Fairness Falters but Freedom Trumps Fauci
Hello everyone!

The 2022 legislative session is drawing to a close, with only a few days left to close out business. While there is the faint possibility of accomplishing a few more things, essentially this report will give you a sense of where we stand at the end of another 90-day stretch in Topeka. As I have mentioned in the past, 90 days is too long in some regards, and far too short for accomplishing more challenging issues.

This newsletter will provide you with information on the following issues:

  • Election Integrity
  • Four of Five Senate Overrides Fail in the House
  • Sales Tax on Food
  • Legislature Chooses Freedom Over Fauci-ism
  • Paying Off Debt
  • Sports Wagering
  • Other Veto Session Action

With that, here is the update on the successes and disappointments of this veto session.
Election Integrity
In the days leading up to the Veto Session I attended a meeting of the Legislative Post Audit Committee, of which I am a member. One of the audits we approved was an Election Security audit proposed by Senator Dennis Pyle. Ever since the 2020 election, more and more evidence of voter fraud has been uncovered across the nation. As a result, many voters have become concerned over the potential for election fraud in Kansas. In an effort to determine what problems exist within the state election systems and give us guidance as to how to fix those issues going forward, I wholeheartedly supported the audit proposal. This will be a broad audit that will utilize the time of 4 auditors over the course of 7 months. I think this is a good first step in shoring up any issues that may exist, and look forward to the results late this year or more likely early in 2023. Here is the link to the audit request so you can see what was approved.
Four of Five Senate Overrides Fail in the House
The Legislature returned to veto session the week of April 25th with the goal of over-riding the Governor’s vetoes of some very important bills. The Kansas Senate voted to override four gubernatorial vetoes on the following bills, standing with parents, women, businesses, and health care consumers:
  • Fairness in Women's Sports (SB 160)
  • Parents' Bill of Rights (SB 58)
  • Improving Short Term Health Care Plans (SB 199)
  • Prohibiting Local Plastic Container/Bag Regulation (SB 493)
On the morning of April 26, 2022 we took up the debate over the Governor’s veto of SB160, the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act that was crafted to protect women’s sports in Kansas from being infiltrated by biological males. This is a commonsense bill, whose time has come, given the nonsensical way society is now asking people to pretend that men can be women…and women can be men. What’s interesting to me is that the opponents to the veto stated that we need to follow science as one argument as to why the veto should be sustained. It’s sad that we have to pass legislation to ensure that competitive girls sports remain a singularly girl’s activity for obvious reasons. The Senate voted to override the governor’s veto on SB 160 by a vote of 28-10, but it fell short in the House.

SB58, the Parent’s Bill of Rights, is a bill that declares and recognizes the rights of parents with respect to what is being taught to their children. During COVID, parents' rights were being usurped by school boards and administrators who want to continue to prevent parents from seeing what their children are being taught. This included objectionable and even pornographic materials that have no place in Kansas public schools. Over 100 parents testified in hearings before the Senate Education Committee. The remote learning during COVID exposed some bad practices utilized in some public schools that undermine the academic progress that students should be enjoying. Instead, our fully funded Kansas schools are failing many students because of the types of things being taught are replacing the reading writing, and arithmetic that should be the focus of our schools. Parents have been cut out of the process in many parts of the state.

There are some who had serious concerns with the wording of this bill…and I agree that it needed to be amended to declare the unalienable rights of parents as the ultimate arbiters of what children are being taught and what they are exposed to. Some were also worried that once a right is declared or defined, it can be taken away. Alexander Hamilton argued the same when our U.S. Constitution was being debated…he felt we should not have a Bill of Rights because those rights could be slowly taken away. He was not necessarily wrong, but our Bill of Rights is still there and it still provides documentation of the founder’s original intent. During veto session, amendments are not allowed…you must vote on the bill as it was sent to the Governor. It is unfortunate that we must codify parent’s rights so that they can have a say at a school board meeting…or demand that certain material is inappropriate for their children. So, as much as I would have liked to strengthen the language, it was apparent to me that this measure, while not perfect, was necessary. Had the House done their job and overridden the Governor's veto, the bill would have become statutory, and we could have gone back next year to perfect the language. The Senate voted 27-12 to over-ride the veto but it fell short in the House.

SB199 was also vetoed by the Governor. This bill would allow Kansans to have access to improved short-term medical plans that extend short term plans out to 36 months. It does not force people to use these plans, but gives them options for health coverage in situations where people are between jobs, or close to retirement, and need these types of plans to cover them and their family. These short-term plans can help people avoid medical bankruptcy, and more expensive COBRA policies. This is a common-sense bill that expands access to health insurance for all Kansans in a time of need. The Senate voted 28-9 to over-ride the veto but the House did not attempt an override.

SB493 prevents municipalities from prohibiting cities and counties from regulating plastic and other containers designed for the consumption, transportation or protection of merchandise, food or beverages. This involves things like plastic straws, to-go boxes from restaurants or plastic bags. What’s interesting to me is that the same people who years ago screamed to get rid of paper bags to help the environment and forced businesses to start using plastics…are the ones who are now screaming the loudest that plastics are a problem. I could have told you that way back then…but now that businesses have been forced in that direction…why should we suddenly reverse course and force businesses to seek other alternatives? This bill ultimately protects the businesses and consumers from increased costs imposed by government that would try to tell them what containers they must use. That didn’t work the first time. The Senate voted to override the governor’s veto of SB 493 by a vote of 27-12, but the House did not attempt an override. 

Both chambers were able to successfully override the governor’s veto of S Sub for HB 2448, which would help end the cycle of dependency on government by requiring the Department for Children and Families to assign all able-bodied adults without dependents subject to the food assistance work requirements established by federal law to an employment and training program as defined in federal law. The bill only applies to able-bodied adults aged 18 through 49 and only to individuals who are not employed at least 30 hours per week.

The House first overrode the governor’s veto, sending the measure to the Senate, which voted to override the veto on a vote of 29-11. The measure will now become law.
Sales Tax on Food
The Kansas Legislature has voted to eliminate the state sales tax on food. Beginning January 1, 2023, the bill would reduce the state sales and compensating use tax rate on food and food ingredients from 6.5 percent to 4.0 percent. The rate would be further reduced to 2.0 percent on January 1, 2024, and to 0.0 percent on January 1, 2025. “Food and food ingredients” would be defined to include bottled water, candy, dietary supplements, soft drinks, and food sold through vending machines and to exclude alcoholic beverages, tobacco, and most prepared foods.

HB 2106 passed the Senate 39-0. Having also passed the House, it is now headed to the governor, who has indicated she will sign the bill.
Legislature Chooses Freedom Over
Over the last two years, people across the country were subjected to various forms of Fauci-ism, a philosophy based on burdensome restrictions such as mask mandates, vaccine passports, attendance restrictions, and even church and school closures. Not only did the regime of restrictions not work, they divided the country and advanced the notion that government officials – including unelected bureaucrats – have the power to impose an ongoing dystopia which can be very difficult for society to extricate itself from.

For the entire session, we have been working to provide health freedom bills that prevent mandatory masking and vaccinations, as well as protections for physicians that prescribed off-label FDA approved drugs for the treatment of COVID. Unfortunately, we were unable to pass HB2280 which addressed the off-label Ivermectin and Hydroxychloroquine prescription issues.

Thankfully, in the past two months, most mandates and restrictions across the country have been lifted. However, Fauci-ism continues to rear its ugly head, including an effort by Rhode Island Democrats to impose extra on taxes on the unvaccinated, and the Biden Administration is appealing the recent ruling by a federal judge invalidating the mask mandate on transportation.

In response, the legislature did adopt SB 34, which restricts the ability of government officials to impose mask mandates and vaccine passports to stop infectious or contagious disease.
While the power of government to issue recommendations and have screening protocols remains, the ultimate decision regarding masks and vaccines should remain with the individual. Republicans trust the people to make the best decisions for themselves and their families.

SB 34 passed the Senate 23-17. Having also passed the House, it now heads to the Governor.
Paying Off Debt
One concern this year has been what to do with the large budget surplus as a result of the Federal dollars sent to the state during COVID. We are sitting on almost $3 Billion dollars in excess funds. We felt strongly that this money should go to one-time payments to reduce the state debt. SB421 is one of those efforts. It pays down the KPERS unfunded liability and would transfer $1.125 billion from the State General Fund (SGF) directly to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS) Trust Fund. Of that amount, the first $253.9 million SGF would pay off outstanding accounts receivable for KPERS-School employer contributions withheld in FY 2017 and FY 2019 (“layering payments”) while the remaining $871.1 million SGF would be applied to the KPERS-School unfunded actuarial liability.

This is sort of like following the advice of Dave Ramsey….GET OUT OF DEBT! That is going to be increasingly important in the coming years as inflation eats away a the purchasing power of the dollar. This bill saves the state a total of $425.9 million dollars in principle and interest payments over the next 5 years…which will be money we may need as the economy under the Biden administration continues to falter.

SB 421 passed the Senate 26-10. Having also passed the House, it is now headed to the Governor.
Sports Wagering
SB 84 allows sports-wagering in the state of Kansas, becoming the 30th state to do so. Missouri has not yet passed legislation to allow it. The bill would authorize sports wagering at the four state-owned casinos and allow each of them to have three mobile apps for placing bets, and would allow each of the casinos to make deals with 50 businesses to offer sports betting, of which at least 20% must be nonprofit fraternal or veterans groups. The bill sets a 10% tax rates for bets placed in person at the casino or online. The bill directs 80% of sports wagering revenues to a fund that will be used to attract a professional sports franchise to Kansas.

The legislation contains several provisions aiding those who are addicted to gaming as well as protections to ensure there is no tampering in sports events in which wagers are being placed.

I voted NO on this bill for a number of reasons. This bill was a bad deal for Kansans. I am not thrilled that we are going down this path, but since we are, we should do it right.

Unfortunately, the structure of this sports gaming bill means that Kansas will miss out on tens of millions of dollars. Examples of the right way to engage in this endeavor are available in other states that already successfully operate sports gaming and bring in a lot more revenue for their states. It feels to me like we just shot ourselves in the foot economically. In the current structure, Kansas will make an estimated $1 million to $6 million after all expenses are paid by the casinos that will own the gaming apps. But in states where the lottery owns the gaming app, the numbers are much higher! Take a look at the chart of the states where the lottery owns and operates the app:

March 31, 2022

State  Tax Revenue per       Type of         Total Wagers       Total Tax Revenue
                       Million $ wagered      System used    since inception     since inception
Montana            $117,188               Lottery runs    $ 76,777,975       $ 9,000,000
Delaware           $104,896               Lottery runs    $ 472,008,490      $ 49,510,918
Oregon              $ 87,260               Lottery runs    $ 677,476,329      $ 59,119,155
Rhode Island     $ 45,013               Lottery runs     $ 994,570,761     $ 44,765,490
New York           $ 30,583               51% tax           $ 3,583,564,631     $109,594,636
New Hampshire $ 30,180               Lottery runs      $ 1,167,222,015     $ 35,227,149
Pennsylvania     $ 17,066               36% tax            $13,031,515,221    $222,403,663
Arkansas            $ 17,370               20%/13% tax   $ 126,541,911     $ 2,197,270
Maryland          $ 16,729               15% tax            $ 74,609,408     $ 1,248,023
Tennessee          $ 14,386                20% tax            $ 3,741,847,961     $ 53,827,996

The difference is astounding! We will lose out on at least $40 million per year if not more, depending on the amount wagered.

Gambling holds no appeal to me and I worry about all the negative impacts it can have on lives of Kansans. I personally know people who have had problems with gambling and have seen others use SNAP cards to buy food then turn right back around and purchase $20 or more worth of lottery tickets. Money is fungible and we should not be subsidizing or enabling bad behavior. I believe that the social ills created from implementing this bill have the potential to cost more than the mere trickle of cash the state will realize from the proceeds. I was disappointed that we passed this bill…and again, I was one of the 13 that said NO.

SB 84 passed the Senate 21-13. Having also passed the House, it is now headed to the governor.
Other Veto Session Action
House Sub. for SB 261 would prohibit the use of identifiable meat terms on the labels of meat analogs when the labels do not include proper qualifying language to indicate that such products do not contain meat. The bill would also make numerous changes to the definitions section of the Kansas Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act by amending and adding definitions. H Sub for SB 261 passed the Senate 38-0 and is now headed to the governor.

SB 366 would create a mechanism to seek relief from the Kansas Offender Registration Act (KORA) for certain drug offenders. It would also require KORA registration for certain convictions of breach of privacy and for convictions of internet trading in child pornography. SB 366 passed the Senate 37-3 and is now headed to the governor.

HB 2237 would create several acts and amend law pertaining to economic development to address rural housing, home loans, historic structures, appraisals of property in rural counties, urban development, and child day care services. Provisions include:

  • Kansas Housing Investor Tax Credit Act – The purpose of tax credits issued under HITCA is to facilitate investment in suitable housing that will support the growth of communities lacking housing by attracting new employees, residents, and families, and will support the development and expansion of businesses that are job and wealth creating enterprises.
  • Kansas Affordable Housing Tax Credit Act – The purpose of this act is to establish a system of tax credit to build affordable housing in Kansas.
  • Historic Kansas Act - Modifies and establishes certain tax credits for older commercial structures in the state.
  • Kansas Rural Home Loan Guarantee Act - The provisions of the Act would be administered by the Kansas Housing Resources Corporation, and loan transactions eligible for a guarantee would include the construction or renovation of a single-family home in a rural county.
  • Child Day Care Services Tax Credit - The bill would allow any income or privilege taxpayer to claim the child day care services tax credit and would permit taxpayers to claim 50 percent of expenditures paid to an organization providing child care to the taxpayer’s employees beginning in tax year 2021. Current law limits the credit to corporation income taxpayers and does not permit the credit for payments made to organizations.

HB 2237 passed the Senate 37-3. I voted NO because the existing Rural Opportunity Zone (ROZ) legislation has never worked to revitalize rural Kansas communities. Research has demonstrated that and I am concerned that this legislation continues a program that has proven not to work. In addition, it hands out all sorts of tax credits for developers to build low income housing in ROZ counties during a time when the real estate market is already distorted, people are leaving small towns, and inflation has caused construction costs to skyrocket. This will create malinvestment in real estate in rural communities, tax shelters for hedge fund investors in Kansas towns they do not care about, and cause small towns in Kansas to foot the bill for extra roads, street lights, and infrastructure they can't afford to pay for. In the end, I believe this bill will be another ROZ boondoggle that might be good for investors and developers, but may actually harm...or at best...do nothing for the rural communities for which it was created. We need to lower tax rates for everyone instead of continuing to pick winners and losers with targeted tax credits that benefit a few rather than float all boats.
Forecasting the Future
The legislature is now adjourned until May 23rd, when it will meet to consider any remaining items. This session is unique due to the need to await a determination by the Kansas Supreme Court on the redistricting maps adopted earlier this session.

Currently, Sine Die is scheduled for June 1, but could change. That is the final adjournment of the legislature for the year. In the off-session this year, I will be considering new legislation on a variety of issues that I see could use some tweaking. And, I will stay in touch via social media and subsequent newsletters that will likely be far less voluminous than the ones we generate during the session!

I hope you all have a great summer, and please stay in touch!

Your Senator,

Mike Thompson