacare via Medicaid here in Kansas.  Aside from the obvious impact on our state's finances, those fiscal considerations only tell part of the story.

The results in states that have expanded Obamacare's Medicaid do not match the hyped-up claims for Kansas we see in news reports, and we simply should not put able-bodied adults ahead of those who are truly needing assistance.  It also incentivizes individuals to stop paying for their private health insurance so they can receive what they perceive to be free (it's not free though - taxpayers pay for it). If you would like to take a deeper look at the harmful effects in other states,
this article from 2014 describes a report by the Foundation for Government Accountability (the article includes a link to the report). 

The report indicates that Obamacare's Medicaid expansion is pushing the neediest "to the back of the line to make room for...able-bodied, childless adults." Many in this second group don't have kids (82 percent) and don't work (45 percent), and over a third have a record of run-ins with the criminal justice system.

The same article asks a question we should all be asking, "Who are the losers in Medicaid Expansion?"  The answer it gives is profound and should be on the mind of every Kansas legislator:

"
The losers? Low-income children, poor moms, the elderly, the blind, the disabled. The very people Medicaid was created to protect. And what do these ObamaCare losers have in store for them? States that previously expanded Medicaid had to eliminate coverage for life-saving organ transplants, overload waitlists for services, cap enrollment and raise patient costs, all because promises were broken and costs exceeded projections."
 
Despite these realities, there is still an emotional plea to expand Obamacare's Medicaid.  I continue to resist those calls, as once we establish more dependency upon government, it will be that much harder to ever roll it back - we can see by example how hard it is to repeal ObamaCare in Washington, a law that most Americans agree has severe problems.

Last Monday, I stood alongside my Senate colleagues in working to fight the legislation. I offered an amendment to prevent Medicaid funding from going to family planning services such as Planned Parenthood, but that was unfortunately narrowly defeated.  I also offered an amendment that would have simply prioritized current recipients - those who truly need it - over able-bodied adults.  That also failed.  A colleague wisely offered an amendment preventing Medicaid funding from going to localities which were sanctuary cities or counties for illegal immigrants - that also failed.  In the end, the underlying bill was adopted 25-14.

Thankfully, on Thursday, Governor Brownback vetoed the bill, sending it back to the House of Representatives, which was the House of origin.  A motion was quickly made to override the veto, but when it became apparent they were short of the 2/3 majority necessary to do so, there was a motion to table the bill, so ObamaCare's Medicaid proponents can work non-stop over the weekend to try to secure the 84 votes necessary.

If they are successful at overriding the veto, the measure will then go to the Senate.  If the veto is sustained, it will fail to advance and the proponents of Obamacare's Medicaid will likely try again next session.



School Finance


Another issue percolating behind the scenes is the construction of a new school finance formula. There seems to be considerable debate among left-wing Republicans and Democrats about which route to go, as evidenced by this column by Steve Rose, which was critical of his favorite left-wing Republican Melissa Rooker, who is promoting a formula which would penalize our local schools in two ways: 1) sending a high rate of Johnson County tax dollars to the rest of the state and 2) not allowing Johnson County schools to be funded at the level taxpayers desire. 
 
In my view, the discussion between Rose and Rooker demonstrates we are focusing on the wrong thing - systems and formulas.  Those old methods will get us nowhere but more litigation and endless spending without a pathway to better results. I disagreed with the Kansas Supreme Court involving itself in legislative matters, but at the core of its ruling there was a demand for results - at least 25% of Kansas students aren't meeting their grade level requirements.

This stunning statistic calls for a student-focused approach, and one that will ensure more accountability to parents, allowing those whose children are not being educated by one public school the freedom to send their child to another public school or an alternative, such as a private school, a religious school, or a home school.

While many other legislators will be debating how much money to spend and what complicated formula they think is best, I will be working with my colleagues to craft a student-focused approach that addresses the academic shortfalls within public education and embraces the liberty of parents to choose the best path for their child.

Taxes
 


There is not much new to report on the tax front, as legislative leaders have not yet brought forth another tax plan. While this may seem like a good thing on one hand, it is only likely because those on the left can't agree on how big their tax increase needs to be and what taxes it should raise, and of course, I recommend they not bring a bill forward that the governor will veto.

There are some proposals floating around to move to a flat tax.  This concept has merit, but the problem is that it would likely abandon our path to zero income tax and could involve a tax increase on low income Kansans.  While one bracket is ultimately better than multiple brackets, we need to be mindful of the impact of a tax hike on working families. 
 
I am also concerned about other tax increases being discussed, such as a sales tax on services or removing the property tax lid.  What's frustrating about this entire discussion is that very few are talking about the impact on taxpayers who are already facing burdens from federal, state, and local taxes.  There is a certain callousness being shown in all these debates towards Kansans who already pay plenty to the government.

Budget 

This week, we debated SB 189, which included adjustments in 2017, as well as the 2018 and 2019 budgets. For 2018, the bill spends around $400 million more than we have in revenue - it would literally spend money we do not have. 

Shockingly, a motion offered by my colleague, Senator Ty Masterson, failed 15 -25, to simply delay a vote on new spending until the Omnibus in May, when we will have more revenue facts.
 
This budget bill would spend roughly $6.3 billion of State General Fund (SGF) and close to $16 billion All Funds (which includes federal funds and other revenue). This does not include any additional funding for K-12 education, which will be in separate bills in both the House and Senate.
 
T he budget ultimately passed 25-15, and I voted No - spending money we don't have today is basically forcing a tax increase tomorrow - which, of course, is the goal of proponents.   On top of the $6.3 billion in State General Fund (SGF) expenditures, of course, is the fact we have not yet considered school finance legislation, and almost all the proposals involve varying levels of additional spending for K-12 education.  There is no telling how big the proposed budget could be in the future.
 
One would think that with all these discussions about increasing spending, we were facing a budget surplus - instead, what we're facing is a budget deficit, and that should be addressed through spending reductions, not spending increases.  Unfortunately, it seems unlikely that real spending reductions will be a part of any budget bill, given the coalition that exists to increase taxes - and most within that coalition are refusing to make any cuts.  

List of Bills
 


Below is a list of bills we voted on this week.  I voted yes, except where indicated.

MEDICAID EXPANSION (HB 2044) This is the Medicaid Expansion bill, which I explained above.  
Sub SB 69 passed the Senate 25 to 14.  I voted No.
 
BUDGET  (SB 189) 
SB 189 passed the Senate 25-15.  I voted No.

KANCARE REFORM (Sub. For SB 69) In 2011, Governor Brownback's administration developed KanCare, which is managed care by health insurance companies that replaced fee-for-service. There was no accountability or oversight with fee-for-service, and far too often, vulnerable patients were falling through the cracks and not receiving the health care they needed.  While not perfect, the KanCare program has been generally successful, and much better for patients than fee-for-service, and an added benefit is that it has helped the state save millions of dollars so more care can be provided to truly vulnerable patients.  This bill will eliminate the health insurance flexibility that allowed competition between the companies to give the patients the best care for the best price.  
Sub SB 69 passed the Senate 36 to 4.  I voted No.
 
STATE HIGHWAY RIGHT-OF-WAY USE ( HB2066 ): HB 2066 would require the Secretary of Transportation to reimburse a public wholesale water supply district for the cost to relocate water pipelines in a state highway right-of-way, excluding those water lines that cross a highway and have 90 percent or more of its water lines on private right-of-way.
This bill passed the Senate 40 to 0.
 
WATER DISTRICT VEHICLE REGISTRATION ( HB 2079 ): HB 2079 would add water district vehicles to the list of vehicles that can be permanently registered in the state. Current law provides for permanent registration of city, county, township, school district, community college, and technical college vehicles.
This bill passed the Senate 40 to 0.
 
REINSTATEMENT OF FORFEITED BENEFITS UNITS ( HB 2080 ): HB 2080 would require boards of rural water districts to reinstate any benefit unit that has been forfeited due to delinquent payments upon payment of all unpaid fees and charges due to the district, in addition to any fees and charges that would have accrued since the date of forfeiture and any benefit unit reinstatement fee in an amount limited to no more than 20 percent of the water district's current fee to establish a new benefit unit. The bill also would clarify language regarding who could serve as a director on the board of a rural water district. Any individual, firm, partnership, association, or corporation that is a participating member of the rural water district would be eligible to hold office as a director.
This bill passed the Senate 40 to 0.
 
JURISDICITON OF SECURITIES COMISSIONER UNDER INSURANCE COMISSIONER AND CONSOLIDATION OF CERTAIN PROSECUTIONS FOR FRAUD ( SB 23 ): SB 23 would establish the Office of the Securities Commissioner of Kansas as a division under the jurisdiction of the Insurance Commissioner and amend law by consolidating certain prosecutorial functions of the Attorney General.
This bill passed the Senate 28 to 12. 
 
BOARD OF TRISTEES OF COWLEY COUNTY COMMUNITY COLLEGE ( HB 2164 ): HB 2164 states that the Cowley County Community College (CCCC) Board of Trustees would add an additional member elected by the citizens of Sumner County. The bill also outlines requirements for primary and general elections for the additional member, including when the elections would be held and the methods for becoming a candidate.
This bill passed the Senate 40 to 0.
 
CLAIMS AGAINST THE STATE ( SB 109 ): SB 109, as amended, would authorize expenditures from the State General Fund, for FY 2017 to pay various claims against the State.
This bill passed the Senate 40 to 0.
 
OPERATION OF TRANSIT BUSES IN WYANDOTTE COUNTY ( HB 2096 ): HB 2096 would allow the Secretary of Transportation to authorize operation of transit buses on the right shoulders of state highways in Wyandotte County. Such practices have been utilized in Johnson County since 2012.
This bill passed the Senate 39 to 1.

STATUTORY REFERENCES RELATING TO KDADS (SB 217 ): SB 217 updates several statutory references in accordance with SB 449 a bill which was enacted in 2016.  SB 217 would replace the term "mentally retarded and other handicapped persons" in statutes with "individuals with intellectual or other disabilities" in accordance with current law. The bill would make other grammatical and formatting changes, all of which are technical in nature.
This bill passed the Senate 39-0.
 
KANSAS PHARMACY ACT ( HB 2030 ): HB 2030 changes the minimum age from 18 to 12 years of age for a person to whom a pharmacist or a pharmacy student or intern working under the direct supervision and control of a pharmacist would be authorized to administer a vaccine, other than the influenza vaccine, pursuant to a vaccination protocol and with the requisite training. Continuing law requires immunizations provided under the authorization of the Kansas Pharmacy Act be reported to appropriate county or state immunization registries. The bill would allow the person vaccinated or, if the person is a minor, the parent or guardian of the minor, to opt out of the registry reporting requirement. The bill would also require that, on and after July 1, 2020, physicians and other persons authorized in Kansas to administer vaccines to a person report the administration of a vaccine in the state to the state registry maintained for this purpose by the Secretary of Health and Environment. However, the bill would allow the person vaccinated or, if the person is a minor, the parent or guardian of the minor, to opt out of the registry reporting requirement. The manner and form of the reporting would be determined by the Secretary. For this purpose, the bill would define "physician" as a person licensed to practice medicine and surgery.
This bill passed the Senate 35-4. I voted No as there is no requirement that a parent or the person receiving the vaccine be told their names are being entered into the registry, and that they have the ability to opt out of the registry reporting requirement.
 
ADMINISTRATION OF EMERGENCY OPIOID ANTAGONISTS ( HB 2217 ): HB 2217 creates standards governing the use and administration of emergency opioid antagonists approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to inhibit the effects of opioids and for the treatment of an opioid overdose. The bill would require the Board of Pharmacy to issue a statewide opioid antagonist protocol, define applicable terms, establish educational requirements for the use of opioid antagonists, and provide protection from civil and criminal liability for individuals acting in good faith and with reasonable care in administering an opioid antagonist. The Board of Pharmacy would be required to adopt rules and regulations necessary to implement the provisions of the bill prior to January 1, 2018.
This bill passed the Senate 39-0.
 
DIABETES INFORMATION REPORTING ( HB 2219 ): HB 2219 would require the Secretary of Health and Environment to identify goals and benchmarks and develop plans to reduce the incidence of diabetes in Kansas, improve diabetes care, and control complications associated with diabetes.
This bill passed the Senate 25-13. I voted No because this is not a proper role of government, and it is an unreasonable expansion of government. KDHE already does this to a limited extent, however, this mandate will create "me too" demands by other disease organizations.
 
KANSAS HEALING ARTS ACT ( S Sub. HB 2027 ); Senate Sub. for HB 2027 makes several amendments to the Kansas Healing Arts Act. The bill would allow a physician providing services to a patient pursuant to a medical retainer agreement to bill for anatomic pathology services when the patient's bill meets certain specifications. The patient's bill for such services would be required to identify the laboratory or physician that performed the services, disclose in writing to the patient the actual amount charged by the physician or laboratory that performed the service, and be consistent with rules and regulations adopted by the State Board of Healing Arts (Board) for appropriate billing standards applicable to such services when furnished under the agreement. The bill also would amend a statute governing institutional licenses and restrictions placed on practice privileges of these license holders. The bill would reinsert language stricken in 2014 to allow for reinstatement of an institutional license of an individual who was issued an institutional license prior to May 9, 1997, and who is providing mental health services under a written protocol with a person who holds a Kansas license to practice medicine and surgery other than an institutional license.
This bill passed the Senate 39-0.  This is bill that is good for free market healthcare.
 
KANSAS PHARMACY ACT ( HB 2055 ):Senate Sub. for HB 2055 would delete, add, and modify definitions to be consistent with federal standards (the updated definitions are inserted throughout the bill); modify the requirements for processing prescription orders to prohibit pharmacists from exercising brand exchange for a biological product; insert provisions to bring the Act into compliance with the federal Drug Supply Chain Security Act (DSCSA) [Title II of the Drug Quality and Security Act, P.L. 113-54]; modify requirements for wholesale distributors; insert requirements for an automated dispensing system, a third-party logistics provider, and an outsourcing facility; change requirements for pharmacy technicians; set caps on registration fees for third-party logistics providers, outsourcing facilities, repackages, and automated dispensing systems; and expand the rules and regulations authority for the Board of Pharmacy in several areas.
This bill passed the Senate 39-0.
 
KANSAS PROGRAM OF MEDICAL ASSISTANCE ( S Sub. HB 2026 ): Senate Sub. for HB 2026 would change the Kansas Program of Medical Assistance by amending law and creating in law processes for managed care organizations providing Medicaid services and by creating an external independent third-party review process.
This bill passed the Senate 34-5.  I voted No. This bill had the same content as SB 69 (see above).
 
HEARING PROCESS FOR THE DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE ( HB 2312 ): HB 2312 would require that notice be provided and there is an opportunity for a hearing under the Kansas Administrative Procedure Act before final action could be taken on the certain fertilizer orders. T he bill would also codify current rules and regulations that allow for review of water orders by the Chief Engineer, Division of Water Resources, Kansas Department of Agriculture and clarify current law that allows for the Secretary to review water orders and establish a uniform administrative appeals process for water orders. Lastly, the bill would repeal the requirement of the Department of Administration to contract with or employ administrative law judges, court reporters, and other personnel to conduct the proceedings that occur when an order of the Chief Engineer is reviewed.
This bill passed the Senate 39-1.
 
BOARD OF NURSING ( HB 2025 ): HB 2025 would make several changes to law regarding the Board of Nursing (Board). Of those changes the bill would allow appointment by the Attorney General of more than one assistant attorney general to represent the Board. Current law provides for the appointment of an assistant attorney general, whose salary is paid from the Board of Nursing Fee Fund (Fund), to represent the Board in proceedings arising in the discharge of its duties and to perform duties of a legal nature as directed by the Board. The bill would also amend the Kansas Nurse Practice Act to authorize the Board to revoke a license for three years and establish an application fee not to exceed $1,000 for the reinstatement of a revoked license.  The bill would allow a person whose license has been revoked to apply for reinstatement after three years from the effective date of the revocation. The Application for reinstatement would need to be made on a form approved by the Board and be accompanied by the associated application fee. A denial of license reinstatement by the Board would make the person ineligible to reapply for reinstatement for three years from the effective date of denial. The bill would authorize the Board, on its own motion, to stay the effectiveness of an order of revocation of a license. Finally, the bill would also require the Board to submit a written report to the Senate Committee on Public Health and Welfare and the House Committee on Health and Human Services.
This bill passed the Senate 39-0.
 
CHILD CARE FACILITIES BACKGROUND CHECK AND SLEEPING AREA REQUIREMENTS ( SUB HB 2304 ): Senate Sub. for HB 2304 would amend the statute governing standards and regulation of maternity centers and child care facilities and the statute concerning restrictions on persons interacting with child care facilities. The bill would require child care facilities to ensure children under 12 months of age could be placed to sleep only on a surface and in an area approved for use as such by the Secretary of Health and Environment and the sleep surface would be required to be free from soft or loose bedding, including blankets, bumpers and pillows, as well as toys, including mobiles and other types of play equipment or devices. Child care facilities would be required to ensure that children over 12 months of age are placed to sleep only on a surface and in an area approved for use as such by the Secretary.
This bill passed the Senate 27-13. I Voted No. Over the years, these excessive child care laws have driven people away from being child care providers, driving down the supply and forcing up the cost of child care for families, making it more difficult for them to work. At the same time, the number of deaths in child care facilities has not gone down.
 
GREAT PLAINS INTERSTATE FIRE COMPACT ( HB 2140 ): HB 2140 adopts the Great Plains Interstate Fire Compact, and immediately authorize the Governor of Kansas to enter into an interstate compact to promote effective prevention and control of forest fires in the Great Plains region of the United States.
This bill passed the Senate 40-0.
 
WEIGHTS AND MEASURES ( HB 2136 ): HB 2136 would establish maximum license application fees for each service company that works with motor fuel dispensing devices. Beginning with the 2017 license year, the Secretary of Agriculture would be authorized, by order, to set the fees with the following maximum amounts: Commencing July 1, 2017, the maximum amount would be $100; Commencing July 1, 2019, the maximum amount would be $110; Commencing July 1, 2021, the maximum amount would be $120; and Commencing July 1, 2023, the maximum amount would be $130. The fees for license renewals would be equal to the license application fees provided for each place of business.
This bill passed the Senate 35-5.  I Voted No because of the fee increases.

LICENSES, PERMITS STAMPS AND OTHER ISSUES OF THE KANSAS DEPARMTMENT OF WILDLIFE, PARKS AND TOURISM ( HB 2191 ): HB 2191 would make several technical changes to law pertaining to hunting and fishing regulations. The bill would amend current law that 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 the person presents to the court or the office of the arresting officer an issue of KDWPT that was valid at the time of the arrest. The bill would amend the provision to require the issue of KDWPT to be valid at the time of the person's alleged violation rather than on the date of the arrest.
This bill passed the Senate 40-0.
 
FINANCIAL EXAMINATION REQUIREMENTS ( HB 2043 ): HB 2043 would eliminate provisions directing the Insurance Commissioner to conduct an examination of the affairs and financial condition of municipal group-funded liability pools and group-funded workers compensation pools every five years. Instead, under the bill, the Commissioner would be permitted to conduct these examinations as the Commissioner deems necessary. The bill also would modify the examination period associated with the Kansas Insurance Guaranty Association to be consistent with the examination period specified for the Kansas Life and Health Insurance Guaranty Association.
This bill passed the Senate 40-0.
 
FINGERPRINTING OF APPLICANTS FOR A RESIDENT INSURANCE AGENT LICENSE ( HB 2067 ): HB 2067 would modify a provision in the Uniform Insurance Agents Licensing Act concerning application requirements for resident agent licensure to authorize the fingerprinting of resident insurance agent applicants for the purposes of obtaining a state and national criminal history record check. Under the bill, the Insurance Commissioner would be permitted to: Require an applicant to be fingerprinted and submit to a state and national criminal history record check. The fingerprints would be used to identify the applicant and to determine whether the applicant has a record of criminal arrests and convictions in Kansas or in other jurisdictions.
This bill passed the Senate 38-2.  I Voted No.  There weren't any statistics given to show why this was necessary.
 
NONRESIDENT TRUST ENTITY APPLICANTS ( HB 2110 ): HB 2110 would revise the ability of an out-of-state trust company or trust department of a bank to establish a branch facility in Kansas. Under current law, such out-of-state entities are prohibited from establishing or operating a trust facility in Kansas unless the laws of the state where the entity is located reciprocally authorize a Kansas-chartered trust company, trust department of a bank, corporation, or other such business entity to establish or operate a trust facility within that state. The out-of-state trust entity also must provide proof that its home state has reciprocity with Kansas. The bill would clarify this prohibition, by deleting the terms "reciprocally" and "reciprocity," and instead provide that the proof provided by the home state demonstrates the home state (of the out-of-state entity) authorizes a Kansas-chartered entity to establish or authorize a trust facility within that state.
This bill passed the Senate 40-0.
 
HEALTH CARE PROVIDER INSURANCE AVAILABILITY ACT ( HB 2118 ): HB 2118 would amend and create law supplemental to the Health Care Provider Insurance Availability Act and amend the Nurse Practice Act to address requirements and exclusions from coverage pertaining to the liability of the Health Care Stabilization Fund (HCSF) and charitable health care providers and certain exempt licensees of the Board of Nursing.
This bill passed the Senate 40-0.
 
EMPLOYMENT SECURITY BENEFIT RELATING TO RECEIPT OF SEPARATION PAY ( HB 2329 ): HB 2329 would revise a provision of Kansas Employment Security Law, commonly referred to as Unemployment Insurance, pertaining to the distribution of benefits when an individual receives a post-employment separation payment. Under current law, weekly UI benefits stop until separation pay has been exhausted, usually at the rate of the individual' s normal weekly wage. The cessation of benefits begins a week after separation from employment. Under the bill, the start date of cessation would begin a week after separation pay has been paid. Individuals whose benefits stopped for 52 weeks or more due to separation pay would be entitled to a new benefit year, which would be calculated using the employment base period of the prior claim.
This bill passed the Senate 40-0.
 
GOVERNING BODY MEMBERS, CERTAIN VOLUNTEER ACTIVITIES ( HB 2137 ): HB 2137 would allow any county commissioner or member of a city governing body to serve as an emergency medical service volunteer, ambulance service volunteer, or volunteer fire fighter, and receive the usual compensation or remuneration for their volunteer service.
This bill passed the Senate 38-2.  I Voted No.  This bill allows a volunteer to be paid and serve in a position that could determine that pay.
 
BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS MEETINGS ( HB 2102 ):HB 2102 would require the board of county commissioners meet on such days and times each month as established by resolution adopted by the board. The bill would strike language differentiating meeting requirements of commissioners in counties with more than 8,000 inhabitants. HB 2102 would allow for a special session to be called for the transaction of any business by a call of most board members and would remove language about transacting general or special business and calling special sessions as often as the interest and business of the county may demand. The bill would clarify the business transacted at any special session would be governed by that business set out in the call for the meeting. Additionally, the bill would replace the term "chairman" with "chairperson."
This bill passed the Senate 40-0.
 
MUNICIPALITIES; CONTRACTS WITH OTHER MUNICIPALITIES ( HB 2094 ): HB 2094 would expand the definition of "municipality" in the statute allowing contracts between municipalities to include a school district, library district, road district, water district, drainage district, sewer district, fire district, park and recreation district, recreation commission, any other political or taxing subdivision, or any other authority, commission, agency, or quasi-municipal corporation created by state law. Currently, only a city, county, or township is included in the definition. The bill also would exempt from review by the Attorney General interlocal cooperation agreements entered into for joint or cooperative action that is subject to the oversight and regulation of a Kansas regulatory agency.
This bill passed the Senate 40-0.
 
EXPANSION OF COMMISSIONERS ( HB 2006 ): HB 2006, as amended, would address how vacancies on county commissions are filled when the vacancies are created by an increase in the number of county commissioner districts pursuant to KSA 2016 Supp.19-204. The bill would remove the requirement that the Governor appoint the new members and would replace it with a requirement to hold an election.
This bill passed the Senate 40-0.
 
ALLOWING THE GOVERNOR'S DOMESTIC VIOLENCE FATALITY REVIEW BOARD TO RECESS FOR A CLOSED OR EXECUTIVE SESSION ( HB 2128 ): HB 2128, would require any motion to recess for a closed or executive session to include a statement describing the subjects to be discussed during the closed or executive session and the justification for closing the meeting. Current law requires a statement of the justification for closing the meeting and the subjects to be discussed during the closed meeting. The bill would leave unchanged the requirement the motion contain the time and place at which the open meeting will resume. The bill would require the complete motion be recorded in the minutes of the meeting. Justifications for closing meetings would be limited to the circumstances listed in the bill.
This bill passed the Senate 40-0.
 
COMPACT BETWEEN THE KICKAPOO TRIBE IN KANSAS ( SB 202 ): SB 202 would approve and adopt by reference as state law the compact relating to cigarette and tobacco sales, taxation, and escrow collection between the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas and the State of Kansas.
This bill passed the Senate 40-0.
 
DRIVER'S LICENSE EXAMINERS ( SB 135 ): SB 135 would allow driver's license examiners within the Kansas Department of Revenue (KDOR) to have the choice to move from the classified to unclassified service.
This bill passed the Senate 40-0.
 
ADVANCE BALLOTS SUBMITTED BY MAIL ON ELECTION DAY ( HB 2158 ): HB 2158 adds a requirement that all advance voting ballots received at any polling place in the county not later than the hour for closing of the polls on any election date for all elections be delivered by the county election officer to the appropriate special election board. The bill would also add requirements for the receipt by mail of advance ballots be deliver to a special election board or the county board of canvassers, in a manner as consistent as possible with canvassing of other advance ballots, those received after the closing of the polls on the date of any election and which are postmarked before the close of the polls on the election date; among other changes.
This bill passed the Senate 40-0.
 
CRIMINAL POST-TRIAL MOTIONS FOR CORRECTION OF SENTENCE AND POST-RELEASE SUPERVISION FOR SEXUALLY VIOLENT OFFENDERS ( HB 2085 ): HB 2085 would clarify that lifetime post-release supervision is to be imposed on offenders sentenced to imprisonment for a sexually violent crime committed on or after July 1, 2006, if the offender was 18 years of age or older when the crime was committed. It would further establish a mandatory period of 60 months' post-release supervision, plus good time and program credit earned and retained, for offenders sentenced to imprisonment for a sexually violent crime committed on or after the effective date of the bill, if the offender was under 18 years of age when the crime was committed.
This bill passed the Senate 40-0.
 
KANSAS OPEN RECORDS ACT ( HB 2301 ): HB 2301 would remove addresses of prospective jurors from the information included in the list of prospective jurors filed with the clerk of the court. The bill also would specify the list would not be considered a public record (under current law, the list is designated a public record). This provision would expire on July 1, 2022, unless the Legislature reviews and reenacts the provision.
This bill passed the Senate 40-0.
 
JUDICIAL BRANCH SURCHARGE FUND AND REQUIRING THE RESPONSIBLE PARTY TO PAY FOR THE COST OF COLLECTION SERVICES FOR DEBTS OWED TO COURTS OR RESTITUTION ( HB 2041 ): HB 2041 extends the sunset provision for judicial surcharges on a number of docket fees until June 30, 2019. The bill would also make technical corrections and reconcile amendments related to expungements made in the 2016 Session. Finally the bill would require the cost of collection of debts owed to courts or restitution be paid by the responsible party as an additional court cost in all cases where the party fails to pay any debts owed to courts or restitution and the court contracts with an agent to collect the debt or restitution.
This bill passed the Senate 40-0.
 
URGING CONGRESS TO PROPOSE THE REGULATION FREEDOM AMENDMENT TO THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION ( HCR 5003 ): HCR 5003 urges Congress to propose the Regulation Freedom Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The proposed language of the Regulation Freedom Amendment would be as follows:
Whenever one quarter of the members of the United States House of Representatives or the United States Senate transmits to the President their written declaration of opposition to a proposed federal regulation, it shall require a majority vote of the House of Representatives and the Senate to adopt that regulation.
This concurrent resolution passed the Senate 27-13.  I strongly favor this resolution.
 
KANSAS OPEN RECORDS ACT ( SB 86 ): SB 86 would modify the Kansas Open Records Act (KORA) regarding fees charged for public records, who may request and inspect public records in Kansas, and the format of minutes kept at meetings of state legislative and administrative bodies and agencies.
This bill passed the Senate 30-9. I Voted No.  This bill had an amendment added that would require law enforcement to open their investigative records 25 years after a missing person report.  While the proponents have good intentions, this would destroy public safety for the general public.  When people no longer believe their identity will be protected when they relay information to the police, they will not volunteer that information.
 
LOTTERY TICKET VENDING MACHINES ( HB 2313 ): HB 2313 allows the use of lottery ticket vending machines, amends law concerning underage purchasing of lottery tickets, repeals the sunset provision for the Kansas Lottery in current law, amends law directing transfers from the Lottery Operating Fund, and amends law concerning the State Debt Setoff Program.
This bill passed the Senate 30-10. I voted No. Easy access to lottery tickets particularly hurts the poor.  The lottery is also not a proper role of government.
 
LOSS THRESHOLDS FOR CERTAIN PROPERTY CRIMES ( HB 2092 ): HB 2092 would adjust the penalty provisions of various crimes related to monetary value, law related to probation revocation, and law related to public disclosure of probable cause affidavits.
This bill passed the Senate 39-1.  I voted Yes. Note: On this bill, I offered an amendment, which passed, keeping the value loss of $1000 to trigger a felony.  It was proposed to be raised to $1,500. I appreciate my colleagues who supported my amendment.
 
NOTIFICIATION TO PERSONS PAYING FEES THAT MONEYS HAVE BEEN TRANSFERRED ( HB 2153 ): HB 2153 would amend a statute pertaining to the revenues placed in the State General Fund to specify that certain funds, identified in section 1(b), and any other fund in which fees are deposited for licensing, regulating, or certifying a person, profession, commodity, or product, must be used for the purposes set forth in statute and for no other government purpose.
This bill passed the Senate 35-5. I voted yes. This will keep the governor and the Legislature from sweeping fees so they can be used to balance the budget.
 
HUMAN TRAFFICKING ( SB 179 ): SB 179 would amend the law concerning human trafficking, including the creation of new crimes and amendments to existing crimes and other related provisions.
This bill passed the Senate 40-0. This is an excellent bill to help children and young women caught up in sexual trafficking rings.
 
BICYCLE REAR LAMP OR REFLECTOR ( HB 2170 ): HB 2170 requires a bicycle in use at nighttime to be equipped on the rear with a red reflector visible from 100 feet to 600 feet, a lamp emitting a red light visible from 500 feet, or the operator wearing clothing that emits light visible from 500 feet. Current law requires both a reflector and a red light visible from the rear and also a lamp on the front emitting white light.
This bill passed the Senate 40-0.  There were already requirements.  This bill gave more flexibility.
 
DISTINCTIVE LICENSE PLATES AND DECALS ON DISTINCTIVE LICENSE PLATES: ( S Sub HB 2174 ): Senate Substitute for HB 2174 establishes two distinctive license plates, authorize decals on distinctive license plates to indicate transportation of a person with a disability, and authorize additional decals indicating military honors on certain military-related distinctive license plates. The bill establishes the Autismawareness license plate. The new plate will require paying an annual vehicle registration fees and a logo use royalty fee of between $25 and $100 to the organization Autism Hope for Families, Inc. Royalties would be deposited into the Autism Awareness Royalty Fund, which the bill creates. The bill also establishes Kansas 4-H Foundation license plate which would require an annual vehicle registration fee and a logo use royalty fee of between $25 and $100 to the Kansas 4-H Foundation, Inc. Those royalties would be deposited into the Kansas 4-H Foundation Royalty Fund, which the bill creates.
This bill passed the Senate 40-0.
 
SPECIAL VEHICLE PERMIT FOR CERTAIN VEHICLE COMBINATIONS ( HB 2095 ): HB 2095 would authorize the Secretary of Transportation (Secretary) to issue an annual overweight divisible load operating permit for a truck-tractor semitrailer combination vehicle and a truck-tractor semitrailer, trailer combination vehicle with a gross vehicle weight of more than 85,500 pounds but not more than 90,000 pounds transporting divisible loads on 6 or more axles. The permit would be with respect to highways under the Secretary's jurisdiction, including city connecting links. The fee for the annual permit would be $200, and collected fees would be deposited into the State Highway Fund. No single-trip permits would be issued.
This bill passed the Senate 39-1.
 
ALLOWING CERTAIN TIME AWAY FROM WORK OR NORMAL DUTIES TO BE CREDITED AS PARTICIPATING SERVICE UNDER KPERS AND KP&F ( SB 205 ): SB 205, as amended, would expand the definition of participating service for members of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS) and the Kansas Police and Firemen's Retirement System (KP&F). Any period of time away from work or normal duties while in paid status authorized and approved by a participating employer would constitute service credit. Any administrative, vacation, sick, or personal leaves-including Worker's Compensation or light or temporary duty assignments-would qualify as service credit without limitation. This provision would apply retroactively, starting on July 1, 2014. If a member does not return to work for the participating employer at the conclusion of the leave, except for death or disability, the service credit would be removed. If a member voluntarily quits employment, the period of leave exceeding 365 days would be removed from the service credit. In either case, the Retirement System would reimburse the employer and employee for contributions made during that period.
This bill passed the Senate 40-0.
 
DEATH BENEFITS FOR KP&F SPOUSES ( HB 2111 ): HB 2111 would revise death benefits for certain surviving spouses covered by the Kansas Police and Firemen's Retirement System (KP&F). Upon the service-connected death of a KP&F member, the member's spouse would receive an immediate lump-sum benefit equal to 100 percent of the member's final average salary and an annual spouse's benefit equal to the greater of: Fifty percent of the member's final average salary; Or The amount the member would have been paid had the member elected the joint and survivor retirement benefit option and retired as of the first day of the month following the date of death.
This bill passed the Senate 40-0.
 
KPERS LICENSED SCHOOL WORKING AFTER RETIREMENT EARNINGS LIMITATION ( SB 138 ): SB 138 changes the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS) pertaining to working after retirement. The bill would exempt from the earnings cap those retirees who retired on July 1, 2009, or later; were retired for more than 60 days prior to July 1, 2017; and were subsequently hired in a school position requiring a license. Under current law, only retirees who retired prior to May 1, 2015, are eligible for this exemption. The special exemption, which is scheduled to sunset on July 1, 2020, would become permanent. The bill would repeal the 48-month or four school-year limit on the term of employment. The special exemptions for special education and certified hard-to-fill positions would be eliminated; the exemption for licensed school personnel would remain. The annual duty of the State Board of Education to certify the top five hard-to-fill positions would be repealed.
This bill passed the Senate 40-0.
 
ASBESTOS BANKRUPTCY TRUST CLAIMS TRANSPARENCY ACT ( S Sub HB 2053 ): Senate Sub. for HB 2053 would enact the Asbestos Bankruptcy Trust Claims Transparency Act (Act), which would require plaintiffs to provide certain statements and materials within 30 days of filing an asbestos action or within 30 days after the effective date of the Act. The bill would define "asbestos action" to mean a claim for damages or other civil or equitable relief presented in a civil action arising out of, based on, or related to the health effects of exposure to asbestos and any other derivative claim made by or on behalf of a person exposed to asbestos or a representative, spouse, parent, child, or other relative of that person. Specifically, a plaintiff would be required to provide a sworn statement indicating an investigation of all asbestos trust claims has been conducted and all asbestos trust claims that can be made by the plaintiff have been filed, as well as all trust claims materials.
This bill passed the Senate 27-12.
 
INFORMATION BETWEEN STATE AGENCIES AND THE KANSAS SENTENCING COMMISSION ( HB 2054 ): The bill would revise a provision in the Employment Security Law (Law) regarding information obtained by the Secretary of Labor pursuant to administration of the Law to allow disclosure of such information to public officials or the agents or contractors of a public official in the performance of their official duties. (Under current law, such information may be disclosed only to public employees in the performance of their public duties.) A provision prohibiting further disclosure of information disclosed under the Law would be amended to permit further disclosure for use in the performance of a party's official duties. Those people's subject to penalties for violating the disclosure provisions would be broadened from "the secretary or any officer or employee of the secretary" to "any individual."
This bill passed the Senate 40-0.


Helpful Information

Tax Assistance

Tax phone lines are open until 6:30 p.m., April 6th, to help answer Kansans' questions
 
TOPEKA - The Kansas Department of Revenue is dedicating additional staff to answer phones and keeping the lines open later on Thursday April 6 to help Kansans with questions about their 2016 individual income tax returns.

As in prior years, the department will also have phone lines for its Electronic Services Unit open late on tax day, April 18, to help people with questions about KS WebFile, the state's free online income tax filing program, or other electronic return questions.

Phone lines will be open until 6:30 p.m., Thursday, April 6.  For assistance people should call:

  • For tax-related questions, contact the customer service line at 785-368-8222, option 4 then option 1
  • For technical questions, contact Electronic Services Help at 785-296-6993

If customers simply need to check on the status of their refund, they can do so online any time at 
www.ksrevenue.org/RefundStatus   or by calling 1-800-894-0318 to connect to the department's automated refund status line.

To ensure taxpayer confidentiality and accuracy, people should have their most current tax information available when they call.

Learning Express

Learning Express
 is an online, easy to use resource that allows you to learn at a convenient time and place. Learning Express has some great tutorials for occupational exams. Clicking 'Career Center' gives you the option of exploring careers in different fields and preparing for an occupational exam. Careers range from allied health focusing on dental assistant, pharmacy technician, and physical therapist- to name a few, commercial driver's license, cosmetology, EMS, firefighters, law enforcement, nursing, real estate, and more. Creating your own username and password to save your work is necessary to use this resource.
 
If the page above asks for a Kansas Library eCard number, you may get one at any library in Kansas.  Most people will be automatically recognized as inside Kansas and will not need this step.   Questions:  kslc@library.ks.gov   or 785-296-3296.
 

In Conclusion

A quick note about the schedule - Drop Dead Day - the last day of the regular session, will be on Friday, April 7th .  We will then be working from home for three weeks prior to returning to the Capitol for the veto session on May 1st.

Thank you.

In honor of your liberty,

Mary Pilcher-Cook 
Paid for by Pilcher Cook Senate Campiagn ; Sheila Wodtke, Treasurer
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