Legislative Update
The 2021 Kansas Legislature opened officially at 2:00 pm on Monday, Jan, 11, 2021. As in previous years, KAFP’s Family Doctor of the Day program and services provided was recognized in both the House and Senate chambers.

This session opened amidst a still-raging pandemic and while the business of the Legislature is still going, the way in which it’s being conducted is decidedly different. Committee rooms now provide six feet of space between committee members and members may participate virtually, if desired. Some federal CARES Act funds have been dedicated to updating the audio-visual/electronic systems in the Capitol, so members and those testifying before committees may do so virtually. As with most new systems, the audio-visual changes have not run smoothly this first week, leading to some committee meetings being canceled or delayed and some frustrated legislative leaders.

There are no hard and fast rules set by the full Legislature, leaving discretion to each chamber’s leaders to set safety and committee guidelines, with the House seemingly providing a stricter framework. Some of the most noticeable changes include:
  • House members’ seating has now been extended beyond the chamber’s floor to include the House galleries, in order to provide appropriate seating space between members. The House gallery is now, therefore, closed to spectators;
  • Large groups are no longer allowed in the Capitol and the House Speaker has requested there be no legislative receptions or food brought in by groups from the outside. In general, access is restricted to those deemed to have business before the Legislature;
  • Lobbyists do have access to the Capitol and legislators, although many have chosen to conduct their work by virtual or written means only. The KAFP lobbyist is on the ground at the Statehouse;
  • All committees now have virtual access and some committees are meeting virtually only. This opens up the opportunity for more individuals and groups to have their voices heard before legislative committees, as they no longer have to appear in person to give oral testimony;
  • The House is planning to limit full chamber session and debate to just one day per week, thus reducing potential exposure between members; and,
  • While masks are not specifically required at the Capitol, they are strongly encouraged and most legislators and lobbyists are following safety guidelines. All visitors are requested to have their temperatures read upon entering the building.

Legislative leaders are planning to focus time and action by priority this session, just in case the calendar is again interrupted by issues related to the pandemic. Constitutionally, the Legislature must pass a budget every year and this year must also pass reapportionment legislation. It is highly unlikely there will be anywhere near the usual volume of legislation, either by committee hearings or in chamber debate – again, to limit disease exposure between members.

One legislative chair said earlier this week that “fluid” is her word for the session – acknowledging there are a lot of unknowns, there is less predictability, there may be unexpected delays or cancellations, and electronic multi-media may at times fail us – so we have to become comfortable with flowing with the various changes and disruptions.
State of the State
For the first time in the State’s history, the governor issued the annual State of the State virtually, rather than before a joint meeting of the House and Senate. In her State of the State message, Governor Laura Kelly focused primarily on the pandemic and the toll it’s taken on the State, the COVID-19 vaccine rollout, and her administration’s focus on new job creation.

Coinciding with her State of the State address was the release of her State Budget recommendations for the next fiscal year. The governor suggested using some strategies she did last year to shore up the state’s ending balances, including reamortization of the KPERS unfunded liability and other one-time fixes. She also called on the Legislature to avoid tax-cutting legislation that would further threaten the state’s financial stability.

Once again, the Governor is recommending Medicaid expansion and has included funding for that in her budget recommendations. GOP leaders in both the House and Senate this year have publicly indicated they have no interest in debating or hearing expansion legislation.
Extending Emergency Declaration Legislation Related to COVID-19
The House and Senate Judiciary committees this week held hearings on legislation that would extend provisions regarding the COVID-19 state of disaster emergency declaration in the Kansas Emergency Management Act (KEMA).

SB 14 was introduced chiefly to extend the provisions of last year’s HB 2016 from January 26, 2020, to March 31, 2020, allowing legislators time to thoughtfully review and revise KEMA this session. In testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Kansas Medical Society renewed physician concerns over section 10 of the legislation, which allows certain health care professionals, including physician assistants (PA) and advanced practice registered nurses (APRN), within a designated health care facility at which they are employed or contracted to work “as necessary to support the facility’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic without a written agreement with a supervising physician.” This is a significant departure from state law and its need in Kansas has been questionable.

The bill also includes temporary licensure provisions by the State Board of Healing Arts (BOHA) and health care providers from out of state. In testimony, the BOHA raised concerns that last year’s legislation did not require out of state providers to apply for temporary licensure with BOHA, thereby putting patient care and safety at potential risk without state recourse. Section 7 of SB 14 relates to providing greater tele-medicine access during the state of disaster emergency.

The Senate debated and passed SB 14, 34-1 in emergency action on Thursday.

The House Judiciary Committee took a different approach in their HB 2048, extending many of last year’s provisions to Dec. 31, 2021. The prevailing thought behind the House’s extension was centered on hopes that the COVID-19 emergency declaration would no longer be needed by that time and the Legislature could focus more of its time considering long-term changes to KEMA.

In action on Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee inserted language clarifying that out of state physicians must comply with temporary licensure requirements by BOHA. They also amended the bill to prohibit the Governor from issuing orders for closure or cessation of any businesses, as well as prohibiting an order that “prevents the movement or gathering of individuals.” The bill, as amended, was passed and recommended favorably for passage. It is set to be debated by the House in the coming week.
Tightened Security at the State Capitol
The Governor’s administration has ordered additional security measures at the State Capitol, due to the heightened threat posed by planned protests at statehouses across the country amid recent election and transfer of power turmoil.

These measures include:
  • The Statehouse parking garage will be accessible only to legislators and staff with keycards, beginning at 5:00 pm Friday, January 15th through Friday, January 22nd. No visitors will be permitted entry to the parking garage;
  • Keycard access to perimeter Statehouse entrances will be removed;
  • Those having keycard access will be able to access a side door at the visitor security checkpoint, but must show ID badges for entry;
  • The Statehouse will be closed to the public, with only those having business with the Legislature or the Governor being allowed entry at the Capitol security checkpoint;
  • Anyone with business at the Capitol must produce a valid e-mail proving they have specific meeting on that day or are scheduled to provide testimony before a legislative committee; and,
  • Law enforcement presence will be increased through this period.

Increased virtual access to legislative committees and legislators is being provided and strongly encouraged in coming weeks.
Family Doctor of the Day
KAFP is again sponsoring the Family Doctor of the Day (FDOD) program during the Kansas legislative session. Licensed physicians, including residents, volunteer to provide mostly-minor health needs to legislators and their staff. The Legislature highly values and appreciates access to these services, especially when so many are away from their hometown primary care physicians.

On the first day of the legislative session, both the House and the Senate gave a standing ovation to KAFP President Dr. Chad Johanning (Lawrence), recognizing the service of the FDOD physicians over the years. Appreciation also goes out to the following members, who provided FDOD care this past week: Dr. Sheryl Beard (Andover); and Dr. Jennifer Thuener (Wichita). Thank you all for your generous gift of care!

KAFP Members with an active Kansas license are encouraged to volunteer, learn more or volunteer on our website.
Bills We’re Monitoring
The Legislature has hit the ground running and so have we! Following are bills we’re currently monitoring.

SB 14 – An act concerning governmental response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Kansas
Status: Passed Senate, 34-1

HB 2048 – An act concerning governmental response to the COVID-19 pandemic in Kansas
Status: Passed H-Judiciary

HB 2061 – Increasing the minimum age to purchase or possess cigarettes and tobacco products from 18 to 21, and prohibiting cigarette vending machines and flavored vaping products
Status: Referred to H-Federal & State Affairs
Legislative Committee Calendar, Week of Jan. 18, 2021
The following committee meetings and hearings are scheduled for the second week of the 2021 session. Please note, the calendar is subject to change. Although public attendance at committee meetings is limited, legislative committees and floor debates are live-streamed and can be accessed at www.kslegislature.org

Tuesday, Jan 19 | 12:00 pm
Joint Meeting of S-Public Health & Welfare and H-Health & Human Services

Presentation by KDHE:
  • COVID-19 Update