Mike Thompson's Legislative Report & Forecast
Greetings again from Topeka, where the legislative session has now concluded its fourth week. In my first newsletter (which you can read by clicking here), I talked about the learning process which has certainly continued during the past two weeks as the session has progressed.
For those of you who are new to my newsletter, I will be publishing a
"Legislative Report & Forecast
" throughout the session. My website is nearly finished and I will be publishing those reports there, as well.
If you have followed media reports, you will likely have noted that there are two major issues dominating the session: the
Value Them Both Amendment and Medicaid Expansion
, which I will address in more detail below.
So far, our floor votes have been extremely limited, and I suspect that will continue for the foreseeable future. In the meantime, our committees are active and I am working hard to learn about each issue presented before us, and am not afraid to ask questions to ensure that the legislation being proposed will truly benefit Kansans.
I am also excited to report that we are working hard on property tax reform. This week, the Taxation Committee held a hearing on two bills I co-sponsored that would help with local government transparency regarding property taxes, and could lead to those taxes being lowered in future.
Thank you, and I look forward to hearing from you!
Value Them Both Amendment:
Passes in Senate; Fails in House
In the past two weeks, both chambers held votes on the Value Them Both Amendment, the proposed constitutional amendment which would have the practical effect of overturning the
ruling last spring by the Kansas Supreme Court. That ruling declared that there is a right to abortion contained within the Kansas Constitution, written in 1859. The testimony conveyed the dire consequences of that ruling, which has placed all of the lifesaving limits the legislature has adopted over the years, under serious jeopardy. This includes protections such as parental notification and limits on late-term abortion.
Because the Kansas Supreme Court declared an independent right to abortion in the Kansas Constitution, that means even laws which have been upheld by federal courts as constitutional under Roe vs. Wade are now subject to being overturned. The reason is because the standard the Kansas Supreme Court adopted is much more strict than that of the United States Supreme Court.
Therefore, an amendment to the Kansas Constitution is necessary. A number of groups, such as Kansans for Life and the Family Policy Alliance of Kansas, have come together to support and introduce the Value Them Both Amendment, which would simply restore the power of abortion regulation back to the people of Kansas through their elected representatives.
The week before last,
the Kansas Senate adopted the amendment on a vote of 28-12. I voted Yes.
This was a great result!
This past week, the Kansas House also debated the measure, and then voted on Friday.
Unfortunately, the 80-43 vote was four votes shy of the 84 needed for passage
. This was disappointing, but we are not giving up the fight to pass this important amendment.
Conveying her seriousness regarding the importance of passing the Value Them Both Amendment, Senate President Susan Wagle immediately referred all House bills that were on General Orders, as well as two Senate bills, back to committee. She subsequently put out a strong statement:
Statement from President Susan Wagle:
This vote just completely changed the course of the 2020 legislative session. The fifteen pro-life bills I championed throughout my time in the legislature are in jeopardy. I will work with the pro-life community and will persevere to ensure its passage.
If Governor Kelly's Medicaid Expansion passes without the Value Them Both Amendment, Kansas will become the 17th state to implement taxpayer-funded abortions. Kansas will be like Connecticut, where 75% of all abortions in 2018 were paid for with state tax dollars. The Senate will not take up Medicaid Expansion without passage of the Value Them Both Amendment.
Even if the Amendment passes at any time this session, working Kansans should continue to stand with me and fight tirelessly against the expansion of Medicaid for able-bodied adults. Medicaid was created as a safety net for the disabled, elderly, and children; not able-bodied adults.
Margaret Thatcher once said, the problem with socialism is that you eventually run out of other people's money. I agree.
I concur with Senator Wagle. While I believe Medicaid Expansion is not a wise action for Kansas to take, not passing it is even more imperative as long as the Value Them Both Amendment is not adopted.
I remain hopeful the House will reconsider its action and pass the Value Them Both Amendment this session, so you, the people, can vote on whether to adopt it.
Medicaid Expansion Update
As I noted, one of the four committees to which I have been appointed is the Public Health and Welfare Committee. The week before last, we concluded testimony on SB 252, the bill that was crafted by Governor Kelly in conjunction with her allies in the Senate, which unfortunately include some within the Republican caucus.
The testimony we heard against Medicaid Expansion was quite compelling. It is one of those issues that sounds good when you initially hear about it, but where the facts tell a different story.
It's important to remember that the opportunity to expand Medicaid exists due to the passage of ObamaCare. Those covered by any expansion of Medicaid are only those who are able-bodied adults; it does nothing to help those currently on the program. Moreover, the experience in other states tells us that the estimates of those who would join Medicaid were woefully low, leading to budget problems. More broadly, I have a number of concerns with pushing so many people onto a massive government program which already has issues, including the lack of availability to doctors.
There are a number of reasons why I share concerns regarding SB 252, including:
Medicaid Expansion harms pregnant women, children, elderly and disabled.
- Puts pregnant women, children, elderly and disabled below able-bodied adults.
- More than 4,000 people with physical or developmental disabilities currently sit on waiting lists in Kansas.
- Funds spent on able-bodied adults cannot be spent on pregnant women, children, elderly or disabled.
2. Medicaid Expansion will not save failing hospitals.
- Expansion of Medicaid will increase taxes on hospitals, which will increase your health care costs.
- Other states experienced hospital closures after expanding Medicaid.
- Adding able-bodied adults to Medicaid will worsen the Medicaid health provider shortages.
3. Medicaid Expansion is a "get out of work free" card.
- The Denning/Kelly plan is an expansion of ObamaCare in Kansas.
- It provides a welfare benefit to able-bodied adults who choose not to work.
- The plan does not ever require able-bodied adults to work.
4. Medicaid Expansion kicks Kansans off private insurance.
- Forces nearly 30,000 Kansans off private insurance and onto a government-run health plan.
- 54% of individuals eligible for expansion already have private insurance.
A number of good articles have been written regarding the perils of expanding Medicaid, including:
As noted, the failure of the House to pass the Value Them Both Amendment led President Susan Wagle to announce there will be no movement on Medicaid expansion. In my opinion, even if the House adopts the Amendment on Life, I believe we must work to ensure the Medicaid expansion bill does not pass. As a member of the Public Health & Welfare Committee, if and when our committee debates the bill, I will work toward towards that end.
For many in Kansas, including our 10th Senate District, the day we receive our annual property tax bill is frustrating. Despite local governments saying they have kept the mill levy the same, it is apparent there is a significant hike in our property tax. The reason for this tax increase, which is not voted on by any elected official, is due to significant increases from appraisals (valuations) we receive on our property. These increases can be even higher if we simply do maintenance on our homes. This has gotten out of hand and has made home ownership an increasingly expensive proposition. Meanwhile, our local governments receive a windfall every year, without ever having taken a vote on the actual property tax increase.
Many feel it's time for that to change, and this year, a number of Senators are taking action:
- I joined 15 Senators in sponsoring SB 294, otherwise known as the "Truth in Taxation" bill. It would require city and county elected officials to vote on the entire property tax increase in their budgets each year. Once a city or county gets new valuation totals each year, a ‘Certified Rate’ is calculated to produce the same property tax revenue as the prior year based on the new valuations. Any increase in the certified tax rate would then need to be voted on by ordinance or resolution, with requirements for public hearings and by mailing notices to every taxpayer in the taxing district 10 days prior to the hearing.
- I joined 14 Senators in sponsoring SB 295. SB 295 would prevent the county appraiser from increasing the valuation of property solely as a result of normal repair, replacement, or maintenance of existing structures, equipment, and improvements on the property. The bill indicates that normal repair, replacement, or maintenance does not include new construction.
Both of these bills are very important steps towards the effort to limit future property tax increases. The first bill promotes transparency as well as holding elected officials accountable when they raise taxes. The second bill would encourage property owners to keep their property in good shape without the fear of a large tax bill, thereby preventing blight and helping overall property values stay strong.
This week, the Senate Taxation Committee held hearings on both bills. While I am not on that committee, I am hopeful the committee will pass the bill out favorably without any harmful amendments, so I can vote in favor of it when it comes to debate on the floor.
The failure of the Value Them Both Amendment to pass the House sets up a new dynamic, and I suspect that progress on other legislation will be slowed considerably until it does pass. Until then, committee work will continue. I look forward to updating you in the next newsletter.
A reminder that you can view my legislative portal by
- there you can find my committee times, bills I'm sponsoring, and how to contact me at my Topeka office.
See you soon,
PAID FOR BY MIKE THOMPSON FOR KANSAS; SHEILA WODTKE, TREASURER