February 2019
"Nothing serves liberalism better than a severe contest between intelligence, which presses forward, and an unworthy, timid ignorance obstructing our progress." 
James Wilson, 1843 ~ Founder of The Economist

This is my first newsletter of 2019 and I hope you find it informative. The legislative session is only 15 days old and already the ultra conservative Republican leadership is flexing their muscle to thwart Governor Kelly's agenda and take us back to the good ole days of Brownback. Senate leadership is intent on passing a tax bill that is sure to blow a big hole in the budget, in spite of the fact that no one yet truly understands what the Federal Tax changes will mean for companies or individuals and that state revenue estimates are way down from projections. Additionally, with a concern of a possible upcoming recession many worry that this premature tax bill could "plunge the state back into a budget crisis."

If that bill doesn't put a nail in the coffin of the progress we made over these past two years, these same "leaders" are insistent on stalling any resolution on a school finance bill that would put us in compliance with the Supreme Court. Talk of plans to cut funding or push through a constitutional amendment to carve out the Judicial Branch of government are still floating around the halls of the Statehouse.

Medicaid expansion is getting the same obstruction from committee "leaders" who refuse to entertain the idea that bringing our Federal tax dollars back home would actually be a real "shot of adrenaline" to our economy AND give access to health care to 150,000 Kansans ( the Governor explains in this video). These competing agendas, of moving our state forward or backward, will take center stage throughout the session.

The biggest fight that has emerged is the Governor's proposal to amortize KPERS in order to stabilize the fund over the long term. Much like refinancing your home when you've made choices that resulted in a financial crisis, the re-amortization would indeed cost the state more in the long run. But, it would insure that we have the funds going forward to make all payments to current and future KPERS recipients. The Governor explains her rationale for this smart and responsible move in this video.

There are many other issues brewing and it will be important to stay abreast of what's happening. If you want a terrific overview of the first three weeks of the session, I urge you to watch David Hammet's video at Loud Light and sign up for his weekly videos (why re-create the wheel - he does an amazing job explaining key issues).

You might also want to check out the most recent Blog by Mainstream Coalition to more fully understand what we're up against in this new session. While a Democrat holds the seat in the Governor's office, the House and Senate were pushed much further to the right in this past election. This is likely to set the stage for some very challenging days ahead.
Governor Kelly Leads

On Wednesday, January 16th, Governor Laura Kelly delivered her State of the State Address and I was honored to be one of her invited guests to sit in the State House Gallery. With a strong and steady voice she laid out her clear vision to restore Kansas after the long 8 years of destruction of the former administration.
  • Restore School Funding
  • Strengthen Foster Care System
  • Expand KanCare (Medicaid)
  • Invest in Infrastructure
  • Fund Public Safety
  • Invest in State Employee Work Force
  • Re-amortize KPERS

The next day, as promised, the Governor submitted her budget to the Legislature. The Governor’s plan achieves structural balance, rebuilds our state savings, and reduces state debt. Davis Hammet does a great job reviewing the budget here. You can sign up for his videos on his website at Loud Light.
Bridge to a Healthy Kansas

The Governor submitted a bill last week that proposes expansion of KanCare. Kansas is one of only a few states that has not approved Medicaid expansion, in spite of the fact that 77% of Kansans believe that expanding Medicaid is right for the state of Kansas.

You may recall the legislature passed Medicaid Expansion in 2017, but the bill was later vetoed by Governor Brownback. To date, Kansans have lost over $3 billion dollars of their taxes to the federal government due to the failure to expand Medicaid. That money should be helping our people, our hospitals, our state.

Read more here.
The Governor's Cabinet

Now that Governor Kelly has been inaugurated, the Executive Branch transition shifts to getting the Governor’s Cabinet solidified. 

The Governor has recruited some of the best and brightest to lead us out of the dark days of the Brownback administration. And, it will take all of their skills and expertise to reconstitute our state agencies into the functioning government agencies they are meant to be.

The Governor’s Secretaries will face Confirmation hearings and if successfully recommended, then are subject to the full Senate’s approval. 

Read more here .
Important Bills to Watch in 2019
In the Senate

SB 9: Authorizing payments to KPERS
SB 22: Allowing itemization on tax returns
SB 44: School Funding
SB 52: Due Process for Teachers
SB 54: Establishing the KanCare bridge to a healthy Kansas Program
SB 84: Banning LGBTQ Discrimination
In the House of Representatives

HB 2005: Allowing itemization on tax returns
HB 2008: Exempting Kansas from Daylight Savings Time
HB 2102: Establishing the KanCare bridge to a healthy Kansas Program
HCR 5004: Establishing personhood to all human beings, including fertilization.
Stay Informed and Engaged
Yes, we are Democrats.

As you may recall, several Kansas state legislators have left the Republican Party and joined the Democratic Party. If you missed that news, you can check it out here, here, here, and here . This hasn't just happened in Kansas, but in a number of states across the country as more and more legislators find the current path of the GOP untenable.

We have been warmly welcomed by Democratic Party members and are eager to continue our work within our new caucus to craft good public policy for our state. There are many ways to get involved and I hope you will join us!

Sign up to receive the JoCo Dems newsletter or explore the calendar for ways to get involved. Look for the JoCo Dems Facebook page too, for the latest information about upcoming events!

There are many other non-partisan organizations you can follow to stay abreast of what's going on in the Kansas Legislature:

These are just a few of the many grassroots organizations that keep an eye on legislative activities. I hope you'll find many ways to stay informed and engaged.

Warm regards,

Joy Koesten, PhD