May 11, 2018

Capitol Connection is your weekly report from KAC's Director of Government Relations Amanda Gress on happenings at the Statehouse and issues affecting Kansas children and families. For more updates, like KAC on  Facebook and follow us on Twitter .

For real-time updates from the capitol, follow Amanda on Twitter!
Hello, early childhood advocates! The 2018 Legislative Session concluded Friday, May 4, as the Legislature adjourned for the year. We have positive news to report: thanks to lawmakers' decision to reverse the Brownback tax plan in 2017 and reject an uncertain new tax proposal this year, Kansas can begin reinvesting in Kansas kids.


As the Veto Session drew to a close, our top priority was opposing a risky tax bill that would have reduced state revenue and threatened Kansas' future ability to support our state's children. The Conference Committee Report for House Bill 2228 narrowly passed the Senate on a vote of 21-19 last Thursday night, before failing in the House on a 59-59 vote in the final hours of the Veto Session.  
To those of you who took action opposing this bill, thank you. Your voice helped keep Kansas on the road to financial stability. Please thank your lawmakers who voted NO on CCR for HB 2228 (here are the links to the Senate and House votes).  

As you seek to understand policies that affect Kansas kids, KAC wants to serve as a resource! I would love to provide a legislative wrap-up or advocacy training to your organization, coalition, or personal network of advocates. Please email me ( if you'd like to set something up, or if we can answer any questions.  


Here's where some of the issues KAC followed this year landed.   


A Budget That Invests in Early Childhood


Smart tax policy choices meant that this year lawmakers could begin recovering from years of disinvestment. House Substitute for Senate Bill 109 includes the following investments for Fiscal Year 2019, which begins July 1:
  • $2.4 million from the Children's Initiatives Fund to restore previous cuts to Early Childhood Block Grants, the Child Care Quality Initiative, Autism Diagnosis, Family Preservation, and the Healthy Start/Home Visitor program. Previous cuts meant lost opportunities for young Kansas kids, and this restoration is a first step to repairing that damage.
  • $4.2 million from the Children's Initiatives Fund to enhance the budget for the Kansas Preschool Program, which also receives $4.2 million of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding. This will mean more Kansas kids can benefit from preschool opportunities that prepare them to succeed in kindergarten and beyond.
  • $1 million from the Children's Initiatives Fund to enhance the budget for Parents as Teachers, and language reducing the required match for local school districts to receive PAT funds from 65% to 50%.
  • $1 million from the Children's Initiatives Fund for Communities Aligned in Early Development and Education, a pilot program to support early learning opportunities in Wyandotte County.
  • $1 million in FY 2018 and $1 million in FY 2019 for tiny-k, also known as Infant-Toddler Services; any funds not spent before July 1 will be carried over into the next fiscal year.

This comes in addition to previous work increasing investments in early childhood. This year's school finance plan allows 3-year-olds to participate in the 4-year-old at-risk program if slots have already been offered to all eligible 4-year-olds, and increases state aid for that program by $2 million. Last year, legislators increased funding for the 4-year-old at-risk program and fully funded all-day kindergarten across the state.  


In 2018, lawmakers also came together to form an Early Childhood Caucus dedicated to understanding and elevating the importance of the formative years of children's lives. The Legislature's actions lay a stronger foundation to craft and shape a comprehensive vision for Kansas kids moving forward. And, at the end of the year, lawmakers chose not to sweep remaining funds from the Children's Initiatives Fund and the Kansas Endowment for Youth - recognizing the importance of preparing to invest in Kansas kids in future years.    


Governor Colyer received the budget bill May 9, and he has until May 19 to sign the budget or allow it to become law without his signature. If the Governor chooses, he may line-item veto individual components of the budget. Because the Legislature has adjourned for the year, legislators will not have the opportunity to override any line-item vetoes.  


Promoting Kansas Kids' Health and Well-Being


T he budget includes a critical proviso that will protect Kansas children - a requirement that the Legislature approve any significant changes to KanCare eligibility. Earlier this week, the federal government rejected Kansas' request to time-limit some parents' KanCare coverage. Proposed penalties for parents who are unemployed or underemployed also pose a serious threat to their children's health and well-being, and merit additional legislative scrutiny. KAC is thankful legislators chose to pause "KanCare 2.0" in the budget - and include language to defund the state's entire Medicaid program if the Governor chooses to line-item veto this provision.


This year Kansas took other important steps to improve children's health and safety. The Legislature passed and the Governor signed legislation to strengthen child care background checks ( House Bill 2639 ), study maternal deaths ( House Bill 2600 ), and prevent heatstroke-related deaths in cars ( House Bill 2516 ).  


However, lawmakers missed other opportunities to help Kansas children. Kansas has not yet expanded KanCare to cover more adults (despite evidence that expansion could drastically reduce our state's infant mortality rate). Lawmakers did not advance legislation allowing dental therapists to increase access to dental care, even after the Senate advanced legislation to establish dental therapists on a vote of 38-0.  


And research connecting restrictions on TANF cash assistance to increases in the number of children served by the child welfare system indicates that there is much work yet to do to strengthen anti-poverty programs in our state. This year lawmakers laid the groundwork for progress by learning more about this issue and by introducing bipartisan legislation (House Bill 2666) to reverse some harmful policies. Lawmakers also learned more about children's savings accounts (House Bill 2698), which would help children and their families build savings to make postsecondary education more affordable. 


Improving Kansas Child Care 


Happy Child Care Provider Appreciation Day! Child care is an essential component of the education and well-being of young Kansas children and their families. Earlier this year, Congress passed and the president signed an omnibus budget with bipartisan support for increased federal investments in early care and education. This included additional federal funding to support the costs of implementing the 2014 reauthorization of the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG).
Now, the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) is preparing the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) State Plan for 2019 - 2021 to outline how Kansas plans to spend child care funds. DCF is requesting public comment on both the draft State Plan and the Child Care Market Analysis report. DCF will host a public comment meeting June 6 in Topeka, and will accept public comments until June 11. You can view more information - including the draft plan and Market Analysis Report - on the DCF website.  


As KAC analyzes on the draft plan, we're looking out for two opportunities for Kansas to improve our child care system.   


  • First, the state should consider using child care funding to subsidize the cost of fingerprint-based background checks for providers. These new fingerprint-based checks are an important step to reduce the likelihood of abuse and neglect of children in child care, and Kansas can support providers by offsetting the additional cost of these new requirements.

  • Second, Kansas should do more to help families afford child care. The child care assistance program helps families afford the cost of child care tuition so that parents can work while children are in safe early learning settings. The number of children participating in the program fell by more than half in the last decade; child care assistance served fewer than 9,000 Kansas children in March 2018. 


We hope that child care stakeholders make plans to share their feedback during the public comment process, and we are grateful for the work that they do each and every day to make Kansas the best state to raise a child and to be a child.  


KAC is Hiring!


KAC is seeking an Outreach Specialist and Database Manager who will help mobilize Kansans to advocate for good public policy. If you're interested in joining Team KAC, please submit a resume and cover letter with salary requirements by Monday, May 14. Click here to learn more about this position.  


Mark Your Calendars - Here's What's Ahead


  • Tuesday, May 22: Kansas Supreme Court Oral Arguments in the Gannon school finance case
  • Wednesday, June 6: Public Comment Meeting for Child Care Development Fund State Plan
  • Monday, June 11: Comments Due for the Kansas Child Care Development Fund State Plan and the Child Care Market Analysis
  • Saturday, June 30: Kansas Supreme Court deadline for a Gannon decision
  • Tuesday, August 7: Kansas Primary Election
  • Tuesday, November 6: Kansas General Election
  • Monday, January 14: 2019 Legislative Session Begins
KAC's incredible intern Autumn and I celebrated the end of the Legislative Session - and graduation weekend at KU! - by climbing all 296 steps to the top of the Statehouse Dome Thursday. We promise, it's worth the climb.

Go Team, and thanks for following along this legislative session,