February 14, 2020

Capitol Connection is your weekly report from KAC's Vice President Adrienne Olejnik on happenings at the Statehouse and issues affecting Kansas children and families. For more updates, follow KAC on  Facebook  and  Twitter .

For Adrienne's perspective, see her Twitter account!
Rallying for Medicaid

A rally sponsored by the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas was held in the Capitol yesterday to show again how important passing Medicaid expansion is -- regardless of the status of other bills and amendments in the Statehouse. Because right now, that is what's happening. We are seeing further delays in making progress on moving SB 252 through committee and onto a full Senate vote. 

One of the key messages for the expansion bill is "no barriers or delays." That has become increasingly true of the process itself to get expansion passed for those who've been waiting years for such progress in Kansas. We'll continue to update you each week as to the status of Medicaid (KanCare) expansion .

Immunization bill would put Kansas kids' health up for a vote

House Bill 2601 was heard Thursday in the House Committee on Education. It would specify the required childhood immunizations for child care facilities and school attendance in statute. Kansas Action for Children strongly opposes this proposal and believe it could weaken our state's health across the board.

Why? We believe the health and well-being of Kansas children should not be subject to periodic votes in the legislature. The current process where trained medical professionals collaborate to update the lists of required vaccines is appropriate and necessary.

Vaccines keep children healthy and ready for school. Vaccines keep working adults healthy and businesses in operation. Vaccines protect those who are unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons from getting life-threatening illnesses. They are a cornerstone of public health, and they should not be made part of a partisan political process, even one with the best of intentions.

Shifting required vaccines from the current regulatory process to being listed in statutes will make it more difficult to quickly respond to changes made by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices. Given the legislative schedule, it would be difficult to ensure the list of vaccines required for school, which comes out in February, would be updated in a timely manner. It seems unlikely legislators would consistently be able to be made aware of any needed changes, introduce legislation, have a hearing, and pass a bill in time for the February notification.

Kansas already faces challenges in protecting our children's health through vaccines. Our state has one of the lowest vaccination rates in the country, which puts everyone at risk. According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, "when immunization rates are high, herd immunity develops and limits the spread of the disease, which helps protect those who cannot be vaccinated." Limiting disease is good for children, families, businesses, and the entire state.

Kansas should make it easier for families to receive vaccinations on schedule, but this bill would complicate the process. It would put public health up to a yearly debate.

Tax policy updates and background

Multiple pieces of tax legislation are circulating in the Capitol. This week, bills that would decouple Kansas individual tax filing rules from the federal code and increase the standard deduction passed out of committee. Next week, we expect hearings on a bill that would decouple Kansas corporate tax rules from the federal code.

In large part, these bills were prompted by the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, which was passed at the end of 2017.  Kansas is a rolling conformity state, which means our state system tracks the federal one. In other words, national base-broadening measures also broaden the state tax base.

For the last two years, we have raised alarms about statehouse bills that would detach Kansas from federal rules and benefit the few at the expense  of the many. 

Make no mistake: Ending tax conformity for individuals and corporations would help big businesses, multinational corporations, and high-income earners, while reducing revenue for a state that continues to rebuild.

Tax reform passed by the Kansas Legislature in 2017 has strengthened our state's fiscal position. But we need a working rainy day fund, to be prepared for economic shocks, and to pay down debts incurred over the last decade. That's what fiscal responsibility looks like.

We urge caution and care as the Legislature deliberates. Kansans deserve a tax system that provides for the health, education, safety, and infrastructure services they value.

See you next week (and happy Valentine's Day)!
-- Adrienne