2019 Legislative Policy Watch Weekly E-Update

Issue No. # 4, February 1, 2019

In This Issue
Statewide Energy Plan Progress
Kansas Water Debate
WEALTH Day! March 12
Legislative Process Maneuvers
Legislative Monitoring
Calendar for Week of Jan. 28
Federal Farm Bill Update: Local Ag Market Programs
CEP Livestreaming Interviews
About Policy Watch

About Policy Watch E-Updates


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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The Kansas Natural Resource Council (KNRC)
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:

League of Women Voters of Kansas is a grassroots volunteer political organization with nine local chapters across Kansas. For nearly 100 years, LWVK has encouraged the informed and active participation of citizens in government. For  more information, contact  lwvk.org.


Climate and Energy Project  (CEP) is a  Kansas-based non-partisan non-profit working to find practical solutions for a clean energy future. For More information go to:



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 .



Friends of the Kaw (FOK)
works to protect and preserve the Kansas River for present and future generations.


 
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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
Statewide Energy Plan Progress
by Paul Johnson

The frustration in Kansas is growing over high electricity rates. The electric rates for both Westar and KCP&L for residential, commercial and industrial customer are on the order of 30% higher than surrounding states. Unfortunately, the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) that regulates and approves these rate hikes has been complicit in some very poor decisions to salvage aging coal plants. 

In 2011, the Sierra Club - along with the Citizen Utility Ratepayer Board (CURB) and others - opposed the $1.23 Billion worth of environ-mental retrofits at the aging coal plant at La Cygne. The right path would have been a natural gas retrofit and more investment in wind energy. The KCC ignored this advice.

At this point, Kansas needs an independent review of regulatory authority of the KCC in supervising these monopoly markets of no competition in defined service areas by investor-owned private utilities (IOU's). Kansas must join the other 44 states that have developed comprehensive statewide energy plans to assess all opportunities with energy efficiency, alternative energy and least-cost plans to retire uneconomical coal plants.

The investors in these private utilities have done exceedingly well over the last decade while electric rates have soared. These private utilities are putting - in their rates - state income taxes that the utilities should pay but find creative accounting tricks to avoid. The KCC regulates Westar's and KCP&L's rates but not the actual holding companies that is now 'Evergy' (with the merger). Evergy has announced that it will buy back 60 million shares ($3 Billion+) that will do nothing for ratepayers. The promise from Evergy is a five-year moratorium on electric rate increases. 

What is not explained is that this rate hike moratorium applies to just 50% of your electric bill while riders such as fuel costs, environmental retrofits and property taxes are not capped so electric rates will continue to rise.
There is legislation being introduced to rectify the treatment of taxes by the IOU's. There is a push to mandate that the KCC develop a comprehensive State Energy Plan. There is discussion of a 'securitization' option for the utilities to deal with their undepreciated coal plants with ratepayer-backed bonds to provide new investment in energy conservation and alternative energy sources.  Twenty-some states have explored or implemented this option. 

The KCC's decision to punish solar homes with discriminatory monthly rates is being challenged in the Legislature. A new KCC commissioner will be selected in March, and this will be a key appointment to provide a new, thoughtful direction in terms of the energy future for Kansas.
 
 Contact Paul Johnson at  pdjohnson@centurylink.net

KANSAS WATER DEBATE
  By Paul Johnson
 
The Kansas Water Authority presented their 2018 Annual Report listing activities and recommendations to the Kansas Legislature to the Senate Agriculture & Natural Resources committee. On the Kansas Water Office website homepage, you can download this report: https://kwo.ks.gov/ .

Education is one of the key priorities. Streambank stabilization is a key priority to lessen the siltation into the federal reservoirs. The dredging at John Redmond reservoir has now been completed while the streambank stabilization upstream on the Cottonwood and Neosho Rivers continues. With Tuttle Creek reservoir's increased siltation problems, a new type of dredging that involves stirring up the bottom soil and flushing it down stream - since there is no readily available land to pile up the siltation as done at John Redmond- is being considered.

There are real concerns over water quality, the potential chemicals in this stirred up sludge and the cost impact on downstream communities to clean up this water. The problems with Blue Green algae closing reservoirs such as Milford or Marion continue to be studied. There are more irrigation demonstration farms being developed in the Ogallala aquifer area to find better ways to conserve that finite source of water.

The chloride plume near Burrton - that is migrating towards the Equus Beds aquifer near Wichita - receives continued attention and funding. The senior water rights at the Quivira National Wildlife Refuge (consisting of 22,135 acres) need to be protected by purchasing neighboring water rights, but that involves more state and federal funding.

What needs greater attention is the connection between the State Water Plan (SWP) and the impact made by Farm Bill conservation programs in Kansas. The entire State Water Plan (SWP) funding last year was $15 million. Federal Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) funding in Kansas last year was $94 million on 2 million acres. CRP is being reduced in Kansas with an expected 500,000 acres now under contract expiring in 2020. How will that land use change impact water quality issues? 

The Conservation Stewardship Program (CSP) -at $40 million for working farms - has 1 million acres in Kansas but only 50% of eligible applicants were funded last year. There needs to be a joint federal/state discussion by the key water officials requesting more federal dollars and increasing state funding for the SWP.


Mark Your Calendar 

WEALTH Day
at the State Capital
March 12, 2019

Kansans from across the state come together to learn about and advocate for WEALTH policies at the Statehouse.
  • Get up-to-date on current WEALTH policy priorities in Kansas
  • Visit the Solutions Showcase to learn from leading Kansas organizations
  • Join the Interfaith Climate Vigil
  • Enjoy a local foods luncheon (registration required)
  • Sample new ideas at the Cookies & Conservation Conversation
  • Meet with your legislators

SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES:
WEALTH day is made possible by our event hosts and sponsors who can exhibit at a booth during the Solutions Showcase, and/or make a financial contribution to help cover the Local Foods Luncheon and the Cookies & Conservation Conversation.  If you would like to sponsor the event and/or become an exhibitor, please fill out the Sponsor Registration form.

Click  HERE for sponsorship information.

Click  HERE for Registration Information.
 
WEALTH Day is a collaborative effort. Event hosts include: Climate + Energy Project, Kansas Rural Center, Kansas Interfaith Action, Kansas Natural Resources Council, Kansas City Chapter NAACP,  Grassland Heritage Foundation, Friends of the Kaw, and the Metropolitan Energy Center. 

 For information about becoming a WEALTH Partner, email Rachel Myslivy - myslivy@climateandenergy.org

 
LEGISLATIVE PROCESS MANEUVERS
The Governor's Medicaid expansion of KANCARE has now been introduced in both the House - HB 2102 - and the Senate - SB 54. The challenge now is whether these bills will be given hearings and voted on in committee. HB 2102 has been assigned to the House Appropriations committee.

 Appropriations is a highly sought after committee by most members so allegiance must be paid to the House Speaker for such an assignment. The Speaker of the House has ultimate authority over deciding committee chairs and committee assignments. At any point and for any reason the Speaker can replace a Committee Chair as well as move legislators off and on any committee. 

The Speaker along with the Majority Leader have the final say on where bills are sent committee wise and if a bill passes a given committee whether it will ever be debated under General Orders on the House floor. A motion that has 70 votes by House members can force debate under General Orders. The House has now passed its 'Rules of the Kansas House of Representatives' for the 2019-2020 sessions. These rules run 47 pages and any changes from the 2017-2018 sessions are printed in italics.

Committee chairpersons have similar dictatorial power over running their committee. Chairpersons can write their own rules for their committee and these rules do vary from committee to committee. These rules should be on the Legislature's website for that committee or you may have to request a copy from the committee assistant whose name is listed under the committee in the Calendars.

Election and transparency bills are now being introduced. SB 43 proposes election-day registration as does HB 2092. HB 2067 provides for audio and video broadcasts of committee hearings. HB 2069 provides certain requirements of minutes taken in legislative committees. The new Secretary of State Scott Schwab gave his inaugural testimony before the Senate Ethics, Elections and Local Government committee. He proposed that any changes to election or voting laws be put off for a year so his office can coordinate with the 101 county clerks that run local elections. He has concerns over election-day voter registration and how that might work in smaller counties?

The previous Secretary of State did not submit a proposed budget to the Governor and so the office's budget picture is in a mess. There were spending decisions made up to the last minute by the previous Secretary of State that has resulted in some financial chaos. Secretary Schwab is debating the future of 'Cross Check' (the system of cross checking the voter rolls from dozens of states) and whether another national system would be safer but much more costly for Kansas. The next couple weeks will tell what traction election and transparency bills have this session.

Senate floor action begins for real next week. On Monday, SB 9 speeds up a $115 million payment to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System. It was not in the Governor's Budget and further lowers the ending balance thus reducing attention to other problems in state services. On Wednesday or Thursday will be a Senate floor debate over SB 22 that lowers certain state taxes on corporations and individuals. There has yet to be developed an accurate fiscal cost to Kansas but it may be close to $400 million over three years.  

Contact Paul Johnson at pdjohnson@centurylink.net
LEGISLATIVE MONITORING
By looking at the Kansas Legislature's website at http://www.kslegislature.org/li/ you can track the planned committee meetings for next week by looking at the 'Calendars' tab for the House and Senate that are released on Thursday and Friday. 

Informational hearings continue along with introduction of bills , and the start of a few actual hearings on bills. You can find bills filed by going to the "Bills and Laws" tab on the website;  click on either House or Senate bills. You can read through the title of each bill and click on the bill that interests you. By clicking on "Legislators" you can click on a given House or Senate member and it will list under 'Bills and Resolutions' on their site the legislation sponsored by that lawmaker.

CALENDAR FOR WEEK OF February 4, 2019
Below are a few committee highlights for the coming week. 

House Rural Revitalization Committee  9 a.m. 582-N 
  Thurs. Feb. 7 Information Briefing:
      Western Ks. Rural Economic Development Association (KREDA)
   Friday Feb. 8 Presentation on Rural Broadband

 House Commerce, Labor and Economic Development 1:30 p.m. 112-N
  Director of Koch Center for Leadership & Ethics on "Teaching the Morality of Free Enterprise"

FEDERAL FARM BILL UPDATE
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE 2018 FARM BILL: LOCAL AGRICULTURE MARKET PROGRAM
January 22, 2019 (National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition)

Editor's Note: This is the second post in a multi-part blog series digging deeper into some of the programs and policies of the 2018 Farm Bill. These posts will detail how the new farm bill is likely to impact core sustainable agriculture programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Previous posts focused on: working lands conservation. Subsequent posts will focus on nutrition and anti-hunger programs and beginning/socially disadvantaged farmers.

After a protracted and often contentious negotiation period, Congress finalized the 2018 Farm Bill and the President signed it into law just before the end of 2018 (nearly three months after the 2014 Farm Bill had expired). Despite the unprecedented amount of partisanship that arose during this farm bill process, the sustainable agriculture community came away with some very significant wins - particularly when it comes to  local/regional food systems . Now that the most visible part of the work is done (the passing of a new farm bill), farmers, local governments and community-based organizations are starting to wonder what's next.

In this deep dive post, we detail what stakeholders need to know and what they can look forward to from one of the crown jewels of the 2018 Farm Bill: the  Local Agriculture Market Program  (LAMP). The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) was an early champion of LAMP, and outlines in this post how the program will improve resources for stakeholders, as well as what new opportunities might become available once it is implemented.

What is LAMP? The growing demand for locally and regionally produced food has fueled a need for increased production, as well as a need for programs and policies that can support the expansion of those markets. The 2018 Farm Bill makes significant investments - in physical infrastructure as well as in training and peer-to-peer professional networks - in developing these burgeoning local and regional supply chains through LAMP.
LAMP is a new umbrella program created in the 2018 Farm Bill that partially combines and streamlines two existing, cornerstone local/regional food system programs: the  Farmers Market and Local Food Promotion Program  (FMLFPP) and  Value-Added Producers Grant Program  (VAPG).  Read more here: http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/2018-farm-bill-local-agriculture-market-program/
 
A CLOSER LOOK AT THE 2018 FARM BILL: GUS SCHUMACHER NUTRITION INCENTIVE PROGRAM
    January 24, 2019 (National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition)

Editor's Note: This is the third post in a multi-part blog series digging deeper into some of the programs and policies of the 2018 Farm Bill. These posts will detail how the new farm bill is likely to impact core sustainable agriculture programs administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Previous posts focused on: working lands conservation and local/regional food programs.

In the eyes of healthy food system advocates, one of the 2018 Farm Bill's biggest successes is the expansion of the  Food Insecurity Nutrition Incentive program  (FINI); the SNAP incentive grant program established in the 2014 Farm Bill that has continued to garner bipartisan and bicameral support. The program was recently renamed in honor of longtime friend to the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC), former USDA Under Secretary, and Wholesome Wave co-founder Gus Schumacher, who was lauded in the conference committee report as "a magnificent advocate for farmers and families (who) saw the importance in building access and affordability through incentive programs." The many NSAC member groups conducting incentive programs can attest to the truth of the statement.

The new and improved Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program (which we will refer to as "FINI" here for simplicity's sake) is funded at $250 million a year for 5 years, making it a permanent part of future farm bills . FINI is administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA).

While the new FINI program continues the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) incentive grants program, it integrates some new program improvements that are a direct result of feedback from NSAC members and other FINI grantees. This includes new funding for technical assistance, information sharing, and a simplified reporting system, as well as the addition of a produce prescription provision originally proposed as a stand-alone program in the  Local FARMS Act . Read more here: http://sustainableagriculture.net/blog/closer-look-2018-farm-bill-fini/

 

Kansas WEALTH Policy,  Civic Engagement and YOU
Curious about what's going on in the Kansas legislature this year and how you can make a difference? Tune in to the Climate + Energy Project's   CEP LIVE on Facebook  every week for the latest!
 
Throughout the 2019 Kansas legislative session, CEP will host live interviews with organizations whose mission includes one of the  WEALTH  topic areas: Water, Energy, Air, Land, Transportation, and Health.  Leading advocacy organizations will provide updates on current WEALTH policy priorities, offer tips for civic engagement in Kansas, and answer all of your pressing questions!

On  Tuesday ,  Feb. 5  at 2PM CST   Climate and Energy Project will talk with Zack Pistora, lobbyists for the Kansas Chapter of the Sierra Club.

If you miss it, check back on CEP' s   Facebook event page  for a link to the recording. Here are links for  previous broadcasts:

CEP Live with with Moti Reiber, Kansas Interfaith Action
Part 1
Part 2 with Moti Reiber
 
https://www.facebook.com/CEPheartland/videos/2170331559850503/

CEP Live with Cille King of League of Women Voters KS https://www.facebook.com/CEPheartland/videos/237109557191264/

CEP Live with Jessica Lucas of Clean Energy Business Council https://www.facebook.com/CEPheartland/videos/978651145663277/


Date
Guest(s)
Organization
Topic
1/15
Jessica Lucas
Clean Energy Business Council
cleanenergyforbusiness.com
Energy
1 / 22
Cille King &
Teresa Briggs
League of Women Voters
lwvk.org
Voter Engagement
1 / 29
Moti Rieber
Kansas Interfaith Action
kansasinterfaithaction.org
Social Justice & Health
2 / 5
Zack Pistora
Kansas Sierra Club
kansas.sierraclub.org
Environment
2/12
Mary Fund
Kansas Rural Center
kansasruralcenter.org
Agriculture
2/19
Shaun Rojas
Kansas Leadership Center
kansasleadershipcenter.org
Civic Engagement
2/26
Christie Appelhanz
Children's Alliance of Kansas
childally.org
Health & Children
3/5
Dawn Buehler
Friends of the Kaw
kansasriver.org
Water
3/12
WEALTH DAY
 

 

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The Kansas Rural Center
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Topeka, Kansas 66604
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www.kansasruralcenter.org
If you have any questions about Policy Watch, contact Mary Fund, editor at  mfund@kansasruralcenter.org, or contact Paul Johnson at pdjohnson@centurylink.net

 

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