2020 Legislative Policy Watch Weekly E-Update

Issue No. # 6, February 14, 2020


400  Kansans attended Monday's WEALTH Day at the State Capitol. (Photo courtesy of CEP)
See more below.
In This Issue
Executive Reorganization Orders 101
Raw Milk Battles
Legislative Notes
WEALTH Day Notes
Calendars for Week of Feb. 17
About Policy Watch

About Policy Watch E-Updates

The Legislative and Policy Watch Weekly E-Update is a project of the Kansas Rural Center.

Editor: Mary Fund
Paul Johnson, Policy Analyst

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Sen. Jerry Moran
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Sen. Pat Roberts
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Rep. Roger Marshall, 
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Rep. Steve Watkins
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Rep. Sharice Davids
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Rep. Ron Estes
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    by Paul Johnson

How do Executive Reorganization Orders (ERO's) work? The Governor issues ERO's to the Kansas Legislature.  The ERO is then assigned to a particular committee in both the House and Senate. This January, the Governor issued 3 ERO's. 

ERO 44 establishes a new Department of Human Resources by combining the Kansas Department of Children and Families (DCF), the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) and certain juvenile justice programs from the Department of Corrections.

ERO 45 moves the State Employee Health Plan and the State Self Insurance Fund from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to the Kansas Department of Administration.

ERO 46 establishes an independent state energy office by moving the existing energy office from the Kansas Corporation Commission.

Once the ERO is issued to the Kansas Legislature and assigned to a given committee, a fifteen day clock starts. The committee has up to 15 days to recommend or disapprove the ERO. If no action is taken by the House committee, the ERO moves to the full House with an understanding of approval. On the Senate side, non-action by the committee moves the ERO to the full Senate as a neutral recommendation. Once sent to the full House and Senate, a 60-day clock begins for action or no action.

If either the House or the Senate disapproves the ERO, the ERO is defeated. If no action is taken or both chambers approve, the ERO goes into effect on July 1, 2020. ERO's are not amendable in a committee or before the full chamber. The ERO can be approved or allowed to go into effect, but the Kansas legislature can then pass legislation to make changes to the ERO before it goes into effect, but that legislation must be approved by the Governor or a veto overridden.

As of now the politics and posturing has begun to disapprove both ERO 44 (new department of human resources) and ERO 46 (establish an independent state energy office) to leverage votes on other political items such as the constitutional amendment to disallow the right to an abortion in Kansas, or unaffordable tax cuts.

ERO 44 - creating a Department of Human Resources - would offer benefits by reducing fragmentation, quicker responsiveness to client needs, increased community-level engagement by agency staff, and improved ability to make referrals to non-governmental community resources. The thirty-six service centers of the Department of Children and Families across Kansas with its 2,000 employees would be converted to regional resource center hubs that could offer an array of preventative and resource services. Clients would have one-stop assistance and connections to other resources. There is a great need for data-sharing across these now separate agencies plus budget savings from stream lined administration and duplicative services.

In terms of ERO 46 to create an independent energy office in Kansas, the politics are similar to leverage this for other political purposes but also - behind the scene - efforts by major utilities to derail the creation of a public statewide energy plan that could determine critical energy investments through a full debate by all key stakeholders.

Kansas is one of just six states that has not developed a state energy plan. Kansas' electric rates are much higher than surrounding states or the national average. Kansas is virtually last in benefitting from least cost energy options such as energy efficiency. Kansas has several old and declining-use coal plants that are more expensive to operate compared to increasing wind power.

When to retire these coal plants and who pays between investors and captive ratepayers are critical decisions that mandate public involvement. Kansas just spent $1 million on an outside electric rate study audit that concluded that Kansas needs a state energy plan and mandates to investor-owned utilities to offer an array of energy conservation services along-side just electricity. 
See Legislative Notes below for related hearings.


Kansas passed a law in 1967 that limited the sales and advertising of 'raw milk'. The law stated a farmer could sell raw milk to customers that came to the farm. The farmer could do no advertising and was limited to one sign for the farm. This law was overturned in court last fall declaring there was an infringement of constitutional speech. Thus, the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) began rewriting the law to find constitutional grounds. This has spurred two efforts: one would ban any sales of raw milk, a second effort language stating the possible negative health effects on any advertising or labeling of raw milk.

Senate Bill 300 would simply ban the sales of any raw milk in Kansas. A farmer could still drink raw milk without penalty but not sell it. The Kansas Dairy Association requested this bill to protect all milk sales. The fear is that sickness from raw milk would jeopardize all milk sales since most publicity over raw milk illnesses does not fully state it was raw milk as opposed to pasteurized milk. A second fear is that this world is far more litigious and any claims on raw milk could jeopardize certified dairies. Raw milk dairies are not certified or licensed by the Kansas Department of Agriculture. Certain websites list 45 dairies in Kansas that sell raw milk.

Opponents to SB 300 claim they have a certain freedom to make this consumer choice. Several small raw milk dairies are surviving on these special sales of raw milk. One small dairy near Yoder, Ks. has 300 customers with some driving quite a distance for this unique product. These dairies serve their own family members raw milk and believe this is indeed a safe and a healthier option than commercial milk. The last reported incident of sickness from raw milk in Kansas occurred in late 2007. The Centers for Disease Control rank deli meats much higher as a health threat than raw milk. Opponents came out in numbers to testify to the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources committees. Many more were listening in over the internet.

Senate Bill 308 was requested by the Kansas Department of Agriculture (KDA) in response to the fore mentioned court suit throwing out the 1967 law restricting raw milk sales and promotion. Like existing law, this bill restricts raw milk sales to on farm transactions with customers. 

Precise labeling instructions are mandated. The phrase 'This product contains ungraded raw milk that is not pasteurized and, as a result, may contain organisms that cause food-borne illness, especially in infants, young children, older adults, pregnant women and people with weak immune systems.'  must be put on any advertising and the bottle label of raw milk. The bill states that this hazardous warning label must be in the largest font used in any advertising or labeling. KDA's purpose for this bill was to respond to the lawsuit and provide an informed choice to consumers. While 13 states allow the sales of raw milk - even off the farm, raw milk cannot move in interstate commerce.

The Kansas Livestock Association (KLA) was a strong proponent claiming that raw milk is a danger to public health to a mostly uninformed consumer market. KLA members account for one-third of the milk produced in Kansas (1 billion gallons) and protecting the entire milk market is the point. KLA wants an amendment that raw milk dairies must at least be certified and charged a fee by KDA. 

A second amendment would mandate that these raw milk dairies be licensed by KDA as Class A dairies and follow all guidelines. KDA testified they had no interest in registering or licensing these dairies. The number of licensed Kansas dairies has fallen to 256 from 4,800 in 1978.

Opponents were clear that SB 308 was an overreach and practically unworkable. They argued that raw milk should not be treated similar to tobacco with such an onerous hazardous label. The font requirement is too extreme and would make advertising and labeling impossible. Technically - the advertising and labeling could be written in the smallest font - say 2 - and make the warning totally unreadable thus defeating the basic purpose of informing the customer.

Opponents want to reject both bills. Keep the current labeling of raw milk and allow advertising that clearly states that this milk is raw. Let an informed and health-conscious consumer make their own informed choice for themselves and their families.

Legislators have shown interest  in developing a compromise on  SB 308, which i s now scheduled for final action in Senate Agriculture Committee on  Thursday  - Feb. 20 8:30 a.m.


Executive Reorganization (ERO) 46, the Governor's executive order to pull the Kansas Energy Office out of the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) and establish an independent Kansas Energy Office will be heard on Wednesday February 19 at 1:30 p.m. in Room 548-S by the Senate Utilities Committee. ERO 46 can become official if the Legislature lets it stand as introduced, or the Legislature must reject it. 

HCR 6031, which would disapprove ERO 46, was introduced in the House on February 12.  A no vote on the resolution lets the reorganization stand.  An independent energy office would allow the development of an energy plan outside the agency that now regulates utilities and the oil and gas industry. Kansas is one of only three states that have their energy office within their regulatory agency. The top recommendation from the legislatively requested London Economics study on Kansas electricity rates is to develop a state energy plan. Kansas is one of six states without a state energy plan.
HOUSE BILL 2516 establishes First-Time Homebuyer Savings Accounts. These saving accounts are structured a lot like 529 college savings accounts. Almost one-third of Kansas households do not have a savings account to fall back on in an emergency or to invest in the purchase of a major asset - like a home.  Eleven states have such accounts including neighboring states of Iowa, Colorado, Missouri and Oklahoma. Contributors would be eligible for a tax deduction (up to $3,000 for an individual or $6,000 for a married couple) and earnings on the account would not be taxable at the state level but taxable at the federal level. There are no family income limits so the benefits may skew towards higher income level households that have the financial means to save for housing. From recent housing data, there were 14,300 first-time homebuyers estimated in Kansas last year. Starting January 1, 2021, the fiscal cost to the State General Fund is estimated at $3.3 million and administrative costs of $200,000 for two employees to explain the program and additional computer programming expenses.  
Senate Bill 310 requires all voting systems for elections to use individual voter-verified paper ballots. Kansas is one of only 14 states that still allow counties to use DRE (Direct Recording Electronic) systems without a paper trail. At this point eight counties use DRE systems with Harvey and Geary being the largest. SB 310 requirements start on January 1, 2021 - next year thus not impacting this fall's high turnout election. While the State regulates and certifies voting machines, the counties pay for the machines. The Secretary of State has some federal funding to offset some of these costs. The FBI has confirmed that 39 states have had their election systems scanned or targeted by Russia. With a paper trail, unless the ballot is lost, a county always has the opportunity to do an audit or recount.
House Bill 2625 preempts cities or counties from prohibiting or regulating paper or plastic carryout bags and other single-use plastic items. The bill was introduced by the Kansas Chamber of Commerce who claim counties and cities are just too uninformed to handle the issue of plastic waste. The State of Kansas should usurp that power as it does on guns, the minimum wage and siting of confined animal feeding operations (CAFO's). The City of Wichita is moving in the direction of banning single use plastic bags as is the City of Lawrence. HB 2625 has been scheduled for a hearing before the House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development committee on Thursday - February 20 - at 1:30 pm in Room 112-N.
House Bill 2588 provides for the FORWARD transportation program (Kansas' latest ten-year highway plan). This program is on the fast track as highway developers and builders are circling this cash cow. It was introduced on February 6. This program is 95% roads so why call it a transportation plan instead of a highway plan? The program will continue to raid the general sales tax that will threaten other essential state services as the last ten-year highway plan (T-WORKS) did from 2011 to today.  No thought has been  given to funding with higher fuel taxes - a true user fee. HB 2588 will be heard before House Appropriations committee on February 18 at 9:00 am in Room 112-N.
Not surprisingly, Senate Bill 375 (that provides for the FORWARD transportation program) will be heard before the Senate Ways and Means committee on the exact same day at 10:30 am in Room 548-S. When Kansas faces the next inevitable recession (or passage of unaffordable tax cuts) the choice will be stark over asphalt or schools or public safety. Lawmakers must thoughtfully consider the consequences of rushing this monumental program thru or slowing down and truthfully weighing all the options.
House Bill 2640 provides for state income tax credits for the practice of carbon farming. Starting in 2021, farmers that capture carbon through "verifiable farming methods" would be eligible for a 90% reduction in state income taxes if their gross farm income were under $1 million. For farmers over the $1 million gross farm income threshold, the tax credit would be 50%. The Kansas Department of Agriculture - working with the Kansas Department of Revenue - would calculate and certify the amount of credit based on the economic value of the carbon farming performed. HB 2640 was filed on February 12 by Representative Rui Xu.  

House Bill 2623 establishes requirements for claiming pollinator-friendly solar sites. The Kansas Biological Survey would publish a pollinator-friendly solar scorecard starting January 1, 2021. This bill is the Kansas solar pollinator habitat act. HB 2623 will be heard before the House Agriculture committee on Feb. 18 at 3:30 pm in Room 582-N. 


Kansans packed the Policy Briefing session at WEALTH day, just as a students and those new to policy advocacy packed a similar briefing across the hall.  (Photo courtesy of J. Jost)

400 Kansans participated in Monday's (Feb. 10) WEALTH Day at the State Capitol to take their messages on state water, air, energy, land (farm and food), transportation and health issues to State Legislators. Over 40 state environmental, conservation, energy, and social justice groups sponsored the event. 

Starting with a Climate Vigil hosted by Interfaith Life Action followed by a packed room Policy Briefing and ending with a standing room only Climate Hearing and Rally, the day brought energy and a sense of unified commitment to these issues. 

Although not a formally sanctioned legislative hearing, the Climate Hearing was made up of members of both chambers and parties and community members. The committee heard from a range of experts on how climate change is already impacting Kansans, and will impact the future of the Kansas economy, agriculture, and public health.  The Climate and Energy Project will have a video link to the Climate Hearing and Rally up next week so if you could not make it, you can still share in the day.

 Participants--and all concerned Kansans-- are urged to sign the Climate and Health Declaration which can be found 

CALENDARS for Week of February 17, 2020
For next week's full committee schedules, go to "Calendars" on the Menu at:
  http://www.kslegislature.org/li/     Also, we recommend checking the daily calendars for any changes.

Agriculture & Natural Resources Committee 8:30 a.m. Room 159-S
     Thursday Feb. 20, SB 308 Final action on allowing on-farm retail sale of raw milk with certain labeling and advertising requirements.
Ways & Means Committee 10:30 a.m. Room 548-S
   Tues. Feb. 18 SB 375- Provides for FORWARD transportation program.
Utilities Committee 1:30 p.m. Room 548-S
Weds.  Feb. 19   ERO 46 - hearing on establishing a Kansas Energy Office and transferring the duties and powers of the division of energy within the state corporation commission to an independent Ks. energy office
   Appropriations Committee 9 a.m. Room 112-N
Tues. Feb. 18 HB 2588 Providing support for FORWARD transportation program
 HB 2625 House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development committee on Thursday -
Rural Revitalization Committee 9 a.m.  Room 281-N
   Tues. Feb. 18 Informational hearing on Ag Credit Conditions in Kansas
Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications 9 a.m.  Room 281-N
   Thurs. Feb. 20 Informational briefing on "Stakeholder Responsibilities to Retail Rate Study"
Agriculture Committee 3:30 p.m. Room 582-N
   Tues. Feb. 18 HB 2623 Establishing pollinator solar sites

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