2019 Legislative Policy Watch 
Weekly E-Update

Issue No. 11, March 22, 2019

In This Issue
Legislative Perplexity
Office of Rural Prosperity
Agreement Reached on Residential Solar
Sen. Concurrent Resolution No. 1605
JF County Noxious Weed Meeting
Farm Bill: President's Budget Puts Agriculture on Chopping Block
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The Legislative and Policy Watch Weekly E-Update is a project of the Kansas Rural Center.

Editor: Mary Fund
Paul Johnson, Policy Analyst


Policy Watch Sponsors
The Kansas Rural Center
promotes the health of the land and its people through research, education and advocacy that advance an ecologically sound, economically viable,  and socially just agriculture. For more information about KRC go to  www.kansasruralcenter.org.

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promotes environmentally responsible practices and sustainable natural resource policies to ensure the quality and abundance of these resources for future generations. For more information about our organization and programs, or how to become a member, please visit



Kansas Farmers Union is the state's oldest  active farm organization working to protect  and enhance the economic interests & quality of life for family farmers, ranchers & rural communities. For more information go to:

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Audubon of Kansas (AOK)  is a statewide non-profit organization  established to promote appreciation and stewardship of Kansas' natural ecosystems, with special emphasis on conservation of prairies, birds, other wildlife, and habitat. For more information go to  www.audubonofkansas.org .



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Congressional
    Contact Information


Sen. Jerry Moran
DC Ofc 202-224-6521

Sen. Pat Roberts
DC Ofc  202-224-4774

Rep. Roger Marshall, 
1st Dist. 
DC Ofc: 202-225-2715

Rep. Steve Watkins
2nd Dist.
DC Ofc: 202-225-6601

Rep. Sharice Davids
3rd Dist.
DC Ofc: 202-225-2865

Rep. Ron Estes
4th Dist.
DC Ofc.: 202-225-6216
LEGISLATIVE PERPLEXITY

by Paul Johnson


So how does the 2019 Kansas Legislative session end? How are the key issues of the budget, tax policy, school finance and Medicaid expansion resolved? This session is in its final dying days. Next week the legislators meet for only three days. They reconvene on April 1 and the final day of the regular session is Friday April 5 labeled the 'Drop Dead Day' since the only bills that can be considered in the veto session - which starts May 1 - are bills that have been vetoed by the Governor and the final Omnibus Reconciliation Appropriations bill. However, if Joint House/Senate Rule 4K is invoked, bills in conference committees and exempt bills can also be debated. 

There have been 235 Senate bills filed and 407 House bills filed. To this point there have been 7 Senate bills sent to the Governor and 3 House bills sent to the Governor.
 
The primary task of the Kansas Legislature is to pass a State Budget that is balanced since Kansas cannot deficit spend as does the federal government. The Senate has now completed work on the 'Mega-Budget - Sub. for SB 75' with a narrow vote of 21 Senators. This budget assumes the passage of the federal windfall tax bill - Senate Bill 22 - reducing state revenues by over $500 million over three years. For 2019, the State's ending balance is $560 million. For 2020, the ending balance falls to $243 million and by 2022 the ending balance is a deficit of $525 million. The Governor has until March 29 to veto SB 22 or the bill becomes law without her signature.
 
The House will debate their 'Mega-Budget - House Bill Sub. for SB 25 - starting on Monday March 25. The plan will be to reconcile the differences in the two budget bills in a Senate/ House conference committee and have the two chambers pass the final budget before April 5.
 
Given a certainty that the Governor will veto the tax bill - SB 22 - and there are not the votes to override the veto, attention will turn to the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group on April 17 when a new state revenue forecast will be developed that must be used by the Legislators and the Governor to finalize the 2020 State budget. Last November the estimates were increased by $300 million so if there is a sizeable revenue increase in April, that might re-order priorities headed into the veto session.
 
School finance is yet to be finalized. The Senate has passed Senate Bill 142 that tracks closely the Governor's request for an inflation adjustment of $92 million that should satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court concern over constitutionality. This bill is in addition to the base funding as passed last year. The House K-12 Education Committee voted down SB 142 and passed its own version - Sub. for HB 2395 - that adds similar funding for 2019 and 2020 but leaves funding for the out years to future legislators.
 
House Sub. for SB 16 - has new policy programs that target school performance, communications to parents, and programs for poor-performing students that was highlighted by the Kansas Supreme Court who stated that 25% of students were under-performing and deserved greater attention. Now this debate will move to the House floor next week for a spirited debate while the time for a court-ordered response to the Kansas Supreme Court by April 15 grows shorter.  

Medicaid expansion has finally gained some traction as it replaced House Bill 2066 on House General Orders and passed the House on a final vote of 69 to 55. HB 2066 had expanded the role of Advanced Practice Registered Nurses to assist in under-served rural areas. The Senate leadership has refused to hold committee hearings on Medicaid expansion this year. HB 2066 will now be sent to the Senate where it will be assigned to a committee where no hearings will be scheduled. It would take an affirmative vote of 24 Senators to pull HB 2066 out of committee and be placed on General Orders for possible debate. 

However, Senate leadership controls which bills will be debated under General Orders and could keep HB 2066 from ever being discussed. It would take an affirmative vote of 27 Senators to force a floor debate on HB 2066 thus insuring its passage. Senate leadership is confident that they control the 17 votes necessary to stop any move to even bring HB 2066 out of committee.
 
Will this 2019 session end in some grand bargain that incorporates some tax cuts (probably just for individuals not corporations), limited Medicaid expansion, school funding and SB 32 (the non-insurance health bill from Farm Bureau that has now been placed into Sen. Sub. for HB 2143)?
 
School finance may be settled on the House floor with a coalition of members (similar to the Medicaid expansion coalition) accepting the Senate's version (SB 142) since the Senate passed the bill 32 to 8. As stated before, the revenue picture could drive this debate if projections are increased in April before the veto session in May.

 Another key factor could be the veto pen held by the Governor and the cohesion of Democrats and moderates to balance the outcomes. 2020 will be an election year for all House and Senate lawmakers. How engaged will the Kansas electorate be to support that middle ground where key state services are properly funded and a new tax debacle is not repeated?

Contact Paul Johnson at  pdjohnson@centurylink.net.


OFFICE OF RURAL PROSPERITY


Lt. Governor Lynn Rogers presented his ideas on the Office of Rural Prosperity - within the Kansas Department of Commerce - to the House Rural Revitalization committee. The plan for now is to facilitate a statewide listening tour to ten cities/regions to gather information from community leaders and stakeholders before developing a mission statement and action plan.

Prioritizing of needs of rural Kansas has begun which includes developing rural housing, revitalizing main street corridors, investing in rural infrastructure, supporting rural hospitals, making State government work for rural areas, incentivizing active tourism and supporting agribusiness. The Lt. Governor's career has been in agricultural banking for 31 years traveling across Kansas. The Lt. Governor will be convening regular sub-cabinet department meetings of Commerce, Agriculture, Transportation, Health & Environment, Wildlife/Parks and Tourism, and the Water Office to coordinate with the Office of Rural Prosperity.

Once the initial tour is over a report will be developed laying out a specific mission and vision defining the focus and scope of the State of Kansas' efforts and investments in rural areas. These tours will become a regular feature and department officials will take part in these tours to connect Kansans to existing programs and services. The plan is to keep the Kansas Legislature in the loop as a co-equal partner to develop and promote legislation.

A little over a month ago, the Lt. Governor launched the Rural Prosperity Healthcare Tour visiting with community leaders in Emporia, Marysville, Hutchinson and McPherson with a special focus on Medicaid Expansion. There are ten scheduled hospital visits remaining. In Emporia, the Newman Regional Health system would gain $2.3 million from expansion taking them from a loss to profitability. Community Memorial Healthcare in Marysville would receive additional revenue of $350,000 moving the hospital from breaking even to profitability. The Hutchinson Regional Health system would recover 26% ($4.5 million) of their uncompensated health costs. 

Four rural hospitals - Mercy Hospitals in Independence and Fort Scott, Oswego Community Hospital, and Horton Community Hospital - have all closed in the last three years.

In a rural community, healthcare accounts for 20% of a local economy and one physician generates 26 jobs. 30% of Kansas' rural hospitals are considered financially vulnerable and over 85% of all hospitals currently have a negative operating margin. 

To date Kansas has lost over $3 billion in tax revenue paid to the federal government that should have been used in Kansas but has gone to other states. Finally - on the floor of the Kansas House - Medicaid Expansion was amended into House Bill 2066 and passed 69-54. So the maneuvers start now to force a debate in the Senate.    


Agreement Reached on Residential Solar
Both parties find common ground in effort to address residential solar opportunities

After months of debate in the Kansas statehouse, the Clean Energy Business Council presented to the Senate Utilities committee on Thursday that  Evergy  had agreed to file a new tariff with the KCC to request that Westar customers with solar installations prior to October 1, 2018, and KCP&L customers with installations prior to December 20, 2018, are grandfathered into the old rate and not subject to the mandatory demand charges.

"We appreciate 
Evergy  agreeing to grandfather these customers into the old rate so solar users aren't impacted by prohibitive rate hikes. We're now focused on how we can make sure Kansas policies enable future solar customers to affordably access the technology for their homes. Our  agreement  with  Evergy  included their commitment to collaborate in the coming months to find reasonable solutions that will allow the industry to grow and we're looking forward to those discussions," said Dorothy Barnett, executive director of the Clean Energy Business Council. 

Vice Chairman of Senate Utilities Mike Petersen (R-Wichita) told Barnett in committee, "I want to thank you and the industry for getting together and figuring out how to help these folks that made their investments (in solar) and coming to a reasonable solution." 

 The Clean Energy Business Council introduced SB 124 to eliminate the demand charges approved by the KCC in the fall. "We've agreed to stop pursuit of SB 124 this session so the tariff can be filed and we can work outside of the legislature to address how to value the costs and benefits of residential solar for future customers," said Barnett. 





SENATE CONCURRENT RESOLUTION NO. 1605

This resolution amends Section 1 of Article 10 of the Constitution of the State of Kansas relating to reapportionment of state senatorial and representative districts. Under current law the Secretary of State is required to adjust U.S. census population data for the state to exclude nonresident military personnel stationed in Kansas and nonresidential students attending colleges and universities within Kansas. 

Military personnel and students who are residents of Kansas must declare their permanent residence between their home county and place of residence on base or at school. The cost to contact these in-state students or military personnel to declare their permanent residence is estimated at $834,000 which at this time is not within the Secretary of State budget. Kansas is the only state that continues to adjust census numbers. This extra step of adjusting the census slows down the process of redistricting. When last adjusted in 2011, 13,000 'nonresident' military personnel and students were excluded from the redistricting of Senate and House districts.

Practically this means that college town counties and counties with military bases will have more population and have more representation in Topeka going forward since there are a fixed number of house (125) and senate districts (40) decided by population counts. The Secretary of State was the only proponent before the Senate committee and there were no opponents or neutral testimony. SCR 1605 passed the Senate 40-0 and is now before House Elections committee. It will require a two-thirds vote (84) in the House and if it passes will be on the  November 2019  general election ballot requiring just a simple majority vote for enactment.


JEFFERSON COUNTY NOXIOUS WEED INFORMATIONAL MEETING

On  Wednesday March 27 th  in the Oskaloosa Courthouse from 6:30 to 8:30pm, there will be an informational meeting on existing practices to control noxious weeds by the Jefferson County Public Works Department. Procedures to control weeds on public rights of ways will be discussed. Landowners will be given information on procedures to post their land as a no-spray zone. Commercial crop sprayers will present information on spraying practices. There will be information on the new State Law regulating noxious weeds. There will be ample time for questions from the audience.  


 Federal Farm Bill and Programs
PRESIDENT'S FY 2020 BUDGET: SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURE PERSPECTIVE
March 19, 2019 from the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

For each year President Donald Trump has been in office, he has put forward an annual budget request to Congress that included substantial cuts to federal food and farm programming. This year was no different. Last week, the President released his fiscal year (FY) 2020 budget, which recommended slashing the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) budget by 3.6 billion dollars (a roughly 15 percent cut compared to FY 2019 estimated levels). The proposed cuts include both discretionary funding, which is set through the annual budget and appropriations processes, and also proposed legislative changes and cuts to programs authorized and funded in the 2018 Farm Bill.
 
In passing a 2018 Farm Bill that included $1.8 billion in additional spending (relative to baseline over the next 5 years), Congress recognized that American family farmers needed support in combating a sluggish farm economy and unexpected losses stemming from extreme weather. However, farmers aren't the only ones who would suffer if the President's budget cuts were enacted. The proposed budget would also make extreme cuts to conservation programs, agricultural research, food safety assistance, and nutrition programs, and would have devastating impacts on families and communities across the country, both in rural and urban areas.
 
Thankfully, the real power of the purse resides with Congress, not with the President. However, the President's budget proposal does serve an important purpose by telegraphing the priorities of the Administration and giving the nation insight into what programs and initiatives they might be willing to support. As one of the leading advocates of federal policies that support sustainable agriculture, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) was extremely disappointed and concerned by the Administration's FY 2020 request. NSAC therefore urges Congress to do as they have done the past two years running, and reject the President's shortsighted proposals as they begin drafting their FY 2020 appropriations bills. Read more  at http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/fy2020-presidents-budget-proposal/ .
 


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