Legislative Newsletter: Approaching Turnaround
Hello everyone!

I'm sorry it's been a while since my last newsletter, so it’s time for a bit of catch up. I find that being the chairman of a committee takes an enormous amount of time, and it makes it quite difficult to keep you up to date as frequently as I have in the past. That includes some of the daily social media posts. I will try to get back on track with that as we move forward.

This very next week will be Turnaround, which is the mid-point of the session where most bills must be adopted by one chamber in order to be considered by the other. As a result, most of the work during the past three weeks has been in committee, where legislation is shaped and potentially passed out to the full Senate.

As a result, next week’s newsletter will be quite lengthy, so I wanted to take the opportunity with this newsletter to update you on the two major items that have thus far made it through the process, which is the Ad Astra 2 Congressional Map and the APEX Bill. 

Before I go into those items, I want to take a moment and celebrate the fact that mask mandates are quickly being repealed by school districts and the few cities that still had them in place.

This is similar to a trend around the country, where blue state governors and mayors are quickly dropping mask mandates and vaccine passports – this includes the states of New Mexico and Washington and the cities of Denver and Philadelphia. Finally, reports indicate the CDC is evaluating its mask guidance ahead of Joe Biden’s State of the Union Address on March 1st.

However, we need to make sure these mandates never come back, and this is why I am highly supportive of legislation to ban local mask and vaccine mandates anywhere in Kansas. I suspect we will be considering such legislation in March. I am aware of some mandates at a county and local level that still exist and need to go away. Parents, not government officials, should be the ones who make those decisions and the longer any of this lingers, the more harm is being done to children unnecessarily.
Ad Astra 2 Map
You may have heard that Governor Kelly vetoed the legislation containing the Ad Astra 2 Congressional Map. Last week, the legislature overrode her veto so the map is now law. However, the matter is not settled as left-wing groups quickly sued in state court. In future newsletters, I will update you on the court progress of the map as I receive information.

Highlights of the map include:

  • The map only splits four counties: Pawnee, Douglas, Jackson and Wyandotte. Both Douglas and Wyandotte are primarily divided along natural and geographic barriers such as highways and rivers.

  • The First District contains both the University of Kansas and Kansas State University, which have aligned goals, returning them to the same Congressional district.

  • The Second District includes several military installations, including Ft. Riley, Ft. Leavenworth, Forbes Field, and the Kansas National Guard.

  • The Third District keeps Johnson County together, blending the Kansas City suburbs with nearby bedroom communities.

  • The Fourth District includes Wichita and surrounding communities.

  • Indian Reservations are kept wholly within Congressional districts.

The map is also consistent with historical maps. For instance, the 3rd Congressional District (CD) has had the following shifts over time:

  • Mid-1960s – 5 districts – Anderson County was in CD 3
  • 1973-1982 – 5 districts – Wyandotte County was split, and Franklin County was in CD 3
  • 1983-1992 – 5 districts – All of Miami County was included in CD 3
  • 1993-2002 – 4 districts – All of Miami County was included in CD 3, Douglas County split
  • 2003-2013 – 4 districts – Douglas County split, City of Lawrence split

Some citizens have asked about the process of drawing the 3rd District. Because of population shifts in the last decade, placing Wyandotte County and Johnson County both completely within the 3rd District was not possible. The decision was made to keep Johnson County whole, which then necessitated dividing Wyandotte County. The Kansas River and I-70 provided a natural and geographic barrier, so people within Wyandotte County would easily understand which Congressional district they resided in. The resulting population shift resulted in then adding Miami, Franklin, and Anderson Counties, followed by minor adjustments to bring the deviation between districts to 0. Historically, Anderson, Franklin, and Miami have been fully or partially within the 3rd Congressional district at some point.

Finally, the Ad Astra 2 map retains political fairness as it keeps all four members of Congress within their districts and all four members of Congress would have still won in 2020. In addition, the results for President in 2020 and Governor in 2018 would not have been different in any of the four districts.

The Senate overrode the veto by a vote of 27-11, and I voted Yes.
APEX Bill
The House and Senate both adopted the finalized version of the state’s new Attracting Powerful Economic Expansion (APEX) economic growth plan, which provides a package of incentives to attract major economic development to the state of Kansas. The final APEX Plan includes oversight components, including by the State Finance Council. I will explain what the bill includes below, following an explanation of why I was one of 9 senators who voted "no" on this package.

The APEX Plan promises, but cannot guarantee, thousands of new jobs. It may foster private sector investments in our state, as well as important corporate tax reductions that benefit all who do business in Kansas. Contrary to the governor's proposal, the legislature included several oversight provisions.

The initial target of the incentive package is a $4.0 billion manufacturing project that claims it would employ over 4,000 people and is touted to be one of the most significant private sector investments in Kansas history. It establishes new economic development incentives targeted at specific industries that agree to invest at least $1.0 billion within the State of Kansas. The APEX Act also targets incentives at the suppliers involved in the APEX project. The APEX Program would be under the purview of the Secretary of Commerce for the purpose of attracting large capital investments in new facilities and operations by businesses engaged in specified industries and encouraging the development of Kansas-based supply chains.

To help drive taxes down for all who do business in Kansas, an important provision of the bill would lower the corporate income tax by .5% per project with a cap of two…that part of the bill is helpful.

In the amended legislation, the sunset of the program is on March 31, 2024 to ensure that the full legislature reviews the provisions of the APEX Act in just two years. The bill includes a refundable investment tax credit of up to 15% of the business’ investment, which the state would refund over the period of a decade. The payroll tax refund would be capped at 7.5% for 10 years, but the State Finance Council could approve a higher refund of up to 10%. The bill includes a 5% refundable investment tax credit to the suppliers up to their first $50 million in capital investment, who would receive another percentage point of tax credits for every $10 million they invest up to a total of $100 million.

In addition, the bill contains a reimbursement for suppliers for training costs up to $250,000 a year per supplier, with the primary manufacturing company able to receive to $5 million on an annual basis. It also establishes a $10 million matching incentive fund for the company to help with the relocation costs for employees who move from another state and make Kansas their primary residence.

Finally, the bill has clawback provisions in case the company relocates outside of the state in the 11th through 15th years following the year the manufacturer entered into the agreement with the state.

After the House adopted the amended bill, the Senate concurred by a vote of 31-9. Governor Kelly signed the bill into the law.

I voted against the APEX legislation. Although this level of investment in Kansas is highly attractive and we all want Kansas to grow and compete economically with our neighbors, I know that corporate welfare has gotten us into big trouble in the past. In addition, I was not privy to which business entity that was being considered in this bill. Without that knowledge I was very hesitant to vote yes, especially when we are committing to refundable tax credits for this business that result in this unknown corporation and its suppliers to have less than $0 tax liability when so many small businesses in Kansas do not have access to the same type of advantages and benefits. Plus, we already have a serious shortage of employees for most businesses in Kansas. This bill would place the State, and this large business in direct competition for employees…at a time when so many struggle to find employees to keep their small business open! I could not do that to our small business owners!

I understand the purpose of the bill and I also strongly supported the components that reduce corporate income taxes, but would rather see incentives that would benefit all Kansans in a clean bill that does not tie incentives for all to the possibility of massive incentives for a select small group of businesses. If we want to fix the economic development problem in Kansas, we must reduce the overall tax burden in this State. We also need to address the high cost of energy which is spiraling out of control largely because of the over-development of renewables in Kansas. For this bill, the level of incentives included in the package troubled me and several other Senators, and Kansas has been bit in the past by the use of incentives. For those reasons, I voted No.

Other Legislation
SB 200 – This bill amends the Pharmacy Act of the State of Kansas to include point-of-care testing for and treatment of certain health conditions. The bill would authorize a pharmacist to evaluate and initiate therapy within the framework of new statewide protocols for the following health conditions:

  • Influenza; 
  • Streptococcal pharyngitis;
  • Urinary tract infection.
 
SB 200 passed the Senate 37-2. I voted No. This was a close call, and there were a number of great arguments made in favor of the legislation, and it was amended to limit the conditions in the bill. However, I have caution about the trend we are seeing to expand scope of medical practice in various areas of law, potentially blurring the lines between physicians and pharmacists. My biggest concern is that we are opening the door to allow people other than physicians the ability to diagnose disease…when doctors are the ones who are trained and educated to do so. Medical doctors have much higher educational and residency requirements and if we undermine our physicians by allowing their scope of practice to be invaded by others with less training, then what incentive will future generations have to become a physician? Why go deep into debt to become a medical doctor when you can achieve some of the practice with less cost and a quicker training course? I worry about the long-term implications of what seem to be benign issues. This is a tough problem as there are access to care considerations that do worry me, and I will continue to study this overall topic in the months ahead, as similar legislation reaches the floor.

SB 329 amends law in order to make the Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) savings program compliant with the federal Internal Revenue Code and mandatory federal regulations. The program allows individuals with a disability and their families to save private funds without violating federal means tested benefit requirements.

SB 329 passed the Senate 40-0. I voted Yes.

SB 330 would place a permanent memorial honoring Kansas Gold Star families on the Statehouse grounds. “Gold Star families” are families who have lost a family member in the line of military duty.

SB 330 passed the Senate 40-0. I voted Yes.

SB 358 would allow financing from the Public Water Supply Loan Fund (PWSLF) for public water supply projects that acquire water through a water transfer. It amends the definition of “project” by removing the restriction that project does not include any project related to the diversion or transportation of water acquired through a water transfer. The PWSLF is housed within the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and is used to provide low interest loans to municipalities, rural water districts, and wholesale public water supply districts, who use moneys from the PWSLF to invest in new and replacement infrastructure projects for the delivery of drinking water. There are some counties in western Kansas with less than 10 years supply of water left. These communities could literally “dry up” if we can’t find ways to help them.

SB 358 passed the Senate 40-0. I voted Yes.

HB 2005 amend provisions of law related to the Boiler Safety Act. The bill would increase the maximum nominal water capacity of an exempt hot water supply boiler to 120 gallons from the current maximum of 85 gallons. The bill would remove the stipulation that a 120-gallon boiler is exempt from the Act only if it is part of an electrical utility generating plant.

HB 2005 passed the Senate 40-0. I voted Yes.

SB 327 would exclude delivery charges that are separately stated on an invoice or similar document from the sales price for purposes of retail sales and compensating use tax. 

SB 327 passed the Senate 40-0. I voted Yes.

Sub for SB 300 would amend definitions in the Kansas Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act (Kansas RICO Act). The bill would add to the definition of “covered person” a person who has engaged in identity theft or identity fraud, and also would add identity theft or identity fraud to the list of crimes for which committing, attempting, or conspiring to commit or soliciting, coercing, or intimidating another person to commit a misdemeanor or felony violation would constitute “racketeering activity.”

Sub for SB 300 passed the Senate 40-0. I voted Yes.

SB 346 would allow for the on-farm retail sale of milk or milk products, regulate the labeling and advertising of such products, extend the sunset date for certain milk and dairy license fees, allow the Secretary of Agriculture to declare an imminent health hazard when necessary to protect the public health, and allow the Kansas Department of Agriculture to assess a civil penalty for certain violations.

SB 346 passed the Senate 38-0-2. I voted Yes.

HB 2109 would amend the statute governing membership of the State Board of Indigents’ Defense Services (BIDS) to raise the population threshold from 100,000 to 115,000 for a county to automatically qualify for a lawyer member of BIDS, increase from five to six the number of lawyer members of, and decrease from four to three the number of non-lawyer members. The bill was necessary in order to legally be able to fill the 9th spot on the 9-member board. 

HB 2109 passed the Senate 35-5. I voted Yes.

SB 331 would amend the effective date specified in the Insurance Code for the risk-based capital (RBC) instructions promulgated by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) for property and casualty companies and for life insurance companies. The instructions currently specified became effective on December 31, 2020. The bill would update the effective date of the RBC instructions to December 31, 2021. SB 331 passed 39-0. I voted Yes.

SB 343 would replace statutory references to “hearing impairment” and similar terms with “hard of hearing,” “hearing loss,” or “deaf.” The bill would also make technical amendments. SB 343 passed 39-0. I voted Yes.

SB 377 would amend and enact law supplemental to the Captive Insurance Act to allow a technology-enabled fiduciary financial institution (TEFFI) insurance company to operate as an authorized captive insurance company in Kansas. SB 377 passed 36-3. I voted Yes.

SB 12 would require the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF) to collaborate with community partners and stakeholders to develop a plan for implementation for a set of performance-based contracts to provide an array of evidence-based prevention and early intervention services for families at risk for an out-of-home placement, families that have a child in out-of-home care, and children who are awaiting adoption. SB 12 passed 34-0. I voted Yes.
SB 335 would exempt certain qualified trade, merchant, retail, and professional associations, and business leagues in the state that provide health benefits through a self-funded health plan subject to the federal Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974, and not subject to the jurisdiction of the Kansas Insurance Department, from payment of the annual premium tax to the Kansas Insurance Department. SB 335 passed 34-0. I voted Yes.

SB 392 would amend and repeal provisions in the Kansas Uniform Securities Act that require a transfer of unencumbered funds in excess of $50,000 to the State General Fund (SGF), from the Securities Act Fee Fund of the Kansas Insurance Department, on the last day of each fiscal year. SB 392 passed 34-0. I voted Yes.

S Sub for HB 2262 the Uniform Controlled Substances Act and other statutes in the following ways:

Schedule I - The bill would add two opiates, one opioid derivative, and one compound containing hallucinogenic substances to the schedule.
Schedule II - The bill would add one opioid metabolite of oxymorphone and oxycodone, one intravenous opioid medication for severe acute pain, and one opioid analgesic to the schedule.
Schedule IV - The bill would add one short-acting sedation medication, an insomnia medication, an antidepressant used to treat depression and postpartum depression, and a medication for treatment of sleepiness due to narcolepsy or sleep apnea to the schedule.
Schedule V - The bill would add a medication for treatment of adult seizures and a drug used to treat migraines without aura to the schedule.

The bill would remove from the Kansas Schedule IV the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drug Epidiolex to mirror the federal de-scheduling of this drug. It would also amend the definition of “marijuana” to exempt FDA-approved drug products in the Act and in the definition sections of crimes involving controlled substances. S

Sub for HB 2262 passed 34-0. I voted Yes.
Energy & Utilties
As chairman of the Senate Utilities committee, I held a bearing on SB 349 that offered a cap on electric utility rates in Kansas. As I mentioned earlier, key to sustainable economic development, and for the long-term affordability of living and doing business in Kansas, is lowering or capping energy rates! The London Economic Study commissioned by the legislature concludes that this is a growing problem for Kansas. 

This is a discussion I have almost weekly with everyone from Evergy to the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC). It is a complex issue that requires some tough choices and collaboration for stakeholders in the energy generation arena. There is no simple solution, but I felt that opening this up to a public debate was a good idea. We heard proponent testimony from Kansans for Lower Electric Rates, Kansas Industrial Consumers Group, Americans for Prosperity, among others, and neutral and opponent testimony from Evergy, KCC, Liberty Utilities, the Sierra Club, and more. You can view the testimony here, and watch a recording of the hearing here. The more people realize what is at stake, the better off we will be. I will keep working with all entities to find areas where we can work together to bring this about.

I have also been working to find ways to protect the health and safety of rural residents of Kansas who, through no fault of their own, are being forced to live next to large industrial wind turbines. People who live near these turbines have testified before the committee that they experience shadow flicker from the sun and oscillating blades during certain times of the day, blinking lights at night, annoying sounds and vibrations, decreased property values for their homes, and formerly beautiful vistas now dotted with enormous wind turbines. One bill I had hoped to advance to give some relief from these circumstances was SB353. This bill established setback and construction requirements for wind energy facilities and certain operating conditions for existing wind energy facilities, such as setting forth the distance a turbine can be sited from homes, wildlife areas, airports, etc., putting limits on sound immissions, mitigation measures for ice throw, tower collapse, etc., and other common sense regulations that need to be in place. After a series of informational briefings and hearings it became clear to me that, unfortunately, this bill is still facing incredible resistance because of the pressures being exerted from the multi-billion dollar wind industry.

We have 3,979 industrial turbines in Kansas right now, with projects for more slated in EVERY COUNTY IN KANSAS! If you are under the impression that this will never affect you personally, that is sadly not the case. Currently, the rural residents of our state are being hit the hardest. One man sent me a long email about what is happening in Neosho and Labette Counties in southeast Kansas right now. The following quote from his email reveals a lot. People in these small communities are being forced to basically live inside an industrial wind facility…surrounded in some instances by turbines that are over 500 feet tall. Here is one of his bullet points:

“The citizens, including the 250 + families that live inside of the footprint have no democratic voice by which to stop what is happening to their views, their vistas, the possible health effects, etc. as they have been blindsided by what has been happening for years without them having a clue. Instead the fate of their existence of whether they live inside of an industrial wind facility or not is based on one wind company, three commissioners, and a handful of landowners, of which most don’t live inside of the footprint, but if they did would make up less than 4% of the population living inside of that footprint. This doesn’t sound like democracy, it sounds like a course of actions designed to work the system to control the outcome by either “putting dollar signs in peoples eyes” or scaring them that their county will go broke fighting.”

Unlike the wind industry, nuclear energy is regulated to the point that no new nuclear plants have been built in the U.S. for years. Any threat posed by the uranium rods is fully enclosed and the public is rightfully protected. Yet, the industrial wind turbines, which are now eclipsing 650 feet tall, expose nearby residents to all the health and safety risks associated with the operation of the 40-ton blade assemblies that are right out in the open. Why is it unreasonable to set safety and health standards for the rural residents of this state that are being exposed to these risks? We have the statutory authority and duty to do so.
 
Forecasting the Future
As noted, Turnaround is this next week, which means it will be a very busy week on the floor. We are not voting on bills Monday, but will be in early on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. There is a chance we finish early - it depends on how quickly we move through the bills.

After this week, we will then be on a short four-day break and return on Tuesday, March 1st.

I encourage you to follow the happenings at the statehouse in the following ways:

YouTube Streaming: http://bit.ly/2CZj9O0

I look forward to reporting on our progress next weekend. 

Your Senator,

Mike Thompson
PAID FOR BY MIKE THOMPSON FOR KANSAS, SHEILA WODTKE, TREASURER