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 2016 Legislative & Policy Watch Weekly E-Update

No. 14  April 22, 2016

In This Issue
Veto Session
Field Notes: Writers Workshop Offers Pointers
Election Timelines
Federal Farm & Food Policy: House Committee Votes Against Protections for Contract Farmers
Federal Farm & Food Policy: Clean Water Rules Escape Shutdown in Senate
Federa Farm & Food Policy: Funding Bill Falls Short for Sustainable Ag & Conservation
How to Receive Policy Watch
About Policy Watch

About Policy Watch E-Updates


The Legislative and Policy Watch Weekly E-Update is a project of the Kansas Rural Center.

In 2016, KRC is partnering with the Kansas Natural Resources Council,Audubon of Kansas, and Ks. Association of Regional Development Organizations to provide this report to their members.  We thank them for their support and assistance.

Editor: Mary Fund
Paul Johnson, Policy Analyst

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Revenue Roulette--
   Legislature Returns April 27
          
by Paul Johnson
The state tax revenue picture continues to darken for Kansas. The slow drift into bankruptcy continues. The quality of Kansas life in regards to education and state services continues to deteriorate. The 'free lunch' of lower income tax rates and no income tax on business income for the wealthiest Kansans has been delivered. Working and hungry Kansans are covering that lost income tax revenue with higher grocery bills. 

The Governor's answer to this revenue mess is prayer and a hope for that economic growth miracle just over the rainbow. Kansas legislators were in shock over the lower revenue estimates. Will there be any political leadership to fix this revenue crisis when the veto session begins on April 27 or will this mess simply be bandaged and left for the newly elected 2017 Kansas Legislature? Will the Kansas electorate demand an answer?

The Consensus Revenue Estimating Group (CREG) - consisting of three university economists, the Governor's budget/revenue staff and legislative research staff - delivered the bad news last Wednesday evening. The new estimate lowered revenues by $228 million for this fiscal year and the 2017 fiscal year that ends June 30, 2017. When these lower revenue estimates are plugged into the budgets for 2016 and 2017, there is now a deficit of $140 million to end 2016 and a $151.3 million deficit for 2017.

CREG has lowered estimates the last three years because of the uncertainty over the full impact of the lower income tax laws. Even the higher sales tax rate has not generated the estimated increases. From the revised estimate from November 2015 to this new estimate in April, individual income taxes are down $125 million, corporate income taxes down $20 million, sales tax down $30 million and severance taxes down $15 million for 2016. For 2017, individual income taxes down $108 million, corporate income taxes down $24 million, sales tax down $30 million and severance taxes down $24.3 million. Kansas personal income and the state's domestic product growth lowered.

The Governor's office quickly offered three options to try and balance the 2016 and 2017 budget. There was no proposal to increase revenues or tamper with the exemption of not taxing 'small business' income for 333,000 LLC's. (It should be noted that there is no definition in the tax code for 'small business' and 17,000 (5%) of these LLC's - with incomes starting at $100,000 on into the millions - account for 84% of the lost $250 million in income tax collections.)

All three of the options include moving $70 million in sales tax revenue from the Highway Fund in 2016 and $115 million in 2017. The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) reported that already-programmed modernization and expansion projects will be shelved for at least two years but that most maintenance and repairs will continue as will already under-construction projects. 10 new projects slated for 2016 costing $273 million and 15 slated for 2017 costing $279 million will be delayed. Delays also planned for 2018 and 2019.

In option one - beyond the KDOT reductions - the Governor requests the authority to securitize a portion of the tobacco settlements that many other states have done. These tobacco settlements have been used for early childhood programs. The total spent on these programs yearly is now $42 million. This year's tobacco settlement was $58 million. The plan here would be to securitize and sell off the future tobacco settlements that are above $42 million thus freezing that amount for at least ten years.

 The estimate is that this scheme would bring Kansas a one-time payment of $158 million for 2017. The additional $16 million between the $42 million baseline and the actual receipt of $58 million has also been used for a range of children's programs but would not be available if this bonding scheme is allowed. The Governor's office assured the legislators that additional State General Funds (SGF) could be used for worthy children's programs but there is no analysis or prediction on the availability of new SGF funds.

In option two - beyond the KDOT reductions - the Governor proposes to reduce Regent Institutions budgets by $18 million for 2017 as was done in 2016. The Governor would also utilize special allotment authority to reduce $25 million in state expenditures through targeted efficiency savings. This was a hypothetical number thrown on the table without any specific details on 'efficiency savings'. The largest savings would come through delaying the repayment of $100 million in employer contributions into the Kansas Public Employee Retirement Systems (KPERS) from 2017 to sometime in 2018. When this $100 million repayment is made there would be an 8% interest payment made. This maneuver will take special legislation in the veto session.

In option three - beyond the KDOT reductions - the Governor would request legislative approval to make cuts of 3% or 5% in agency budgets worth $140 million in the upcoming fiscal year. A 5% cut would be made to the health division of the Kansas Department of Health and Environment netting $35 million and ultimately reducing payments to medical providers providing medical assistance to the poor. A 3% reduction to the Kansas Department of Education for general state aid to K-12 will net $57.2 million in savings to the state. 

After the promises of a 'stable' block grant for years 2016 and 2017 and with most school districts having finalized next year's school budget, this reduction will start July 1, 2016 and cause reductions to staff and probably shorten school years to balance budgets. (For greater detail on these school cuts - go to the Kansas Association of School Boards website www.kasb.org , click on advocacy at the top bar, click on webinars in the drop down tab, and click on the April 22, 2016 webinar. Mark Tallman will provide an hour long update on these funding cuts.) Most state agencies and the smaller colleges are cut 3% while KU, KSU and Wichita State take a 5% cut.

The scramble is now on to fix this mess with as little political damage done to those legislators running for re-election. Most legislators would prefer that a 'lame duck' Governor - who has sufficient allotment authority already - make these difficult political decisions without forcing reluctant legislators to take very tough votes. Fixing the mess at Osawatomie and Larned State Hospitals has become a high priority given the problematic press reports on staffing and the loss of federal dollars. The Governor is requesting over $17 million in state funds for both institutions.

The Department of Children and Families is having recruitment and retention problems for social workers. After six years of no state employee salary increases, the Governor is offering a fateful bargain of a 5% pay increase if the employee switches from Classified Service to Unclassified Service. With no administrative protection for these state employees from abuse by managers, the state workforce turns into a patronage game for the elected bosses. 

All 125 Kansas House seats and 40 Senate seats are up for election in November. The filing deadline is June 1. The future of Kansas will be on this ballot.     
Veto Session: How Long and What Hangs in the Balance?

The veto session starts next Wednesday - April 27. It is most difficult to predict how long this veto session will last. Initial plans made public by the leadership indicated the session would be over by Friday - May 6. The legislature was not going to wait around for a May 10th  Kansas Supreme Court hearing on the school funding bill on equity that passed both chambers and signed by the Governor. If the Court rules against this school funding bill and threatens to close schools starting July 1, the Legislature and the Governor will decide if a special session is needed or let the Court take the political damage. (5 of the 7 Supreme Court justices are up for retention elections this fall.)

If the Legislature has the courage to test the Governor's resolve against raising taxes, the veto session could last much longer. Some compromise would have to be developed that melds sensible budget cuts with new revenues. This compromise would not come easy and it would take several iterations to find a plan that garners 63 House votes, 21 Senate votes and does not garner a veto by the Governor. As the days drag on, what other legislation will be worked? Among the possibilities are:

House Bill 2088 - that puts a property tax lid on cities and counties - is in a conference committee where supposedly a workable compromise has been found.

 The Senate has passed a water bill that opens up the raiding of surplus Missouri River water for western Kansas. The House has had no debate on this controversy.

The noxious weed bill - House Bill 2479 - has been fundamentally changed by the Senate so its future is uncertain.

The American Legislative Exchange Council bill to control local food policy by the legislature - House Bill 2595 - has passed the House and now sits in the Senate Commerce committee.

The Governor also needs legislative approval to sell off the assets of the Kansas Bioscience Authority since the Governor has $25 million in asset sales built into the 2017 budget. The Governor wants a 'step therapy' bill that directs using generic drugs first to save the State $10 million in medical costs. The horsetrading will be endless as legislative leadership tries to find those budget compromises to finally finish this session. 
Field Notes:
Writer's Workshop Pointers for Political Issues
   Women for Kansas  Chapter in Wichita recently sponsored a Writer's Workshop to help citizens  express themselves and their organization's perspectives, and develop messages for political campaigns.  About 60 women attended the workshop conducted by Dr. Deborah Ballard-Reisch, Kansas Health Foundation's Distinguished Chair in Strategic Communications. 

Dr. Ballard-Reisch introduced the group to political narrative writing, critical for op eds, letters to the editor, newsletter articles, developing your platform as a candidate or a campaign as for a candidate, or organizational campaign on issues. a The group identified the top Kansas issues as  Education, the Kansas Supreme Court, and the Kansas Budget / Tax Structure.  We present this as solid how-to information, regardless of the issue.  

The following is excerpted from Women for Kansas' news:
 
"If politicians and political candidates don't frame their own clear, crisp, straightforward narratives, someone else will," Ballard-Reisch explained. " To be successful, a narrative must appeal to targeted voters and groups. It's not about dumbing down a message. It's about creating a straightforward, compelling narrative. Narratives must resonate, be easy to understand, and be precise.
 
Examples:
  • "Let's make America strong again"
  • "We can do it!"
  • "The silent majority."
  • "Government isn't working for us."
According to Dr. Ballard-Reisch, taking these simple steps can help prepare an effective narrative.
  1. Identify a clear topic
    1. Do your research!
    2. What are the most compelling issues?
    3. What are the causes of those issues?
    4. What are the competing stories about those issues?
       
  2. Frame the narrative
    1. Name it, frame it, claim it.
    2. If you don't claim the narrative (tell the story) someone else will.
    3. Narratives must be clear, crisp, and straightforward. (Can you say it in 5 words? Can you explain it to someone in an elevator in 15 seconds?)
    4. Focus on memorable messages, (Sound bites - see examples above)
    5. Use concrete comparisons. (The Kansas Supreme Court is like a basketball referee)
    6. Keep the message simple. (If issue are "too complex", break them down into smaller parts and create clear, crisp, straightforward messages around the parts)
       
  3. These are the factors that your narrative needs to cover:
    1. Who?
    2. What?
    3. Why/How?
    4. Consequences
    5. Call to action
       
  4. Anticipate counter-narratives
    1. In what ways can your message be misinterpreted?
    2. How will others respond to your message?
How will your respond to them?


Here is one of the narratives created by a group of attendees about the state budget and taxes.
 
WHO BROKE KANSAS?
Governor Brownback and his FRIENDS in the LEGISLATURE!
 
Their FAILED tax "experiment" has trashed our state.
*  Education has been GUTTED
*  Job Growth has STALLED
*  Infrastructure is CRUMBLING
 
LET'S FIX KANSAS!
Elect legislators to REPEAL the TAX CUTS!
The education group came up with this slogan that could be adapted to a variety of issues facing the state.

 
OUR MONEY, OUR CHILDREN, OUR FUTURE 
All Kansas children deserve quality education.
Don't sell our future to big business.
 
LET'S FIX KANSAS!
Elect leaders who will fully fund public education.
The courts group came up with this clever and memorable basketball inspired analogy.
 
Like a basketball referee, the Kansas Supreme Court
cannot side with specific teams or coaches.
If it does the game is rigged and the fans (citizens) lose.
 
KEEP THE COURTS INDEPENDENT
DO NOT PASS SB 439!
 
Or another option might be :
VOTE TO RETAIN THE JUSTICES .
 
 
The education group came up with this slogan that could be adapted to a variety of issues facing the state.
 
OUR MONEY, OUR CHILDREN, OUR FUTURE 
All Kansas children deserve quality education.
Don't sell our future to big business.
 
LET'S FIX KANSAS!
Elect leaders who will fully fund public education.
 
 

 

Women for Kansas plans additional writing workshops.  Check their website at

Kansas Legislature Website
  While we will provide information on calendars and upcoming hearings on some bills and issues, this information on committees, weekly calendars and schedules, bills, etc.  is directly available at the website below:

Election Timelines

The 2016 Primary Election is just four months away and  the November General Election is seven months away.   There will be one U.S. Senate race, all four U.S. House   seats, all 40 seats in the Kansas Senate and all 125 seats in  the Kansas House up for grabs.

June 1 - Candidate filing deadline; Last day to change party affiliation before primary.

July 12 - Last day to register to vote for primary election.

July 13 - First day advance ballots are mailed. In person  advance voting may begin. Contact your county election  officer to find out when and where.

August 1 - Noon deadline to cast advance voting ballots in  person in office of County Election Officer.

August 2 - Primary Election; Advance voting ballots must  be received in office of County Election Officer by close  of the polls.

October 18 - Last day to register to vote in general  election

October 19 - First day advance ballots are mailed. In  person advance voting may begin. Contact your county  election officer to find out when and where.

November 4 - Deadline for voters to apply for advance  voting ballots to be mailed.

November 7 - Noon deadline to cast advance voting ballots i n person in office of county election officer.

November 8 - General Election; Advance voting ballots  must be received in office of county election officer by  close of the polls.

(Here is the link to the candidates that have filed so far:    http://www.kssos.org/elections/elections_upcoming_


Federal Farm & Food Policy
House Committee Votes to Strip Protections for Contract Farmers
  April 19, 2016, National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

On April 19, the House Appropriations Committee convened to debate and pass the House Agriculture Appropriations bill for fiscal year (FY) 2017. This bill funds the major programs and functions of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). While the job of the appropriations committee is traditionally only to allocate funds, the Committee has increasingly taken liberties (through the use of policy riders) that have dramatically shaped or reversed policies established through authorizing legislation and subsequent rulemaking. Increasingly, a great deal of time is spent in Committee markup of the spending bill debating policy riders rather than spending decisions.

Farmer Protections   -   We are deeply disturbed by the passage of an amendment (the "GIPSA rider") by Representative Andy Harris (R-MD) to prohibit USDA from protecting poultry, pork, and cattle farmers against anticompetitive, deceptive, fraudulent, retaliatory and other abusive business practices by multi-national meat processing companies. The amendment faced strong bipartisan opposition, but narrowly passed by a vote of 26-24 after an initial "no" vote was changed to "yes" at the last minute.

USDA is poised this year to finalize rules that would protect farmers' basic human rights - like the right to free speech, freedom of association, right to trial by jury, and transparency in contract terms - in their dealings with large meat and poultry processing companies. The Harris rider, if included in final funding legislation for FY 2017, would tie USDA's hands entirely, preventing it from implementing even the most basic farmer protections.
The amendment was opposed by NSAC, National Farmers Union, Campaign for Contract Agriculture Reform, and American Farm Bureau Federation.

GIPSA stands for the Grain Inspection Packers and Stockyards Agency (GIPSA), the agency in charge of enforcing the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921, a law intended to make livestock and poultry markets open, transparent, and competitive, and to protect farmers and ranchers from fraudulent, deceptive and abusive practices in their dealings with the meat industry.   

Unlike any previous GIPSA riders, the Harris rider would not only prevent USDA from implementing provisions from 2008 Farm Bill, but also protections from the Packers and Stockyards Act of 1921 itself.

Read more   Here.
Federal Farm and Food Policy
Clean Water Rules Escape Shutdown in Senate
April 22, 2016  NSAC
By voting down an amendment yesterday, April 22, that would have halted the implementation of the "Waters of the United States" rule, the Senate has provided much needed clarity for farmers and ranchers regarding which waters on their land are subject to permitting requirements. The National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition (NSAC) and our member organizations worked hard to educate the Senators on the importance of this rule, and stood firmly with the Administration in our support of its passage.
The now finalized rule revises the existing definition of "waters of the U.S." under the Clean Water Act , protecting clean water for public health as well as for agriculture. Despite the recent success of the Act in the Senate, however, legal challenges still stand in the way of implementation.
Read more  Here
 
Federal Farm and Food Policy
 Funding Bill Falls Short For Sustainable Ag & Conservation

April 14, 2016  National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

On Wednesday, April 13, the House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee passed its funding bill for fiscal year (FY) 2017. Overall, the bill provides $21.3 billion in discretionary funding, which is $451 million below the FY 2016 enacted level and $281 million below the U.S. Department .

Read more  Here f or details of impacts on sustainable agriculture programs.
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