Legislative update from Sen. Pat Pettey

Legislative update from Sen. Pat Pettey, D-6th Dist.

March 26, 2014

In this issue:

• Senate nearing first adjournment

• House releases school finance plan

• Governor signs bills

• Renewable portfolio standards

• Net metering

• Sedgwick County vote blocked

• Suspended license amendment

• Over at the House

• Pat’s thoughts

• Health information

• Education information

Senate nearing first adjournment

Legislators worked all day on the floor Monday through Wednesday, reserving Thursday and Friday for possible committee work.

The extended days are in preparation for the upcoming first adjournment, scheduled for April 4.

After this date, bills that haven’t passed both chambers can no longer be debated although certain bills are exempt from this deadline.

Following a short break, legislators will return for the veto session in late April. At that time, exempt bills, conference reports, and any vetoes by the governor will be considered.

If you have any questions about any of the legislation being considered, feel free to contact my office at 785-296-7375 or stop by my legislative office, located in 125-E of the Topeka Statehouse. My assistant’s name is Jennifer Parson.

House releases school finance plan

Late last week, House Republicans introduced a 59-page bill (HB2773) to address school finance that also addressed other topics related to education including expanding charter schools and establishing tax credits for vouchers.

Shortly after the introduction of the bill, House leadership rejected the bill and said a new bill would be introduced.

This week, House Republicans introduced House Bill 2774. In addition to funding capital outlay and local option budget equalization to comply with the court ruling, the bill seeks to expand innovative districts to not exceed 56 districts, alter the transportation weighting portion of the formula to cut funding, and create alternative teacher licensures that bypass the State Board of Education and do not require any teaching-related coursework.

The House Committee on Appropriations discussed the bill Wednesday and has scheduled a hearing on it for Monday, March 31.

The chair indicated that nothing is off the table and everything will be considered.

This means there could be amendments added to include the expansion of charter schools or establishing tax credits, as we saw in the previous bill.

In other words, just because HB2774 has been introduced does not mean HB2773 or any of its elements are dead.

t set in stone, either.  Right now, the proposed amount is $129 million. This figure was provided by the deputy commissioner of the Kansas Department of Education.

The bills introduced by Democrats in the House (House Bill 2768) and Senate (Senate Bill 443) that solely fund equalization have yet to be brought up for discussion in committees.

I am concerned that many of the policy changes proposed in both HB 2773 and HB 2774 have not received hearings or been worked by either House or Senate Committee on Education.

It is for this reason that I do not believe now is the time to include these policy changes. I firmly believe in solely funding equalization, and discussions for policy changes should be reserved for the 2015 session when there is time to thoroughly vet them.

Governor signs bills  

• Party swapping The bill that prohibits voters from changing party affiliations between the candidate filing deadline and the date the primary election results are certified has been signed into law by Gov. Brownback. It will go into effect July 1, 2014. The bill passed the Senate on a vote of 27-12 and the House on a vote of 72-49. This bill is just part of the effort to silence the opposition. I voted against it.

• Victim’s notification The governor has also signed into law the bill introduced by my Senate colleague, Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau (D-Wichita) that strongly urges the Department of Corrections to notify a victim’s family within 14 days prior to the release of a criminal defendant. The law is known as Adrian Olajuwon Crosby and Dominique Nathaniel Tyree Green’s Law.

Renewable portfolio standards

On a vote of 25-15, the Senate passed a bill that would repeal the Renewable Energy Standards Act. Senate Sub for House Bill 2014 would put an end to the standards that will require Kansas investor-owned utility companies to have at least 20-percent of their peak demand come from renewable sources, such as wind energy, by 2020.

Proponents of the bill argue that with the RPS in place, the cost of utilities has gone up by 22-percent and it impedes a free market in Kansas.

However, the reality is that most of the increase in costs is from the construction of a new coal plant and from renovations made to existing plants to meet new emission standards.

According to a study by the Kansas Corporations Commission, the compliance with the standards only accounts for an increase in rates of 0 to 1.7-percent, or just a fraction of a cent.

Wind energy is inexpensive, and the renewable portfolio standards provide incentives to bring job growth to the state, especially in rural areas.

Repealing the standards also jeopardized agreements made with companies that came to Kansas specifically for the opportunity to utilize renewable energy, including the Mars factory that was recently built in Topeka.   I voted against the bill. I am pleased that the House voted against concurring with the Senate thereby killing it for this session.

Net metering  

The full Senate debated and passed 39-0, House Bill 2101, the bill on net-metering.

The Senate Utilities Committee reworked the bill; in addition to protecting current customer-generators, the committee work restored some allowance for generation capacity and proposed options such as time-of-use rates and minimum bills for a rate proceeding.

I think a good compromise was reached and I voted for the bill.

Sedgwick County vote blocked  

On a vote of 28-12 the Senate approved House Bill 2125, which prohibits Sedgwick County from holding a second public vote on whether to allow slot machines at the race track. I voted against this bill. I believe it is simply political retribution against the owner of the race track who contributed to the campaigns of moderate Republicans and, as a result, silences the will of the people.  This bill is repugnant and entirely unnecessary.

Over at the House  

• Autism coverage On a vote of 114-3, the House passed the House Bill 2744, which requires insurance companies to provide coverage for autistic children up to the age of 12 starting in 2016.

Autism Speaks was very active in suggesting modifications to the bill.  The bill is on General Orders in the Senate. I hope the Senate will concur with the work of the House on HB2744 so that we can start providing necessary insurance coverage to more Kansas children with autism.

We have learned that by including treatment for autistic children in the SHEP (State Health Employee Plan) that the cost is low and affordable at 31cents PMPM.  Early intervention with children can make a big difference in cutting lifetime costs and can enable many autistic children to start school and succeed in regular classrooms.

• Health compact A bill that seeks to exempt the state of Kansas from federal health care laws passed the House on a vote of 74-48. House Bill 2553 permits Kansas to join a multi-state compact where member states would retain full authority over health care rules, regulations, and orders within their respective jurisdiction while still receiving federal dollars up to the amount appropriated for the state under the current federal health care law.

This bill would give the state of Kansas the ability to accept federal dollars for Medicare, but privatize it like it has done for Medicaid under KanCare. The bill currently awaits a hearing in the Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs. I do not support this bill.

• Raffle amendment On a vote of 102-19, the House approved a constitutional amendment that would legalize charity raffles. The proposed amendment would alter Section 3 of Article 15 – which prohibits lotteries with the exception of bingo, betting on dog and horse races, and state-owned and operated lottery – to authorize the Legislature to establish licensing, conduct, and regulation of charitable raffles by nonprofit, religious, charitable, fraternal, educational, and veterans organizations. Sub for SCR 1618 passed the Senate unanimously a few weeks ago. It now goes to the governor’s desk. If signed by the governor, it will be included on the ballot for public vote during the 2014 general election.

Thoughts  

In the last two days we have worked over 70 bills on the Senate floor. A lot of them do not reflect less government, but just the opposite.

One bill designated Tylosaurus as the official state marine fossil.

HB 2223 allows home brewers the opportunity to taste and judge their brews in events as well as increasing the annual beer production for microbreweries.

HB 2673 added required training for pharmacy technicians and had regulations touching  nearly all who work in the health field.

We passed a bill to add the Bonnie Sharp memorial interchange at I-635 and Metropolitan.

HB 2272 gives the Southeast part of Kansas, close to Oklahoma , to go after a casino but lowers the financial threshold.

I voted favorable for each of these bills and that would be true of most of the work we did. However, with 10 to 15 percent of the bills they were unnecessary . I felt they were retaliation to the federal government , local government or an organization. Politics is not always pretty.

Health information

From the American Heart Association: “People in some communities in Kansas have limited opportunities to make healthy food choices. These communities are referred to as food deserts. There are three times as many supermarkets in wealthy neighborhoods as in poor neighborhoods.”

Education information  

The roots of the Kansas State Board of Education are founded in the State Constitution.

• 1861—The first State Constitution Article VI noted the responsibility of the state to provide for the education of its people.

• 1873—The first State Board of Education was created by the Legislature.

• 1915—Legislation created a State Department of Education.

• 1966—Citizens amended the State Constitution, Article VI to provide for a State Board of Education which “shall have general supervision of public schools, educational institutions and all the educational interests of the state, except educational functions delegated by law to the state board of regents.”

A sample of the duties and responsibilities of the Kansas State Board of Education include:

• Determine statewide curricular standards • Establish high school graduation requirements

• License K-12 educators

• Establish state accountability systems

• Implement and administer federal and state programs

• Accredit schools

• Serve as the Board for the State School for the Deaf and the State School for the Blind

Share

Legislative update from Sen. Steve Fitzgerald

Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-5th Dist.

Some school funding facts:

-Schools are allowed to levy up to eight mills of property tax to fund their capital outlay needs. They include purchases like: buses, building repair, furniture, certain equipment.

-Local Option Budgets can raise money locally for schools through property taxes. -Schools collecting at 81.2 percent or more for LOBs receive no equalization; schools collecting less than 81.2 percent receive equalization money from the state general fund or SGF.

-Equalization is a process that sets out to equalize the difference in money collected between school districts.

– Richer school districts collect more taxes from a 1 mill levy than poorer school districts. Equalization difference is made up by the state giving districts collecting less tax revenue money out of the state general fund or SGF to make up the difference.

A sales tax holiday for Kansas?

A House committee narrowly approved a bill last week to allow Kansas to hold a sales tax holiday similar to the one currently held in Missouri prior to the start of the school year in August.

HB 2607 would allow sales tax exemptions on school supplies, including clothing, computers and peripheral devices and computer software.

The first holiday would occur in 2015.

The measure was being considered by the House Taxation Committee and now moves to the full House for action.

The holiday would occur on the first Thursday in August at 12:01 a.m. and end at midnight on the following Sunday.

The bill would exempt all sales of any article of clothing having a taxable value of $300 or less; all back-to-school supplies not to exceed $100 per purchase; all computer software with a taxable value of $300 or less; and all personal computers or computer peripheral devices not to exceed $2,000.

While this would save consumers money, the state and local government would lose revenue.

The Department of Revenue estimates the holiday would decrease state revenues by $5.47 million in FY 2015.

This bill also is estimated to decrease local revenues by $1.37 million in FY 2015.

Student financial knowledge

How much do students know about balancing a checkbook or making a household budget or even getting a car loan?

It’s called financial literacy and the Kansas House wants to make sure students have a lot better knowledge of the subject.

HB 2475 was approved by the House Wednesday March 19 and would require school districts to add more personal financial literacy to the curriculum at all grade levels within the existing mathematics curriculum or other appropriate subjects.

It also would require training in a firm professional handshake, an amendment added to the bill on the floor of the House.

The bill passed 110 to 12.

House approves compromise autism bill

A compromise bill that would provide health insurance coverage to Kansas children with autism was approved Friday, March 21 by the Kansas House.

Coverage would be subject to the following limitations: 1,300 hours per calendar year beginning with ASD diagnosis and no later than age five for any covered individual for the first four years following diagnosis. And then, 520 hours per calendar year for covered individuals less than 12 years of age. T

he bill, HB 2744, was the product of lengthy negotiations with the state’s health insurance industry. The vote was 114 to 3. The measure now moves to the Senate for consideration.

Drug testing for teachers, school employees

The Senate approved a bill Wednesday March 19 requiring school districts to conduct drug screening, drug and alcohol treatment, fingerprinting, and background checks for various school district employees.

Senate Bill 335 would require the board of education of each public school district to adopt policies and procedures for a drug screening program.

The screening program would be based on reasonable suspicion of illegal drug use by any employee.

An amendment added to the bill on the floor of the Senate would require drug screening for member of the Legislature as well.

Any school employee who tested positive for the illegal use of drugs would be permitted to request that the specimen be tested in an additional facility, in which case the employee would be required to pay the cost of the additional screening.

It would prohibit any action taken against an employee as a result of a positive drug test unless the employee has tested positive during two consecutive screenings of the same specimen.

However, a school district would be permitted to take disciplinary action against an employee if the employee initially tests positive and does not request a second screening.

Senate would end mortgage fee

The Kansas Senate approved Senate Bill 298 last week designed to eliminate the Kansas mortgage registration fee over a five-year period.

The measure passed on a 26 to 12 vote.

The fee currently costs real estate buyers seeking financing through local institutions $47 million each year.

The fee puts home and business buyers who have to finance their purchases at an unfair disadvantage to cash buyers who don’t use traditional mortgages, as well as those using Farm Credit services.

The measure will now be considered by the Kansas House of Representatives.

Share

Legislative update from Rep. Pam Curtis

Rep. Pam Curtis

Rep. Pam Curtis, D-32nd Dist.

It’s a very busy time at the Capitol as we get closer to first adjournment. Numerous bills were debated on the House floor and continued to work bills in committee. This week I sat in as a member of the House Education Committee and the House Federal and State Affairs Committee.

In the Education Committee we voted SCR 1619 out favorably to support implementation of information technology education in Kansas schools.

The House Federal and State Affairs Committee passed favorable SB 346, that will allow microbreweries to increase production from 15,000 to 30,000 barrels a year.  The committee also approved Sub. for SCR 1618, a state constitutional amendment for consideration at the next general election, in November 2014. The amendment, if approved by voters, would allow charitable raffles by certain nonprofit organizations.

Friday was the last day for bill introductions in non-exempt committees. This week we will be on the House floor all day, Monday through Wednesday.

In this issue:

• Full House amends and advances financial literacy bill

• “Gotcha” amendment proposed on the House floor

• House Democratic Caucus receives update on status of early childhood policy

• House debates Health Care Compact

• Keep in touch

Full House amends and advances financial literacy bill

On Tuesday, the House debated HB 2475. This bill started as a requirement for all high school students to take a one semester class on financial literacy during the junior or senior year in order to graduate.

The bill had been amended in committee to infuse financial literacy standards throughout the curriculum in all grades and to test financial literacy standards on the state assessments. A report on progress would be made to the Legislature. The curriculum would be taught in math classes or other appropriate courses such as family and consumer science or economics. Proponents say students need to know more about managing money. Topics to be covered in the instruction include saving and investing, credit and debt and the importance of setting a budget.

Rep. Pete DeGraaf proposed an amendment that would take the bill back to its original form requiring a financial literacy class for graduation. Education Committee Chair Kasha Kelley supported the amendment even though her committee had amended the bill. This amendment failed on a vote of 31 to 86. The bill as it came out of committee plus the handshaking amendment was then advanced on a voice vote. On Wednesday, the House passed the bill on final action 110-12 sending the measure to the Senate.

Proponents say students need to know more about managing money. Topics to be covered in the instruction include saving and investing, credit and debt and the importance of setting a budget.

The bill also requires the State Board of Education to give lawmakers a report on student scores on financial literacy tests before the start of the 2015 legislative session.

Gotcha’ amendment proposed on the House floor

On Wednesday, Rep. Scott Schwab offered an amendment on a bill creating an income tax deduction on the sale of certain livestock during floor debate that was characterized as “political gamesmanship.” His amendment would have restored the income tax back to the rates used before the Brownback cuts were enacted in 2012.

Schwab announced that he would vote against his own amendment but merely wanted to show Kansans who complained about the tax cuts that there was not the “political will” to repeal them.

Representatives from both sides of the aisle came to the well to speak against the amendment which they said was an inappropriate tactic designed merely to embarrass those who think the cuts were reckless by making them vote for full repeal – a vote which would be characterized as a vote for a massive tax increase.

No one took the bait and the amendment failed 0 to 120.

House Democratic Caucus receives update on status of early childhood policy

On Thursday, our caucus met for our weekly luncheon that we call “Thursday Summit” where we receive updates and invaluable information from various organizations and advocates from around the state. This week, we heard from April Holman with Kansas Action for Children. April gave us a presentation on the status of early childhood policy in the state and Kansas Action for Children’s top priorities.

One of the top priorities for KAC this year has been HB 2767, which would allow researchers and public health officials to access data from the State Child Death Review Board in order to identify risk factors which contribute to child death. This would be a huge step forward in child death prevention. The bill preserves confidentiality of child death cases through the use of de-identified data, and the data is released only when approved by the State Child Death Review Board.

April provided some staggering numbers that reinforce the need to release this data – Kansas’ infant mortality rate for 2011 was 6.23 deaths per 1,000 live births, which is more than the national average at 6.05 deaths per 1,000 births. Since its inception, the State Child Death Review Board has reviewed nearly 8,700 child deaths.  I support releasing this data, as it would shed light on the risk factors facing Kansas children.

We also received some background on the Children’s Initiative Fund, which is funded by payments made to the state from the master tobacco settlement. The CIF is administered by the Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund, and serves nearly 200,000, roughly one-third of Kansas children.

April explained that Kansas recently entered into a settlement with tobacco companies, providing the state with $46 million that the state did not receive during arbitration with tobacco companies.  In 2014, Kansas is to receive $17.2 million.

House debates Health Care Compact

On Friday, the House debated at length HB 2553, which would allow Kansas to join the Interstate Health Care Compact. Under the Compact, member states would be able to regulate health care within their boundaries, and to secure federal funding. More precisely, federal funding for all health care services and health plans would be placed under the control of the state legislature and governor.

This bill is potentially harmful to Kansas’ most vulnerable. Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger has pointed out that this legislation would include but is not limited to Medicare, Medicaid, the children’s health insurance program (HealthWave), rural hospitals, Hospice and federally qualified health centers. The funding would be received in a block grant to the state, and the state legislature would decide how to spend those health care dollars.

In response to the potential harm that would be caused by this bill to Kansas’ most vulnerable, several legislators proposed amendments. Rep. Wilson first proposed essentially transforming the bill into legislation which would carve out all managed care for individuals with an intellectual or developmental disability from KanCare, as favored by the I/DD community.  The amendment was ruled not germane. As we continued to debate the bill, Rep. Ward proposed an amendment which would exempt Medicare from the Health Care Compact. Under this bill, Medicare would essentially become privatized, yet again harming Kansas seniors.

The original Health Care Compact bill passed in its original form on a voice vote and will be voted on final action on Monday.

Keep in touch

It is a special honor to serve as your state representative.  I value and need your input on the various issues facing state government.  Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions.  My office address is Room 173-W, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612.  You can reach me at 785-296-7371 or call the legislative hotline at 1-800-432-3924 to leave a message for me.  Additionally, you can e-mail me at pam.curtis@house.ks.gov.  You can also follow the legislative session online at www.kslegislature.org.

Share