Abrupt End Shortchanges Kansans
Note: The previous e-mail contained information on HB 2239, the tax bill, that was from the prior week but did not include the updated information regarding the bill that was adopted in the Conference Committee Report, which was significantly changed. That information is updated below under "Taxes, Rules, & Maps." Sorry for any confusion! - Mike T
There were a lot of important bills that were passed this session in the Senate, the fate of which hung in the balance last week. We were working as fast as possible to get some very good bills passed by both chambers in time to send them to the Governor's desk, and then have time to over-ride any vetoes, but at the 11th hour, the House leadership decided to adjourn...leaving a number of good measures undecided. Once the House departed, the Senate was forced to adjourn at 1:30 a.m. Saturday morning...as there was noting more we could do. To say it was frustrating is an understatement.
We spent the last week in conference committees. Conference committee week is an important week where bills that originate in the Senate, but are amended in the House can be "conferenced"....and vice versa. This happens when the changes made to a bill are disagreeable to the chamber where the bill originated. For example, if a Senate bill that gets amended in the House in ways that the Senate doesn't like, the Senate can "non-concur" with the changes and ask for a conference committee, where three members of the Senate and three members of the House meet to hash out the differences. The end result could be a better bill, or it could end in the bill dying and going nowhere.
While crucial legislation still has some time left in late April and early May, the fate of these bills become more tenuous as there may not be time to over-ride vetoes of any bills passed at that time. There are three very important health freedom bills that are so important to many people across the state...that we worked on for the entire session...and they still need to get a vote. There were some good tax bills that came out of conference committee that need to pass...and there are some election integrity bills still in limbo thanks to the abrupt departure of the House.
I hope and pray we can get a vote on these issue at the end of April so we can provide relief to Kansans who have spent countless hours, and resources coming to Topeka multiple times to testify, to talk with legislators, and provide information and education on topics for which they hold enormous expertise.
I am happy to report that the legislature did send to the Governor this week, the Parent's Bill of Rights and The Fairness in Women's Sports bill. We cannot fail to take action on issues important to parents, just because they may be vetoed by the Governor.
There were a number of things we did debate and vote on before conference committee week, that I didn't address in the last newsletter. Some of the highlights are bills that include:
- Tax cuts, a constitutional amendment dealing with rules and regulations, and redistricting
You can read more about these topics below.
Following that, I address the following:
- Fighting sanctuary cities
- Short term health insurance plans
- Requiring able bodied welfare recipients to work or complete job training
- Pharmacy benefit manager licensing
- Extending immunity from liability due to COVID-19
- Designating a state fruit
- The health bills left hanging
- Final thoughts
Thank you for reading, and being informed. We need the people of Kansas to pay attention and become involved, now more than ever.
Taxes - Updated Section
The week before last, the Kansas Senate adopted two bills which would provide tax relief to Kansans.
However, in conjunction with the House, the Tax Conference Committee worked and made changes to both bills, but only S Sub for HB 2239 was voted on.
It contains a long list or provisions and adds up to about $90 million.:
- Modifies revenue neutral rate notice and hearing procedures and provide for taxpayer complaint procedures
- Increases the residential property tax exemption from the uniform statewide school finance levy
- Creates a property tax exemption for antique utility trailers
- Allows for the proration of certain personal property taxes by providing the taxable value of personal property acquired or sold after January 1 and prior to September 1 of any taxable year to be prorated based upon the number of months, or majority portion thereof, the property was owned during the year divided by 12 months.
- Expands the authority of county commissions to abate property taxes for disaster-destroyed property
- Modifies the definition of telecommunications machinery and equipment for purposes of property tax exemption.
- Enacts the SALT Parity Act - This provides certain pass-through entities with the option of paying state income taxes at the entity level rather than being paid by the individual owners of the pass-through entities.
- Provides an income tax credit for certain contributions to technical and community colleges
- Enact aviation, aerospace, and short-line railroad infrastructure tax credits
- Enacts a teacher classroom supplies tax credit
- Provides for an income tax checkoff for contributions to Kansas state historic sites
- Allows for refund claims pursuant to the Homestead Property Tax Refund Program based on tax growth from a base year
- Extends the Rural Opportunity Zones program
- Modifies the research and development tax credit
- Allows for an additional personal exemption for certain disabled veterans.
- Creates a sales tax exemption for agricultural fencing
- Enacts the Gage Park Improvement Authority Act
- Excludes separately stated shipping and handling charges from sales tax
- Repeals the sunset of the tax exclusion for motor vehicle manufacturer rebates
- Authorizes a countywide sales tax in Wilson County
- Validate a sales tax election in the city of Latham
- Requires certain ballot language for countywide retail sales tax elections.
S Sub for HB 2239 passed the Senate 39-0. Having also passed the House, it now heads to the governor. The Food Sales Tax reduction bill will likely be voted on when we return for the veto session.
Rules and Regulations Constitutional Amendment:
In addition to passing to the voters a constitutional amendment to require Sheriff positions to be elected, the Senate also passed to the November ballot a proposed constitutional amendment to give the Legislature oversight of state executive branch agencies and officials by providing the Legislature authority to establish procedures to revoke or suspend rules and regulations. This power now lies with the Executive branch.
In our system of government, it is the legislature which makes laws and administrative agencies then issue rules and regulations to implement the law. However, too often in recent years, government largess has crossed the line into lawmaking, issuing rules and regulations which are in effect policy-making decisions that should be left up to elected officials who are accountable to the public.
As a result, the Kansas Senate followed the Kansas House in adopting HCR 5014, which if approved by the voters, would amend the Kansas Constitution to allow for legislative revocation or suspension of rules and regulations issued by the executive branch with a simple majority vote.
HCR 5014 passed the Senate 27-13. I voted YES. Having already passed the House, it will head to the ballot this November.
The Kansas House adopted a new House map for the next ten years, and then passed a bill containing both the Senate map approved by the Senate two weeks ago, as well as the House map.
The remaining map considered this past week was for the State Board of Education. This past week, the Kansas Senate Redistricting Committee held a hearing on the Apple 2 Map for the State Board of Education as part of SB 577. The following day, the bill was amended to use the compromise Apple 7 map, which the committee recommended favorably without opposition. The full Senate adopted the Apple 7 map on a bi-partisan vote of 31-8.
The State Board of Education has ten districts, each containing four Senate districts.
Later in the week, a conference committee was held between the House and Senate and the Apple 7 map was inserted into Sub SB 563, which contained the House and Senate maps for the next decade. The full package containing all three maps was then voted on by both chambers.
You can view all the maps on the State Redistricting page by clicking here.
Sub for SB 563 passed the Senate on bi-partisan vote of 29-11. I voted YES. Having also passed the House with a wide bi-partisan majority, it is now headed to the governor.
Although there were a flood of bills that we worked on during conference committee week, these are a few I feel are either the most impactful, most important, and or in one case...kind of interesting. This is not a complete and comprehensive list by any means:
Fighting Sanctuary Cities
While the first two days of the week were slow, day three opened up with a robust debate over HB2717 which simply prohibits any municipality from preventing the enforcement of Federal immigration laws, and requiring that any municipal ID card states on its face that it is not a valid state identification.
The Attorney General brought this important bill to help address sanctuary cities that refuse to cooperate with ICE, Department of Homeland Security, or other State entities that are trying to enforce immigration laws. The need for this bill is obvious. We have a flood of illegal immigration in this country, and these people are being transported all over the country, including to Kansas. Our law enforcement agencies need all the help they can get to handle this serious threat to our Republic.
I am all for LEGAL immigration. In my opinion, the reckless disregard for our immigration laws is not only an affront to our laws and constitution, but also a slap in the face of those who went through the legal immigration process to become a citizen. I know a number of people who have become U.S. citizens the right way, and they are all against illegal immigration. They came to the U.S. hoping to escape places that did not respect the rule of law...and for them to see this happening in the United States is, to say the least, discouraging for them.
I voted yes and it passed the Senate 29-10.
Short Term Health Insurance Plans
SB199 has been around since last session, and is a common sense bill that allows for short term medical insurance plans to extend coverage for up to three years. This helps protect people who need coverage between jobs, or those who might retire early and are not yet eligible for Medicare... or any situation where coverage of that nature might be necessary. The current situation requires you to re-qualify for these short term plans each year...but by extending the time frame you can qualify once and avoid any denial of coverage that might arise during the time that you need the "gap" coverage for health insurance. It makes total sense, and I voted yes.
It passed the Senate 29-11 and is on its way to the Governor.
Requiring Able Bodied Welfare Recipients To Work.
Senate substitute for HB 2448 requires able bodied adults between 18 and 49 without dependent children to either work a 30-hour work week or complete an employment and job training program in order to receive food assistance from the state. The goal is to get people off of welfare programs and help them to become able to provide for themselves. It is as simple as that. The 30-hour work-week requirement aligns with Federal programs, and it will help those who need some job acquisition skills to gain the confidence and ability to find better employment for their future. I think this is a good program and hopefully it will pay dividends for the future by getting more Kansans back in the work force where we desperately need them to be. I voted yes.
It passed the Senate 28-11
Pharmacy Benefit Manager (PBM) Licensing
Senate substitute for SB28 is a bill that requires PBMs to become licensed in Kansas. This sounds like an innocuous thing but it is a good first step in reigning in the Pharmacy Benefit Managers. PBM’s or Pharmacy Benefit Managers are the “middle men” in the managing and processing of prescription drug plans. Over the last 30 years PBMs have grown to control over 90% of all prescriptions filled in America. PBM’s have also consolidated to the point where only three PBM’s control approximately 85% of all prescriptions. Those three also are owned or aligned with the largest pharmacy chains and mail order facilities. PBM’s use their leverage to direct patients to their own pharmacies as well as operate with little to no transparency. This allows them to make billions annually while driving their competitors out of business. SB28 is a step to help bring PBM transparency to Kansas. Transparency is needed to protect not just our Kansas pharmacies, but our patients, business owners and tax payers. In 2021, PBM’s used their leverage to demand rebates or “kickbacks” to themselves from the manufacturers for an estimated $2.8 billion or 47% of the list price. Obviously this requires the manufacturers to increase the list price of medication to fund the PBM’s profits. PBM’s across the country have been found guilty overcharging drug plans and tax payer funded programs resulting in hundreds of millions in settlements annually. In December 2021, AG Derrick Schmidt recovered nearly $28 million from PBM Centene for overcharging the state.
These abuses as well as other monopolistic practices must be stopped. SB28 is an important first step. This will ensure protection for consumers, employers, local pharmacies and taxpayers. For decades the PBM industry has hidden behind their claim that states have no jurisdiction over them pursuant to ERISA. In December 2020, the US Supreme Court ruled against the PBM’s and their claim for exemption from state oversight. Many states already have much needed legislation giving proper protection to patients, pharmacy providers, employers and taxpayers. Kansans deserve the same protection.
I voted Yes, and this one is on its way to the Governor's desk.
Extending Immunity From Liability Due to COVID-19
SB286 is a bill that gave me grave concern that we will never be able to end the COVID-19 emergency. While this bill provided some very good things, the poison pill I could not swallow was extending the immunity from liability for healthcare facilities and healthcare providers who have enjoyed these protections now for almost two years. It is time to get back to normal and force them to accept the same liability as everyone else.
Over the course of the COVID pandemic, I have been contacted by people from all across Kansas who were denied access to care, or access to loved ones in healthcare facilities due to COVID restrictions even though these facilities were held harmless.
Thanks to the immunity provided to these healthcare facilities, it made it very easy for these entities to fall into line, and accept without question, the tyrannical healthcare mandates imposed upon anyone who needed access to healthcare. The immunity has allowed those unconstitutional practices to continue long after the necessity for these restrictions came to an end.
The continuation of immunity, in my opinion, perpetuates the false perception that there is an urgent need to keep restrictions in place...and makes it much easier to reimpose new restrictions.
The big problem with conference committee week is that bad policy gets packed in with the good. That makes voting against the bad stuff much harder. But in my opinion, the bad in this bill outweighs the good and so I voted no.
A New State Fruit?
This one falls into the most interesting and amusing category. Unfortunately, I was not in the committee meeting when dozens of 5th graders from across the state came to support and testify for the establishment of the Sandhill Plum (also known as the Chickasaw Plum) as the Kansas State Fruit. I hear these young Kansans did a wonderful job testifying and they convinced the committee to bring HB2644 to the floor. It was a great opportunity for these youngsters to participate in the legislative process and see how a bill becomes law. I hear the Sandhill Plum is a tart and tasty fruit! I always thought that the Osage Orange Hedgeapple would be a great state fruit because I always loved tossing them as a kid, but the Sandhill Plum sees to be just fine...so I voted yes!
It passed the Senate 39-0 but stalled in the House.
As I said at the start of this update, we worked diligently to ensure people had access to early treatments for COVID...and to protect physicians and healthcare workers that had the courage to go against the CDC and authoritarian health officials to try to save lives. The fate of the HB2280, crafted to fix this problem, is still uncertain. This is one that got caught in the last minute adjournment squeeze.
Another vital bill that fell short due to the early adjournment, was SB541. This bill prohibits a governmental entity or public official from ordering or requiring a person to wear a face mask as a response to a contagious or infectious disease. It also prohibits school officials from issuing or requiring use of a COVID-19 vaccination passport or discriminating against a student based upon COVID-19 vaccination status and requires schools to recognize exemptions from vaccination requirements and face mask mandates. It also limits the actions of officials during the time of a health emergency, among other things.
I like this bill and support it. I do, however, think that in some areas it needs to be stronger and go farther with regard to protecting personal liberties that were abrogated during the pandemic. I think the emergency management statues will continue to need tweaking to address the medical tyranny we experienced these last two years...and continue to experience as some schools are STILL masking our children. I fear these mandates will not go away until we vote out the elected officials who want to perpetuate these ludicrous ideas, and fix or delete the statutes that allow the loss of liberty during so-called emergencies.
SB489 is also one that needs to pass. It reduces authority of un-elected health officials to be able to only advise or recommend actions during health emergencies, rather than have the authority to issue orders. We saw too many mandates that we were unable to address during the pandemic, because those occupying these positions of power refused to listen to the people of Kansas, parents, or to any credible source other than the CDC, which provided flawed guidance throughout the COVID scare.
In my opinion, it is urgent to address these issues while they are still fresh in our minds. Otherwise future legislators, decades from now, may be faced with a similar situation...and they will not have to learn from their mistakes, if we correct them now.
It is hard to believe that this session is already winding down, and it is the end of the biennium, meaning bills introduced in the last two years that went unheard, or did not make it to through the legislature will go away at Sine Die in May.
New bills will have to be crafted at the beginning of next session to address the flood of bad decisions being imposed on our state and country by the Federal government and the Biden administration.
There are very big issues left unaddressed. I could list all of them I think are important, but I wanted to write a newsletter, not a book.
Having a 90-day session is a double edged sword. It's not long enough in some respects, and too long in others.
Like Ronald Reagan, I have always felt that government was more of a problem than a solution. I have to remind myself of that daily when we are in session. The tendency of many is to believe that we can fix problems by writing new laws...and in some cases...that is right. But I have also seen some very ugly legislation that should never see the light of day.
As hard as it is to do, we do have to prioritize our time at the statehouse. We have to fight the fights that need immediate attention and sometimes walk away to regroup and fight another day when time runs out. That is really hard when you pour your heart and soul into winning battles you believe will make a difference...and I am not just talking about legislators. I am also speaking of the people who come to us for help and are living the problems we only debate. They are the ones whose jobs are in jeopardy, or whose kids are not learning, or whose business may not survive. It tears my heart out when I think I can help fix a problem and then hit a brick wall. But that is how a Republic works, and no matter what, it beats the heck out of an authoritarian regime. I just wish there were some people in government understood the difference.
The legislature is on break during much of April. We will reconvene in the veto session beginning the final week of April, running through the 10th of May which is our anticipated date for Sine Die...our last adjournment for the year.
As always, I encourage you to follow/review the happenings at the statehouse in the following ways:
I look forward to seeing you around the district in April!
PAID FOR BY MIKE THOMPSON FOR KANSAS, SHEILA WODTKE, TREASURER