February 28, 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!
Halfway through, with more to do

That's a wrap!

After working bills on the floor of each chamber most of this week, the Kansas Legislature concluded the first half of the 2020 session and went home for a few days. While full of activity -- there were plenty of amendments and recorded votes made by each chamber -- none of the days included a vote on Medicaid Expansion. The wait continues.

In the meantime, we look forward to advocating for Kansas kids and families through a number of other policies in the second half of session, which will convene next Wednesday.

Tax Reform Council meets

The Governor's Council on Tax Reform had another meeting Friday morning. The council (which includes KAC President John Wilson) heard from state officials, national experts, and an economist with the University of Kansas (ROCK CHALK). The agenda included:
  • An overview of the budget provided by the Division of the Budget.
  • A legislative update from Secretary Burghart with the Kansas Department of Revenue. He shared a list of tax bills that have been introduced this legislative session, including bills recommended by the Council.
  • There were two presentations from national organizations, the Tax Foundation and the Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center. Both presentations contained tax policy recommendations for the state.
  • Finally, Dr. Donna Ginther, a professor of economics at the University of Kansas, updated the Council with research to inform future recommendations.
A main takeaway from the meeting was from the Tax Policy Center, which shared that "successful state tax reform requires priorities, choices, and compromises-and these all require revenue data, analysis, and debate."

Stability for parents in early months

KAC believes in providing the best start possible to young children, which includes economic stability for new parents by continuing to receive cash assistance during their child's earliest months.

That's why this week we supported Senate Bill 440, which would provide an additional option to fulfill work participation requirements under the cash assistance program.  It changes what satisfies the current work requirement, allowing a single parent of a child who is between 3 months and 1 year of age to fulfill work participation requirements by engaging in in-home parenting skills training.
This change would benefit the child, the parent, and the state.
Currently, a single parent of a 3-month-old infant faces a difficult decision, having to choose between continuing to receive needed economic support or going back to work. Research shows that "it takes time to become a responsive caregiver to a young child, establishing a pattern that will promote the child's long-term cognitive, social, and emotional development." ( "Time Off With Baby: The Case for Paid Care Leave.") It is important for parents to have an opportunity to stay home and bond with their children.
SB 440 would provide continued, needed financial assistance to Kansas infants and the adults who care for them.

Waiver would help hungry children

The so-called Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents waiver for SNAP (also known as food stamps) might sound like a policy that would solely affect adults without children. In practice, however, low-income children and youth would also benefit.

Children under the age of 18 and the adults who live with them are technically exempt from the three-month time limit for SNAP. However, this does not reflect the complex financial arrangements that low-income families sometimes use to put food on the table. This bill could benefit the following populations: 
  • Children with noncustodial parents. 
  • Children whose extended family members provide financial support. 
  • Youth aging out of foster care and unaccompanied homeless youth.  
That's why we also offered written testimony this week in support of SB 379, which would authorize the secretary of children and families to request a waiver from certain limitations under the food assistance program.

Food insecurity remains a major threat to health and well-being in our state, particularly for children. While every family wants to be able to provide healthy and fresh food for their youngest members, many families in Kansas struggle to provide. In 2018, 18.3 percent of Kansas children under age 18 lived in food insecure households. That means roughly 130,000 Kansas children survive without a dependable source of food.
With the possibility of economic turmoil, as well as layoffs in Wichita, SB 379 could give the state another tool to support those impacted by local and national economic downturns.

See you next week!
-- Adrienne