Archive for Opinions

Legislative update from Rep. Pam Curtis, D-32nd Dist.

Rep. Pam Curtis

by Rep. Pam Curtis, D-32nd Dist.

It was another busy week at the Capitol as we completed week 4 of the 2018 Kansas legislative session.

On Tuesday, members of the Wyandotte County and Leavenworth County delegation met with representatives of the Board of Public Utilities to share information and discuss matters before the Kansas Legislature.
The fast pace will continue this week with committee work in full swing and bill introduction deadlines approaching. There are also many informational briefings for Legislators to attend and constituent groups visiting the Capitol. You can also follow the legislative session online at

It is a special honor to serve as your state representative. I value and appreciate your input on issues facing state government. Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions. My office address is Room 452-S, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612. You can reach me at 785-296-7430 or call the legislative hotline at 1-800-432-3924 to leave a message for me. You can also email me at

Last week on the House floor
Last week, the House worked the following bills on the floor, all of which passed through the chamber:

On Monday, final action was taken on two bills:
HB 2439: This bill amends the definition to include driving under the influence to actions that can lead to involuntary manslaughter, as well as increases the penalty for involuntary manslaughter while driving under the influence.
HB 2482: This bill amends the time of day that alcohol can be served by the drink in Kansas from 9 a.m. to 6 a.m.

On Thursday, two bills dealing with firearms were on the floor. The first prompted a debate lasting more than two-and-a-half hours, with several amendments offered.
HB 2042: This bill requires the state of Kansas to recognize out-of-state issued concealed carry permits and licenses.
Rep. Ballard offered an amendment to HB 2042 to permanently exempt Kansas college campuses from concealed carry laws. Rep. Ballard’s amendment failed; however, Republican Rep. Aurand offered a similar amendment that requires a permit for those who choose to conceal carry on college campuses. This amendment passed 70-52, and is a major step forward in security for Kansas college students, staff, and faculty.
HB 2145: Currently there are 9 instances where federal law prohibits individuals from purchasing a firearm and Kansas law does not. Among these are individuals under a protection from abuse order and those who have committed domestic violence. This bill will add those 9 instances to Kansas law and passed easily on a voice vote.

Brownback resigns, Colyer assumes governorship
On Wednesday, Jan. 31, Gov. Sam Brownback’s resignation became effective at 3 p.m. Simultaneously, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer’s inauguration occurred in the Capitol in the first-floor rotunda.

Amid music and cannon fire, Jeff Colyer was sworn in as the 47th governor of Kansas. During his inaugural speech, he promised “a new day” in Kansas, and has implied over the course of the transition that he will govern differently than Brownback. Kansans will be watching to determine whether or not Colyer proves himself to be a different kind of Governor than his predecessor.

KanCare 2.0 delay
After the introduction of KanCare 2.0 – a supposed revamp of the original program that included work requirements, the rollout has been delayed indefinitely. Facing backlash from advocacy groups and both Republican and Democratic leaders and legislators, the delay announcement came from Gov. Brownback and then-Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer.

Colyer has led the privatization of Medicaid, known as KanCare, and implementing it as the lieutenant governor. Concerns regarding KanCare 2.0 included increased costs as well as work requirements for those who participate in the program. Important to note is that most of KanCare’s 425,000 participants are children, the elderly, or Kansans with disabilities.

Update on Dale Dennis
Last week the Senate President, Susan Wagle, and Ron Ryckman, the House Speaker, sent a joint letter to the chairman of the Kansas Department of Education. The letter concerned the use of education funds and called for the job of Deputy Commissioner of School Finance Dale Dennis. Dennis has been an employee of the state for more than 50 years.

At a board meeting of the Department of Education to address this, administrators, legislators, superintendents, faculty, and many others gathered in support of Dennis. The board voted 9-1 in favor of Dennis, and he will continue to serve the state in his role.

However, this week the Senate Majority Leader, Jim Denning, sent another letter to the chairman of the Department of Education that requested that schools repay the money received for transportation over the years. Expecting schools to be able to return any of this money would devastate the budgets of many of our schools.

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Pam Curtis for State Representative, District 32


Legislative update from Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-5th Dist.

Sen. Steve Fitzgerald

by State Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-5th Dist.

Quick facts

It appears that the national economy is doing very well and Kansas is seeing the benefits.

However, many factors are at work and the increase in state revenue could be more a matter of reaction to the new federal tax law than economics. Time will tell. Meanwhile, the outlook seems very good.

• Kansas State revenue collections for the month are $746.65 million which is over $165 million above expectations (Kansas Department of Revenue)
• Receipts for the fiscal year to date total is $3.94 billion, which is $248.63 million above expectations (Kansas Department of Revenue)
• Sales tax collections have averaged approximately 3 percent above the previous year, which is about $40.43 million more in revenue (Kansas Department of Revenue)
• Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt has called for a review to find out whether millions of dollars in unauthorized school spending in Kansas was an isolated departure from the law or a more widespread problem. (Source:
• The Institute for Supply Management released its state by state results for January with an index ranging between 0 and 100. Growth neutral is 50, and a figure greater than 50 indicates an expanding economy over the next three to six months. For Kansas, the overall index was at 59.6 for Kansas last month. All other states in the region were lower. Details can be found here.
• GDP is expected to surge 5.4 percent to start 2018, the central bank branch estimated in its latest rolling look at how the economy is progressing. (Source:

Wallet watch
Thanks to the federal tax cuts enacted late last year, most Americans are receiving a boost in pay this week. While those on the left deride the cuts as “crumbs,” Americans seem happy with the returns – and this is on top of more companies adding jobs and helping workers as a result of the tax cuts.

Here in Kansas, the effect of the tax cuts has unfortunately been offset by last year’s retroactive tax increase, SB 30, on Kansas families and businesses.

Kansas Department of Education ignores legislative approval
Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning wrote an editorial regarding the LPA Audit which found that KSDE implemented a change to the K-12 transportation formula without legislative authorization. The full editorial is here Here is a key excerpt:
“During Friday’s meeting, KSDE completely ignored the audit’s damning findings. Not only did the board not discuss corrective action needed by the audit findings, it plans to openly continue spending the unauthorized money even though it has been informed by LPA it is not legal.
“Several board of education members, including board chairman Jim Porter, of Fredonia, and Ken Willard, of Hutchinson, have said the burden of responsibility for examining school funding distribution ‘lies with the Legislature.’ In other words, they are saying the Legislature should have self-identified if the amounts are correct or not, even though these dollar amounts are presented directly to the Legislature by the Kansas Department of Education.
“However, LPA auditors only recently uncovered the unauthorized $45 million payments, which were intentionally embedded in the spreadsheet KSDE uses to calculate transportation state aid. Senate Leadership and the A.G.’s office recommended KSDE perform a forensic audit on the entire formula to verify that nothing like the LPA’s findings are occurring elsewhere in the formula.”

Rep. Kristey Williams wrote a two-part column on school finance:

Part 1:

Part 2:–are-local-boe-maximizing-local-funding-options

Here are some excerpts:

“The Kansas Constitution (Article 6, Section 6) states that the Legislature shall ‘make suitable provision for finance of educational interests of the State.’ The Constitutional wording ‘suitable provision’ in question was first added to our Constitution in 1966.

“Here is the key word in question: suitable. The word ‘suitable’ has been defined by the Supreme Court to mean both ‘equitable and adequate.’ The definition and measurement for reaching what is ‘equitable and adequate’ has changed for the past decade. In essence, the Legislature has been given an impossible task in which the goalpost of ‘equitable and adequacy’ continually move with each ruling.

“53 years since the word ‘suitable’ was added to our State Constitution, we find ourselves in litigation brought on by self-serving lawyers who have taken more than $6 million from Kansas taxpayers to line their own pockets.
“Let’s go back to the four schools that were part of the original lawsuit. These schools are not currently using their maximum taxing authority. If these four districts needed more funds for teacher raises or classroom enhancements, the money is already available today – without any more lawsuit wins or increased state funding. These four schools would need only to increase their local property tax rates to the statutory maximum levels and be subject to a 30-day protest petition.

“These districts are suing you instead. In essence, by not maximizing their local funding authority, their actions indicate they would prefer for you, everyone else in the state, to pay more for their schools rather than ask their local voters/patrons.

Floor action
The Senate passed several bills, all unanimously, mostly housekeeping and a bill to honor Dwight D. Eisenhower.

Updating effective risk-based capital instructions date (SB 267): SB 267 changes the effective date specified in the Insurance Code for the risk-based capital (RBC) instructions promulgated by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners for property and casualty companies and for life insurance companies. The instructions currently specified became effective on Dec. 31, 2016. The bill would update the effective date on the RBC instructions to Dec. 31, 2017. This bill passed the Senate 39-0.

Mid-term appointments of Credit Union Council members (SB 275): SB 275 adjust the provisions relating to the terms of service for members of the Credit Union Council (Council). The bill would specify a council member could not serve more than two consecutive full three-year terms. The bill would require the governor, in the event of vacancy on the council, to appoint a new member to fill the unexpired term, but this mid-term appointment of a new council member would not be considered a full term for purposes of the two-term limit. This bill passed the Senate 39-0.

Authorization of the construction of a statue honoring Dwight D. Eisenhower (SB 262) SB 262 would authorize the Capitol Preservation Committee to approve plans to place a permanent statue of Dwight D. Eisenhower on the northwest quadrant of Kansas Capitol grounds. The bill also authorizes the Department of Administration to receive moneys from grants, gifts, contributions, or bequests to finance the construction of the statue and its pedestal. All funds received would be remitted to the Dwight D. Eisenhower Statue Fund, which would be created by the bill and would be used solely for creating and constructing the statue and its pedestal or other purposes specifically indicated in the bequest. No public funds would be used to construct the statue and pedestal. The monument will be an exact replica of the statue created by Lawrence native, Jim Brothers, which currently resides in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol in Washington D.C. This bill passed the Senate 39-0.

Audits of the Kansas 911 Act (SB 255): SB 255 would modify the Kansas 911 Act by changing the duration between audits of the 911 system from three years to five years. The bill requires on or before December 31, 2018, and at least once every five years thereafter, the Division of Legislative Post Audit to conduct an audit of the 911 system. This bill passed the Senate 39-0.

Transferring duties from judicial administrator to director of property valuation (SB 261):
SB 261 revises the law requiring an appraisal prior to the state purchasing or disposing of any real property. The bill transfers the duty to appoint a disinterested appraiser from the Judicial Administrator to the Director of Property Valuation, the head of the Department of Revenue’s Division of Property Valuation. Similarly, if the county assessment value of the real property is over $200,000, the bill would allow the Director of Property Valuation to appoint three disinterested appraisers, rather than the Judicial Administrator. This bill passed the Senate 39-0.

Dr. Jeff Colyer 47th governor of Kansas
On Wednesday, Jan. 31, Jeff Colyer was sworn in as the 47thgovernor of Kansas replacing Sam Brownback. The inauguration of Colyer comes after Gov. Brownback resigned from office to become the U.S. Ambassador to International Freedom. I wish Ambassador and Mrs. Brownback Godspeed in their next chapter of public service. They have been examples of grace and forbearance.

Gov. Colyer was accompanied by his wife, Ruth, and two of their daughters as he took the oath of office in a ceremony at the Kansas Statehouse.

“I demand transparency and we embrace accountability,” Colyer said in his speech. “I pledge to do the right thing even when nobody is looking, and we will set a tone and insist on an environment of openness, honesty and respect and without harassment, especially in this building.”

Gov. Colyer is scheduled to address the legislature next Wednesday. I look forward to a productive relationship between the legislature and the new governor.

Medicaid suspension bill heads to Senate
On Tuesday, the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee sent SB 195 out of committee to the Senate. SB 195 would suspend instead of eliminate eligibility for Medicaid benefits for those in prison, jail, or mental health facilities. The bill does not require the person to reapply for their KanCare coverage therefore allowing them to immediately receive benefits when they are released from a state facility. SB 195 would not allow reimbursement while incarcerated but works to decrease the amount of time an individual must wait to receive coverage after being released.

Supporters of the bill believe it will lower recidivism rates since it will provide access to continuous mental health coverage. A mental health task force had recommended the policy to legislators earlier this month.

I support actions to reduce recidivism and to help mental health and therefore expect to vote for this bill when it comes before the Senate.

Bill calls for shared parenting time

On Tuesday, the Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing on SB 257 which would provide divorcing parents equal amount of time with their child by default. If the parents do not have a parenting plan one would be created for them allowing each parent equal custody. If evidence shows that equal time with both parents is not in the best interest of the child the court can create a different custody arrangement.

The bill, which was created to promote the involvement of the father and co-parenting, was filed before the legislative session by Sen. Steve Fitzgerald (R-Leavenworth). During the hearing, research was presented that showed the involvement of both parents is better for the child.

The Department of Children and Families believes SB 257 would decrease fee fund receipts by $6 million after FY2019. This decrease would result from reduced court actions.

The bill does not address child support. Proponents and opponents are meeting to try and address concerns expressed by two judges and the trial lawyers.

Cybersecurity Act
On Thursday, the Senate Ways and Means Committee held a hearing on SB 342 which enacts the Kansas Cybersecurity Act. The Cybersecurity Act focuses on making data in the state more secure. Throughout the past eight years, the bill has taken various forms while the need for cybersecurity has steadily increased.
The bill provides five main goals:

1. Protect state information and systems
2. Reduce cyber risks through programs and initiatives
3. Effective and efficient cybersecurity capability
4. Enterprise approach to cybersecurity through a centralized process
5. A cyber secure state

The bill aims to protect Kansas from cyber-attacks, loss of sensitive information, and financial liability due to breaches of information. SB 342 would focus on providing a secure network to the executive branch agency, with the exclusion of elected office agencies, regents’ institutions, or the board of regents. Non-governmental agencies would be required to provide their own security services.

Online sales tax hearing
This week the Joint Tax Committee heard from the South Dakota Attorney General’s office on their pending lawsuit before the U.S. Supreme Court regarding online sales tax. South Dakota passed legislation that would require sales tax to be remitted to the state from remote sellers who do not have a physical presence within the state but have what is considered an ‘economic presence.’

This comes after a growing concern from many states that are seeing sluggish sales tax receipts due to more Americans shopping online rather than in-store.

The attorney general of South Dakota recommended that Kansas write an amicus brief in support of South Dakota’s efforts. This would have to come from the Kansas Attorney General.

South Dakota expects a ruling to come from the Supreme Court this summer.

This week
• Hearing on: SB 299, election commissioners; role of secretary of state and boards of county commissioners – [Senate Ethics, Elections and Local Government; Feb. 6 at 9:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: HB 2439, creating an additional crime of involuntary manslaughter for certain violations of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs – [Senate Judiciary Committee; Feb. 6 at 10:30 a.m.]
• Briefing on: Options for a New Mental Health Hospital, Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services – [Senate Ways and Means Committee; Feb. 6 at 10:30 a.m.]
Wednesday –
• Final action on: SB 312, licensure of dental therapists – [Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee; Feb. 7 at 9:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: SB 328, prohibiting the outsourcing of privatization of any operations or facilities of any correctional institution or juvenile correctional facility; allowing existing contracts to be renewed – [Senate Federal and State Affairs; Feb. 7 at 10:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: SB 316, providing Medicaid coverage for tobacco cessation – [Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee; Feb. 8 at 9:30 a.m.]
• Hearing on: SB 332, removing Medicaid services for intellectual and developmental disabilities from managed care delivery – [Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee; Feb. 9 at 9:30 a.m.]

2018 Sessions dates and deadlines
All dates are subject to change
Monday, Feb. 5, Last day for non-exempt committees to request bill drafts
Wednesday, Feb. 7, Last day for bill introductions by members
Friday, Feb. 9, Last day for non-exempt committee bill introduction
Friday, Feb. 16, Pro forma
Monday, Feb. 19, Last day for AM/PM committees to meet
Tuesday, Feb. 20, On floor all day
Wednesday, Feb. 21, On floor all day
Thursday, Feb. 22, Last day for non-exempt bills in house of origin
Feb. 23-27, No session
Friday, March 2, Pro forma
Friday, March 23, Last day for non-exempt committee consideration
March 26-28, On floor all day
Thursday, March 29, On floor all day; Last day to consider non-exempt bills not in originating chamber
Friday, March 30, No session
Friday, April 6, Drop dead day; first adjournment
Thursday, April 26, Veto session begins
Thursday, May 4, Day 90

Kansas Legislature
Links to follow the Kansas Legislature:

Website – Great for looking up bills, calendars, journals, as well as the Roster in each Chamber.

YouTube of Legislature – Did you know the legislature is now streaming its proceedings? The YouTube page has an archive of the sessions thus far – including the State of the State and the State of the Judiciary.

Committee Streaming –

The Kansas Legislature is also streaming committees, with every committee room equipped with audio streaming technology.

Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-5th Dist., represents western Wyandotte County and part of Leavenworth County.


Legislative update from Sen. Steve Fitzgerald

Sen. Steve Fitzgerald

Guest column

by Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-5th Dist.

The Senate is trying to be more transparent. Besides this newsletter, here are some other tools.

Great for looking up bills, calendars, journals, as well as the roster in each chamber.

YouTube of Legislature:
The YouTube page has an archive of the sessions thus far – including the State of the State and the State of the Judiciary.

Committee streaming:
The Kansas Legislature is also streaming committees, with every committee room equipped with audio streaming technology.

Quick facts
• The Kansas economy grew 2.1 percent in the third quarter of 2017, missing the expectation of 2.8 percent growth (BEA).

• Since December 2016, Kansas gained 6,300 seasonally adjusted total nonfarm jobs and 8,000 private sector jobs (Kansas Department of Labor)

• Legislative post audit reveals misallocated $400 million. A Legislative Post Audit study revealed a possible misallocation of $405 million to schools in transportation funding in violation of state law, which prompted a letter from legislative leaders and potential involvement by the Kansas Attorney General. (Source:

• Kansas Joins in School Choice Week. This week is School Choice week and Kansas joined in the festivities, with over 281 events throughout Kansas to “raise awareness about opportunity in education and spark conversations about what options are available – and what options parents want.” A School Choice Rally was held in the State Capitol on Wednesday. (Source:

• Unemployment is down again in Kansas. In December, unemployment in Kansas went down another tick to 3.4 percent. One year ago, the rate was 4.3 percent. Kansas gained 5,000 jobs in the last two months. (Source:

• Editorial: Pro-dependency advocates miss the mark in attacking Kansas welfare reform

Jonathan Ingram, vice president of research at the Foundation for Government Accountability, wrote the above piece regarding welfare reform in Kansas. Here is a key excerpt:

“The Kansas results show a clear trend: higher earnings and less dependency after leaving welfare. In fact, higher earnings more than offset lost welfare benefits, leaving these families financially better off. While there remains more work to be done to ensure as many families as possible move back onto the path of self-sufficiency through employment, Kansas has made incredible progress in just a few short years.”

Gov. Brownback finally confirmed
Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer to be sworn In Jan. 31
After many months of delay by Democrats in the U.S. Senate, Gov. Brownback was confirmed on Wednesday as the U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom.

He was confirmed on a 50-49 vote, with Vice President Mike Pence breaking the tie. Gov. Brownback will officially resign on Wednesday, Jan. 31, at 3 p.m. At that time, Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer will be sworn in as the 47th governor of Kansas.

Rally for Life
It was cold and wet, but that did not stop hundreds of pro-life Kansans from braving the weather and participating in the March for Life and Rally for Life this past Monday afternoon, which marked the 45th anniversary of Roe vs. Wade.

Many elected officials, including many members of the Kansas Truth Caucus, were present for the rally to support the cause of life.
The march began at the Topeka Performing Arts Center and ended with a rally on the statehouse steps where marchers heard from speakers such as Gov. Sam Brownback, Kansans for Life executive director, Mary Kay Culp, and abortion survivor Melissa Ohden.

“Now, I didn’t do this. You did this. The legislators did this,” Brownback said. “But here’s the actual number – 17,000 fewer abortions over the prior six years than the six years before that. You’ve made a difference. We have 17,000 fewer abortions in Kansas because of what you have done. Keep doing it. This is important.”

During the past seven years, Kansas has taken remarkable steps and has transitioned to become one of the most pro-life states in the country. Thanks to the efforts of a pro-life governor, pro-life legislature, and allies at Kansans for Life, Kansas is leading the way in protecting the innocent among us.

That historic progress is now under threat by the Kansas Supreme Court and the possibility of overturning the ban on dismemberment abortions, a second-trimester abortion procedure. The ban on dismemberment abortions was a first-in-the-nation law signed by Gov. Brownback in 2015.

2018 Kansas Teacher of the Year
On Tuesday, the Senate adopted a resolution congratulating and commending the regional finalists of the 2018 Kansas Teacher of the Year selections. Among the finalists welcomed to the Senate chambers was high school English language arts teacher from Buhler Unified School District 313, Samantha “Sam” Neill. With more than 100 candidates nominated, Neill was selected as the 2018 Teacher of the Year.

Each district is eligible to nominate one elementary-school educator and one secondary-school educator. Within the field of more than 100 nominations this year, eight regional finalists were chosen. The Kansas Teacher of the Year Award recognizes the demonstration of excellent teaching in the elementary and secondary classrooms of the state. The recognized teachers are leaders in the development of schools, student performance, and the teaching profession.

Also welcomed to the Senate chambers were seven other regional finalists: Jennifer L. Donovan, De Soto USD 232; Jamie D. Manhart, Silver Lake USD 372; Megan E. Nagel, Newton USD 373; Angela “Angie” R. Powers, Olathe USD 233; Gilbert “Gil” R. Still, Jr., Dodge City USD 443; Sarah C. VenJohn, Winfield USD 465; and Bradley “Brad” W. Weaver, Atchison USD 409

Transparency bill
Senate President Wagle, R-Wichita, offered a proposal last Friday aimed at bringing more transparency to state contracts.

Sen. Wagle’s bill would require lobbyist registration to anyone attempting to influence officials in the governor’s office over a state contract. Currently, state law only requires the registration to anyone lobbying legislators.

Lansing Correctional Facility
On Wednesday the State Finance Council approved the 2-year, $363 million contract for the construction of a new Lansing prison. State finance members voted 6-3 for the project.

Those in favor of the contract were Gov. Brownback, Senate President Susan Wagle, House Speaker Ron Ryckman, Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, House Majority Leader Don Hineman, and House Budget Chairman Troy Waymaster. Voting against the deal were Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, House Minority Leader Jim Ward, and Senate Budget Chairwoman Carolyn McGinn.

Sen. Denning was influential in adding language to the contract that would discourage privatization. He promised a bill to be introduced sometime this legislative session to prohibit privatization operations at any state prison in Kansas.

The vote was originally scheduled for Jan. 4 but was delayed to allow legislators time to gather more information on the plan. Under the approved plan developed by KDOC and CoreCivic, the new facility will have 1,920 maximum and minimum-security beds and 512 medium security beds. Technology and design upgrades will allow for KDOC to reduce staffing from 682 to 371.

KanCare 2.0
Gov. Brownback’s administration announced this week that they would halt their plan to move forward with KanCare 2.0.

Brownback and Colyer explained this week that they want to address the concerns raised by legislators in regards to increased costs and the state’s ability to absorb those costs in future budgets. The administration plans to work with the Kansas legislature to determine the best path forward with KanCare.

Legislators hear from leaders on mental-behavioral health
On Monday evening, legislators heard from hospital representatives, district attorneys, county sheriffs, and leaders from community health centers about the growing mental health crisis in Kansas. A brief background was explained on how both the state and federal governments have cut funding to mental health over the past 60 years. This has resulted in Kansas emergency rooms and local jails being filled with people needing treatment.

A few goals were outlined to address this growing issue. One goal was to change Medicaid policy to allow recipients of KanCare who are incarcerated to have their Medicaid eligibility suspended rather than terminated. This would provide a safety net for treatment to people who are continuously arrested and would also help alleviate some costs that the hospitals are absorbing.
– SB195 addresses this goal.
– SB195 was heard this week in the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee and is expected to be passed out on Tuesday. There were no opponents to changing the policy.

Another recommendation was to look at the needs of the state on a regional basis and to begin the creation of regional acute behavior health facilities. Acute care facilities would provide care for patients needing care for less than two weeks.

Last, it was acknowledged that the state needs a long-term care facility. It was expressed that Osawatomie Hospital is not meeting the long-term and acute care needs of behavior health for patients needing more than two-weeks of care. Advocates hope with more funding and attention to mental health, Kansans can get the care they need to live stable and productive lives.

Dental care expansion
On Tuesday, Senator Vicki Schmidt, R-Topeka, proposed a bill to expand dental care in Kansas. This legislation would allow the creation of dental therapists working under the direct supervision of licensed dentists.

The dental therapists are licensed dental hygienists required to complete additional training in an accredited course of study. Once dental therapists complete the required 500 hours of training they would then be allowed to perform an additional 35 dental procedures.

Misallocated education funds spur calls for investigation
The big news late in the past week was the news that the revelation, via a Legislative Post Audit report, that said the Department of Education may have violated state law by exceeding its authority by improperly allocating $405 million in transportation funds over for over 30 years. That prompted a letter from legislative leaders in both chambers to Jim Porter, chairman of the Kansas State Board of Education, asking for an independent forensic audit.

A report in the Garden City Telegram indicated that the Kansas Attorney General believes the matter warranted further investigation by law enforcement. As of now, the Attorney General’s office has stated it supports a deeper independent audit and is monitoring the situation, but has not yet opened an investigation.
Only legislators are constitutionally responsible as appropriators of the peoples’ money-not staff members and not judges.

There needs to be an independent, forensic to determine what happened and why. That process should be free of politics, with a focus on the rule of law as determined by Kansas statutes. Such and audit will help to fix blame appropriately and exonerate the innocent that are now under suspicion.

However, the real issue is the complexity of the school finance formula, which created an environment for to occur. No transparency with no internal audits left the door wide open to mistakes and possible corruption.

“In the end, these are taxpayer dollars and the public deserves no less than a complete accounting of what happened and why, and assurances that errors like these will not happen in the future.

“Misuses such as these call into question the rationale for higher taxes when literally hundreds of millions in tax dollars have potentially been misappropriated in direct violation of legislative intent.”

Burdensome regulation behind historic meat market’s decision to close

According to the Wichita Eagle, a one-of-a-kind Kansas meat market – Brant’s Meat Market – is closing after 96 years. One of the reasons? Crippling federal regulations and a 22-page compliance form delivered by a state meat inspector.

See this excerpt:
“Stephanie Svaty said the decision to close the store came recently, largely because of federal regulations now being enforced.

“The store was not cited for any violation, Svaty said. A state meat inspector visited the store on Jan. 10 and reported that it needed to keep more documentation and paperwork in the future.

“It is just mainly the paperwork they brought in and told us we needed to start following,” Svaty said. “They gave us a 22-page document, which would be fine if we had 10 to 15 employees, we could understand. It wasn’t feasible hiring an extra person to keep track and check things. We have always had inspections, everything has always been checked and been fine. Maybe if they would have given it to us in chunks, it might not have been so overwhelming.

“We don’t freeze any of our meat, it is made fresh,” she said “We’ve done this 96 years and to our knowledge we did not have anybody die from it or were hospitalized because of our products.”

“But my dad, he is 72 years old. This burst his bubble. The fire left him when he got that 22-page document and read it from front to back and made notes in the margins. We made our decision just this past week.”

As Svaty indicated, burdensome regulations – and complicated and expensive means to comply with those regulations – impact small businesses more than any other. They are part of a regulatory environment created by federal, state, and sometimes local regulations. If a business can’t stay open due to the costs of compliance, there is a problem.

This was highlighted in a quote from the article by Marci Penner, director of the Kansas Sampler Foundation:
“If anybody gets involved, it won’t be to save Brant’s but to address a bigger problem with legislation being oppressive to many small businesses,” she said. “Maybe the sadness of Brant’s will lead to some effort to change things so other small businesses may not have to struggle as hard.”

Speaking of compliance costs, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) – Kansas this week raised concerns with legislation that would give the Kansas Director of Revenue subpoena power, potentially increasing legal and compliance costs for small businesses.

From Dan Murray, NFIB-Kansas State director:
“Tax and legal compliance costs are a major problem for small business owners who rarely have in-house professional staff to meet the demands of government regulations,” Murray says. “Further, tax compliance costs are 67% higher for small businesses than for big businesses.

“Compliance costs small business owners $18-$19 billion per year. Paperwork costs come to $74.24 per hour. The last thing small business needs is for the Department of Revenue to have another intimidating, costly compliance mechanism.”

School Choice Week
Jan. 21-27 was National School Choice Week and that included activities right here in Kansas. The main activities took place on Wednesday for “School Choice Day,” which included a rally inside the Capitol where many families who had been positive impacted by school choice were present.

In fact, there were 281 events throughout Kansas to “raise awareness about opportunity in education and spark conversations about what options are available – and what options parents want.”

The cause of school choice is not going away, no matter how many in government try to act like it doesn’t exist. From state to state, it has been proven to work. Examples of success:
The Kansas Legislature enacted the Kansas Tax Credit for Low Income Students Scholarship program in 2014. According to EdChoice, there are 292 students currently enrolled in the program, but up to 7 percent of Kansas students are eligible. You can learn more about the program by clicking here.

Many students across the country, including here in Kansas, are trapped in schools where they are underperforming. In fact, it is in the very Gannon case ping-ponging between the Kansas Legislature and the Kansas Supreme Court that the core issue is the 25 percent of kids in Kansas who are not performing up to standards.

Members of the Kansas Truth Caucus believe parents have a right to other options, whether that is another public school, private or parochial schools, or homeschooling. A child-focused, rather than system-focused, model of education would foremost care that the child receives a first-class education that prepares them for life, not which system produced it.

This week

Final action on: SB 263, creating a program to research the use of industrial hemp – [Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee; Jan. 30 at 8:30 a.m.]

Final action on: SB 195, creating a suspended eligibility status for recipients of state Medicaid – [Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee; Jan. 30 at 9:30 a.m.]

Hearing on: SB 323, termination of retail electric service territory within city boundaries – [Senate Utilities Committee; Jan. 30 at 1:30 p.m.]

Presentation on: Western Kansas Rural Economic Development Alliance Program Impacts by Christy Hopkins – [Senate Commerce Committee; January 31 at 8:30 am]

Presentation on: Evaluating the Statewide Impact of Economic Development Programs by Ken Kriz, Wichita State University – [Senate Commerce Committee; Feb. 1 at 8:30 a.m.]

Hearing on: SB 312, licensure of dental therapists – [Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee; Feb. 1 at 9:30 a.m.]

Hearing on: SB 204, Enacting the Kansas cybersecurity act – [Senate Ways and Means Committee; Feb. 1 at 10:30 a.m.]

2018 session dates and deadlines
Please be aware of the following dates and deadlines for the 2018 legislative session. As always, each is subject to modification and leadership will keep you updated on any changes which might occur.
Monday, Jan. 29, Last day for members to request bill drafts
Monday, Feb. 5, Last day for non-exempt committees to request bill drafts
Wednesday, Feb. 7, Last day for bill introductions by members
Friday, Feb. 9, Last day for non-exempt committee bill introduction
Friday, Feb. 16, Pro forma
Monday, Feb. 19, Last day for AM/PM committees to meet
Tuesday, Feb. 20, On floor all day
Wednesday, Feb. 21, On floor all day
Thursday, Feb. 22, Last day for non-exempt bills in house of origin
Feb. 23-27, No session
Friday, March 2, Pro forma
Friday, March 23, Last day for non-exempt committee consideration
March 26-28, On floor all day
Thursday, March 29, On floor all day; Last day to consider non-exempt bills not in originating chamber
Friday, March 30, No session
Friday, April 6, Drop dead day; first adjournment
Thursday, April 26, Veto session begins
Thursday, May 4, Day 90

Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, R-5th Dist., represents western Wyandotte County and part of Leavenworth County.