Legislative update from Rep. Pam Curtis

Rep. Pam Curtis

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

The Legislature stayed very busy last week, as we debated and voted on the House floor all day Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. Complete daily calendars are available at www.kslegislature.org along with other useful information.  I am also working to keep constituents more informed via Facebook and Twitter, so be sure to follow me at https://www.facebook.com/PamCurtisKCK and https://twitter.com/pcurtiskck . I am privileged and honored to be your voice in the Kansas Capitol. If I can ever be of assistance to you, please feel free to contact me at home or in Topeka.

In this issue:

• Buy American amendment proposed

• House rejects Senate decision to strike down energy standards

• House adopts proposed amendment to the Constitution on charitable raffles

• Nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities releases new report on Kansas tax policy

• House passes Student Data Privacy bill

• Stay in touch

House Dems propose Buy American Act

On Tuesday, the House voted on HB 2675. HB 2675 revises the provisions of the State Use Law as it pertains to certified businesses and negotiating committees.

The bill passed on the floor, but an important amendment to HB 2675 was rejected. The amendment, introduced by Rep. Whipple, was created in an attempt to implement the Kansas Buy American Act.

The amendment would require any public building or public work contract made by a state agency must use goods that are manufactured in the United States, under the oversight of the Department of Administration.

Exceptions would be made in cases where it is found that needed U.S.-made materials are not sufficiently produced or readily available, or that the inclusion of domestic materials would increase the project cost by more than 25 percent.

I voted yes on the Whipple Amendment to HB 2675 because I believe that Buy American provisions are helpful in creating jobs and would be beneficial to our nation’s economy.

Resources for public projects funded by taxpayers’ dollars should be purchased from America, and specifically Kansas when possible.

Since 2001, America has lost more than 2.5 million manufacturing jobs.  Kansas has seen a 12 percent decline in manufacturing jobs.  The amendment was rejected on a voice vote 52 – 70.

House rejects Senate decision to strike down energy standards

On Tuesday, March 25, the Kansas Senate voted 25-15 to repeal existing energy standards regarding renewable energy.

On Wednesday, the House of Representatives voted on whether to concur with the Senate’s decision.

Current law requires utility companies to obtain 15 percent of power through renewable sources by 2015, and 20 percent by 2020.

With states moving toward renewable energy regulation, many see the repeal as a step backwards for the energy industry and, most importantly, the Kansas economy.

Many representatives from both sides of the aisle, including several from western Kansas, came down to the well to speak in favor of Renewable Portfolio Standards.

Rep. Ewy of Jetmore, Kan., said he knew firsthand of families that have been able to come back to western Kansas because of wind farms.

Opponents of the law argued that the wind industry should stand on its own.

Rep. Marc Rhoades claimed that the law raises utility costs for citizens by 40 percent. Americans for Prosperity claim that rates have risen 15 percent under the RPS. This is all untrue. Kansas electricity prices may have risen since 2009, but according to the Kansas Corporation Commission, the RPS is not the main culprit.

In a Retail Rate Report released this month, the KCC attributed wind power’s impact on rates at less than two-tenths of a cent. The motion to concur with the Senate’s decision was rejected 44-77, keeping current law intact.

House adopts proposed amendment to the Constitution on charitable raffles

In November, voters will have the opportunity to vote on a constitutional amendment to allow charitable raffles for certain non-profits including religious, fraternal, educational, and veterans organizations.

The Constitution will be changed if the proposed amendment receives a simple majority. Here is a link to read about SCR 1618: http://kslegislature.org/li/b2013_14/measures/documents/supp_note_scr1618_02_0000.pdf

Nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities releases new report on Kansas tax policy

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, an organization that studies fiscal policy and public programs that affect low-and moderate-income families and individuals, released a new report entitled “Lessons for Other States from Kansas’ Massive Income Tax Cuts.”

The report uses our state as a “cautionary tale,” stating that the shot of adrenaline to the economy that Gov. Brownback promised is failing.

According to the report, the tax cuts enacted in 2012 have diminished state revenue, damaged state programs, harmed the poor, and haven’t brought promised jobs and economic growth to the state.

One of the numbers that stands out in the report is that if Gov. Brownback’s future recommendations are adopted, we will have cut per-pupil spending by 17 percent (adjusted for inflation) since the start of the recession.

Below is a link to the report that clearly states the serious issues that our state is encountering, in the short term and in the long term, under Gov. Brownback’s reckless tax plan. http://www.cbpp.org/cms/index.cfm?fa=view&id=4110.

House passes Student Data Privacy bill

The House debated SB 367, the student data privacy protection bill.

The bill provides restrictions on what data contained in a student’s educational record can be disclosed, and to whom it may be disclosed.

It requires that any student data submitted to and maintained by a statewide longitudinal student data system could be disclosed only to certain individuals or organizations Rep. Rothlisberg offered 2 amendments.

The first would require school districts to count and report the number of children of undocumented workers being educated. The amendment was declared not germane and it was withdrawn.  The second amendment would have defunded the KIDS data system at the state Department of Education. Rothlisberg argued that we “did not need to gather dossiers on the kids.” This amendment drew sharp opposition. It was overwhelmingly voted down. The bill was then advanced and later passed on final action 119 – 4.

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 email me at pam.curtis@house.ks.gov.  You can also follow the legislative session online at www.kslegislature.org.

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.

Legislative update from State Rep. Pam Curtis

Rep. Pam Curtis

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

On Thursday, March 13, it was my pleasure to serve as a substitute member for Rep. Stan Frownfelter on the Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee and the Financial Institutions Committee.  The Commerce, Labor and Economic Development Committee discussed HB 2675 that provides incentives to companies hiring Kansans with disabilities. The Financial Institutions Committee held an informational briefing on payday and short-installment loans.

This week, I submitted written testimony in support of HB 2749, the Transparency and Accountability in Legislative Meetings Act.  This will make Kansas State Government more accessible to our citizens, and allow our constituents to become more informed and engaged in the democratic process.

I enjoyed joining friends, neighbors and residents at the Cathedral Neighborhood Meeting on Wednesday and the Strawberry Hill Neighborhood Meeting on Thursday. Patty Orth was re-elected as president of the Cathedral Neighborhood and Tim Ryan was elected as president of the Strawberry Hill Neighborhood.  Congratulations to both Patty and Tim and their team of officers – the leadership they provide is much appreciated and their work is what makes KCK neighborhoods strong and vibrant.

There are three weeks left of the 2014 regular Legislative Session.  The last day is April 4 at which time the Kansas Legislature will adjourn until April 30 when we reconvene for the “veto session.”

In this Issue:

• Appropriations Committee reviews KPERS and Judicial branch budgets

• Appropriations Committee discusses state agencies and capital improvements

• Committee on Insurance hears testimony on mandated health insurance coverage for Autism Spectrum Disorder

• Joint Education Committee hears from superintendents on at-risk funding

• Commerce and Labor holds hearing on incentive to hire Kansans with disabilities

• Democrats act to support property tax relief for middle-class Kansans

• Keep in touch

Appropriations Committee reviews KPERS and Judicial branch budgets

Tuesday morning, the House Appropriations Committee met to review the budgets for the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System and the Judicial Branch.

Rep. DeGraaf presented the reports, and explained a few of the recommendations made by the General Government Budget Committee. Rep. DeGraaf made special mention of the KPERS budget for FY 2015, pointing out that they have been extremely efficient and have retained a healthy rate of return, and have no expected state general fund dollars requested. The KPERS budget passed for FY’s 14-15 as recommended by the Budget Committee.

Several constituents have contacted me about the negative impact of a recommendation on the budget for the Judicial Branch Budget FY 15 to remove 15 percent of the branch’s court reporter positions, which equates to 18 FTE positions with an estimated $180,000 to go toward updating the courtrooms.

Rep. Ballard moved to delete this recommendation, and Rep. Lane moved to amend the recommendation to only 9 FTE positions, both motions were defeated.

Chairman Marc Rhoades then moved to add an amendment to require an objective report on how these changes affect operations next year, and the amendment passed. Judiciary budgets for Fiscal Years 14-15 were passed as amended by the committee.

Appropriations Committee discusses state agencies and capital improvements

The Appropriations Committee met again on Thursday to discuss the appropriations for various state agencies and capital improvement projects.  The committee passed the following:

  • A motion that would add $125,000 in the supplemental budget for the Kansas Sexual Predator Treatment Program, which is responsible for treating sexual predators who are not sentenced to jail time.
  • A motion that would reallocate $500,000 for the Accelerating Opportunity program to account for the growing number of adults ages 24-35 participating in the program.  Funding would provide tuition grants for Kansans interested in earning the credential and skills they need to get and succeed in a solid, family-sustaining job.
  • A motion that would restore 10 positions that were previously cut from the Kansas Lottery agency. The committee passed an amendment that would give the Kansas Lottery greater authority over its own budget, and allow them to minimize cuts within the personnel department.

Discussion about cuts from the advertising budget of a variety of agencies and its potential consequences was also held during the committee meeting.  The Kansas Lottery was facing the heftiest cut from its advertising budget. Proponents to the cuts cited studies that said that advertising was not a big factor in an individual’s decision to participate in the lottery. They found that a steep increase in the prize money in the lottery and a change in payout methods were more predictive factors for lottery participation.

The committee heard discussion on possibly exempting certain agencies from the 10 percent cut from their advertising budget, and concluded that all universities within the state of Kansas would be exempt, as well as other agencies that would be left with less than $1,000 in their advertising budget after the cut. Ultimately, the committee passed out a substitute bill that was amended with the agency exemptions and technical corrections.

Committee on insurance hears testimony on mandated health insurance coverage for Autism Spectrum Disorder

The House Committee on Insurance held a hearing this week on House Bill 2744, which would require all insurance companies to require coverage for 10 hours per week of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy for autistic children up to the age of 18 starting January 1, 2016.  Many in the autism community argued that 10 hours of coverage each week is not enough; the minimum recommendation is 20 hours.

Joint Education Committee hears from superintendents on at-risk funding

The House and Senate Education Committees met in a joint meeting to hear a roundtable discussion on at-risk funding for Kansas schools. The state provides at-risk funding to districts based on the amount of students who receive free or reduced prices for school lunches.

The roundtable discussion consisted of superintendents from school districts all across the state. Areas of Kansas represented before the committees included Kansas City, Kan., Olathe, Topeka, Wichita, Shawnee Mission, and Garden City.

According to the superintendents, poverty is the biggest problem faced in their schools. They need the at-risk funds to aid struggling students in achieving their academic goals and behavioral challenges. The at-risk funds they receive are helping them aid students who are facing poverty, learning English as a second language, and homelessness.

Superintendent Cindy Lane, of KCK Public Schools, making the case to continue at-risk funding, stated that, “The research is clear, poverty is the No. 1 factor that impacts life outcomes.”

Commerce and Labor holds hearing on incentive to hire Kansans with disabilities

The Commerce, Labor and Economic Development met on Thursday, March 13, to discuss HB 2675. HB 2675 fine tunes a bill that was passed out of Senate Ways and Means last session that encourages companies to hire Kansas citizens with disabilities.

The bill outlines tax incentives that are available to companies whose workforce is made up of at least 10 percent of employees with a disability. This is a change from the previous version in which 20 percent of a company’s workforce had to be disabled in order to be eligible.

A company may also receive a cash reimbursement upon hiring an individual with a mental or physical disability, and if they retain the employee for a year, they will receive another cash payment.

Testimony in favor of the bill was delivered by representatives from Cerebral Palsy Research Foundation, who shared stories of their success with hiring individuals with mental or physical disabilities. He said that these tax and cash incentives motivate companies within the private sector to give jobs to qualified Kansans, and help disabled individuals reach their employment and independence goals. The program would also save the state money as newly employed people stop taking state assistance.

But it’s unclear when that savings would be realized since as each person exits state assistance another person from the waiting list would enter.

Overall, this seems to be a very pro-jobs bill that proposes a great program which gives some of our most vulnerable citizens a fair chance.

Democrats act to support property tax relief for middle-class Kansans

On Wednesday the Kansas Democratic House Caucus pushed through an amendment that provides $45 million in property tax relief for Kansas homeowners struggling under the weight of rising property taxes. The Kansas House voted 102-17 in favor of an amendment to HB 2542 that would restore the local ad valorem tax reduction fund starting in Fiscal Year 2015.

Restoration of these funds would mean real relief on the local level by lowering property tax mill levies putting more money in the pockets of middle-class Kansans.

However, on final action vote on Thursday, some far-right Republicans could not bring themselves to support middle-class families. For more information, see http://www.curtisforkck.com/blog.

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 email me at pam.curtis@house.ks.gov.  You can also follow the legislative session online at www.kslegislature.org.