Week 3: Our Work Continues
HAPPY 158th BIRTHDAY, KANSAS! This week on Jan. 29th we celebrated the anniversary of our state's founding by singing our State Song, "Home on the Range" on the House floor!
It seems like we just started, but the Legislative Session is moving along very quickly, with deadlines already approaching. There is a reason for that, of course. While the United States Congress meets year-round, we only meet for 90 days or so, which means we have to move quickly to accomplish the business of the people.

This week, work continued in committees. Bills are beginning to make their way to the floor, where the Majority Leader can then bring them “above the line” for consideration. The deadline for most bills to be passed out of their originating committee is February 28 th . We will then be on a brief break and then return to consider bills passed in the Senate. 

In the media, you are most likely to read about the more well-known issues – education, Medicaid Expansion, perhaps the budget – and those continue to percolate in the background. However, most of the bills cover a wide range of other topics, and sometimes don’t ever get touched on by the media. Yet, they can still have a direct impact on people’s lives, and as your representatives, it is incumbent upon us to examine each issue closely. My background as an attorney helps in this area. I listen to the facts, listen to constituents, consider all sides, and then carefully make a decision.

I hope you enjoy this update!

Governor Laura Kelly continues to promote her proposed budget and in doing so, made several claims that she promoted as “facts.” Among her claims are that the budget leaves us with a higher ending balance, that it pays down debt, that our roads will be taken care of, and that it balances the budget without a tax increase.

When reviewing these claims, the facts say otherwise.

As I addressed in a previous newsletter, the debt would grow as result of her proposed plan to re-amortize KPERS – to the tune of $7 billion. Second, the ending balance would be lower than the previous year. Third, her budget continues to transfer KDOT funds to make the numbers work. Finally, it relies on a tax increase that will occur if we don’t pass legislation returning the government windfall from the federal tax cuts to those for whom it was intended – you, the taxpayer.

I favor a different approach, one more in line with the platform of fiscal responsibility I campaigned on and promised to you on your doorstep. 

First, I do not support the tax increase that will occur if we don’t act. The money from the federal tax cuts in 2017 is your money – it does not belong to the state government. A change meant to benefit the people (raising the standard deduction) should not result in a tax increase because those in Topeka failed to act.

Second, I believe it is important to meet our obligations to retirees under KPERS and not play games with that money, especially after it has been stabilized in recent years. Adding to our long-term debt for short-term gain is exactly what people get tired of government doing. It’s time to do the right thing.

Third, I believe we must be mindful of new spending , particularly in light of the recent news that revenue estimates came in lower than expected. If we want that ending balance to actually be higher than it has been, then we must act wisely.

Finally, while transferring transportation money might have been the way past legislators made the balances work, it’s something I would like to see us move away from . We can’t on one hand talk about improving our roads continually, and then keep the current system where we appropriate funds for highways and roads and then take them away for other needs.

The budget is always a multi-step process, so it will likely take on a different shape as we move along. However, that is my initial take on her claims, and I hope that helps you understand my perspective.

In the first three weeks I’ve been here, I am discouraged by movements I see that go against the very transparency everyone likes to talk about. Last week, the governor formed a “working group” that was supposedly going to craft her Medicaid Expansion plan, but then it didn’t have any formal meetings. Five days later, however, out came a plan.  I agree with Majority Leader Dan Hawkins that such a working group formed to draft major policy should have met in the open; but if it’s just a list of people who support her plan, don’t pretend instead that it’s a working group. Either way, it’s not a great way to do government “in the open.”

Then, this week in Judiciary Committee, we heard testimony on a bill that would undo transparency as it pertains to the Supreme Court Nominating Commission. The Commission meets whenever there is a vacancy on the Kansas Supreme Court and is composed of four people appointed by the governor and five attorneys elected by other registered attorneys who live in Kansas. (For instance, as a Kansas-resident attorney, I receive a ballot when there is a vacancy on the commission, but a non-attorney would not.) The Commission then votes on three names to submit to the governor, who then chooses among the three. 

The bill, HB 2020 , would remove a series of checks and balances, as well as important transparency requirements, governing that process. It would even remove the Commission from being subject to the Kansas Open Meetings Act. During the hearing, I asked several questions regarding this proposed change.

Both of these items seem to go against the movement towards transparency and open government that so many favor.
Committee Work

Below is a description of some of the work we did in committee this week, as determined by the committee chair:
Judiciary – In addition to the hearing on HB 2020 which I mentioned above, a hearing was held on HB 2065 removing the duty of the driver of an authorized emergency vehicle to drive with due regard for the safety of all others, which was requested for introduction by the League of Kansas Municipalities. 

Understandably, government units need to be able to act with urgency to protect public safety when responding to emergencies. That need should also be balanced with the rights of innocent bystanders. This bill as currently written seems to leave an injured innocent bystander with no civil remedies for the negligence or recklessness of the authorized emergency vehicle driver. I asked many questions during the hearing, and it remains to be seen if this bill will be worked further by the committee chair.   

This next week includes:

  • A hearing on HB 2072 Amending the uniform arbitration act of 2000 to address validity of an agreement to arbitrate in a contract of insurance;
  • An informational briefing on the contents of HB 2105, updating laws concerning limited liability companies;
  • An update by Kirk Thompson, Director of the Kansas Bureau of Investigation, on the implementation of the data collection provisions contained in HB 2459 from the 2018 Legislative Session; and
  • A hearing on HB 2097 providing method for calculating cost of keeping civil prisoners in county jail.

Health and Human Services – This week consisted of more informational briefings. We heard presentations on K-TRACS (prescription drug monitoring program), neonatal abstinence syndrome, the Kansas Medicaid Corrective Action Program, the 2019 Kansas Alzheimer’s Disease Plan, from the Kansas Board of Healing Arts, and KDHE’s 2019 Pregnancy Maintenance Initiative Report. (click to download)

Here is a summary of what we learned: the K-TRACS program works to ensure patients aren’t pharmacy shopping for the purpose of improperly obtaining prescription drugs; the neonatal abstinence syndrome involves those babies who are born drug-dependent, and the most beneficial ways to wean them; Kansas Medicaid is still AT LEAST two years away from compliance certification that Kansas meets federal requirements of quality policy and procedures; and the Pregnancy Maintenance Initiative continues to work to assist women across Kansas with maintaining their pregnancy.  

The agenda for the coming week includes presentations on: youth use of electronic smoking devices; family friendly work environment in Kansas; the Community Care Network of Kansas; and HB 2082 allowing pharmacists to administer drugs pursuant to a prescription order.

Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications – This week we heard a briefing on the Westar/KCP&L (Evergy) Rate Study, and an audit of the Kansas 911 System.
The agenda for the coming week includes a hearing on HB 2084 amending the Kansas 911 act, and a briefing on the state of the Oil & Gas Industry.
At Blue Valley High School for opening night of “The Music Man,” with our senior playing percussion in the pit orchestra.
In my office with J. Paul Davis, Director of Johnson County MED-ACT Emergency Medical Services
Meeting a constituent who is in the land title insurance industry at an event near the State Capitol.
I had a meeting in my office with several physicians from Leawood.
At Home

Seems like usual Kansas weather: Blue Valley schools were cancelled due to cold temps Wednesday, then temperatures in the 60s by the weekend. The weather didn't stop other business. Thursday night started three days and four performances of the Blue Valley High School musical performance of “The Music Man,” in which our senior played percussion in the pit orchestra. Bravo to her and all the kids who were cast, pit, and crew, on great performances.

Friday night we had a family game night with some of us (I'm taking the picture), and learned a new game, Catan. It's a super game because activity occurs for all players even when it’s not your turn. Our 4 th grader thought it was super fun, too, since he won!

We had 4 th , 7 th and 8 th grade basketball games, which are always enjoyable.

Saturday night my husband and I went to the charity event Heart Strings Gala to help raise funds for Band of Angels to donate musical instruments to kids in need. The event was made more fun because we were invited to sit at the event with Blue Valley music teachers! Great fun and a great cause.

Next Saturday, February 9 th , join me for coffee then lunch at: Legislative Coffee with other legislators 10:00-11:30 a.m. at the Blue Valley Library, 9000 W 151 st Street, Overland Park, and Sunflower Club lunch, 12:15 p.m. at Bass Pro Shop, 12051 W Bass Pro Drive, Olathe.

If you can’t make those events, I’m hosting a meet and greet at Leawood Fire Station No. 3, 14801 Mission Road, Leawood, February 12, 7:00 -8:00 p.m.

Coming Next

Legislative Pages start this week for middle school students. Thank you to all who signed up- we only have one spot left! Email me if you’d like your middle school child to be a page: Kellie@KellieWarrenforKansas.com .

Every day at the Capitol I am thinking of our community in District 28. So please, email me with any thoughts, suggestions, or questions!

In service,