Hello from Topeka!  The issue of oversized loads on Hwy 383 is one that was addressed last week. At the time I am writing this column, there is no new information on routes, changes or progress of the expansion of shoulder lanes on 383.  We have been working with KDOT on finding solutions and hopefully will see some resolve very soon.  This is the final week of the 2019 legislative session. While there hasn’t been a number of bills passed by both chambers and sent to the Governor, one of the bigger ones was her veto of SB 22 which passed the House and Senate 76-42, and 24-16.  SB 22 would actively prevent a tax increase on Kansans and small businesses.  Without this bill, middle-income tax filers would no longer be able to itemize at the state level, triggering a higher state income tax liability for those families.  In addition, Kansas companies would be subjected to additional taxes at the state level, making Kansas a more expensive state for business to operate in.  During Governor Kelly’s press conference announcing her veto, she admitted her actions would be damaging to businesses in our state and stated, “the corporations will feel it—the impact of the veto….”. If the veto is not overridden, the food sales tax rate in Kansas will continue to be one of the highest rates in the nation and will not decrease.  Lastly, out-of-state businesses will keep the upper hand on Kansas brick and mortar stores due to the sales tax loophole on internet sales.  In response to the “windfall” from the federal government, the provisions in this bill are commonsense and have passed in “red” states and “blue” states alike, from Texas to California. Because the bill is a Senate Bill, the Senate has the opportunity to consider the Governor’s veto first. This is the first bill Governor Kelly has vetoed. We will see if the votes are there.  I supported SB 22, while recognizing the needs of the state are many, this is an ill-gotten gain by the state.

Last week, the House voted 99-25 to approve the Appropriations bill.  Then on Wednesday afternoon, leadership of the House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means Committee began conference committee negotiations to work out differences in budget bills passed in each chamber.  Documents related to the conference committee are on the KLRD website.

On Monday, the House considered H. Sub. for SB 25.  The bill is a combination of the Joint Committee on Special Claims Against the State’s recommendations (SB 25, as introduced), the Governor’s Supplemental Appropriations for FY 19 (HB 2121), and the Governor’s Mega Appropriations for FY 20 (HB 2122) bills.  Key highlights of the bill are:

FY 19 recommendation totals $17.2 billion, with $7.1 billion from the State General Fund (SGF).  Recommendations include:

• $2.2 million SGF for the KanCare Clearinghouse to address eligibility and backlog concerns; $452,516 SGF for the Family First Prevention Act, which will draw down Federal fund and $400,000 for additional child welfare positions in the Department of Children and Families.  Both support efforts to improve the foster care system in Kansas.

• The bill did not follow the Governor’s recommendation on the Pooled Money Investment Board, which would have paid off the interest-free loan in its entirety.  The bill accelerates the repayments to four years, rather than the six in current law.  Additionally, the bill does not follow the Governor’s recommendation on the KPERS Trust Fund.  The Governor had eliminated transferring $56.0 million SGF to the KPERS Trust Fund.  The bill restores that planned transfer.

FY 20 recommendations total $18.2 billion, with $7.7 billion from the SGF.  Recommendations include:                   

• State Employee Pay Increases: $22.3 million for 2.5% pay increase for state employees (excluding Judicial and Legislative Branch); $1.6 million for judges’ salary increase (phased in salary increases over 5 years); $3.4 million for non-judicial employees (phased in salary increases over 3 years)

• Social Services: $5.0 million SGF for primary health projects; $3.0 million ($1.3 million SGF) to increase Medicaid dental reimbursement rates; $13.4 million ($5.5 million SGF) to provide a 2.0% increase in the reimbursement rates for providers of Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) waivers; $6.0 million ($2.5 million SGF) to reduce wait lists for Medicaid HCBS waivers  for individuals with an intellectual/developmental disability and individuals with a physical disability; $3.0 million SGF for Community Mental Health Center grants; $13.6 million ($5.6 million SGF) for 2.0% increase in the reimbursement rates for nursing facilities; $12.4 million ($5.3 million SGF) to increase the protected income level for Medicaid HCBS waiver services recipients and individuals in the Program for All-Inclusive Care for the Elderly to 150.0% of the Social Security income level.

• Other increases: $10.5 million SGF to Board of Regents for Performance Grants, Non-Tiered Course Credit, Postsecondary Tiered Technical Education State Aid, Municipal University Operating Grants, and Comprehensive Grants’; $6.4 million from the State Highway Fund, for the acceleration of delayed T-Works projects.

This year the house split the K-12 education bill in to two sections. One dealing with policy and one dealing with funding.  In the end, the house did not take up the funding bill, but did pass a policy bill 63-61.  As negotiations are underway, the Senate position on funding is there discussion point.  It is what the Governor recommended and if adopted and signed, it is hoped the lawsuits will end.  If a compromise bill passes, it will also be argued before the Kansas Supreme Court as the legislatures answer to meet the constitutionality of school finance law in Kansas.  

HB 2274 would require a physician to verbally inform a woman, who is seeking a medication abortion, that she may be able to reverse the intended effects of the abortion before the medication regimen is complete.  The bill specifically applies to medication abortions induced via mifepristone (also known as RU-486), which is followed by a second pill named misoprostol.  The first pill is taken in the presence of a physician and the second is taken at home.  Under this bill, the physician must inform the woman 24 hours before the abortion takes place of the possibility of reversing the intended effects of the abortion, before the second pill is taken.  In addition, the facility where the first pill is administered must post a sign with the same details. 

HB 2274 would provide pregnant women considering an abortion additional choices if they have commenced RU-486 treatment.  This pro-life and pro-woman legislation will present opportunities for pregnant women considering an abortion to change their minds and carry their babies to birth. With a veto-proof majority, the House approved of HB 2274.

Conceal Carry Permit and License Reciprocity: HB 2326. This would amend current statute to recognize out-of-state conceal carry permits and licenses, resolving several reciprocity issues.  Individuals with these permits and licenses would be required to act in accordance with all Kansas laws while carrying a concealed firearm in the state.  Similar legislation was introduced by Attorney General Derek Schmidt during the 2017-2018 biennium. House Republicans amended the bill to allow Kansans ages 18-20 to conceal carry with a permit—under current law, they cannot conceal carry whatsoever.  HB 2326 would allow law abiding Kansans to seek out firearm safety training, should they wish to protect themselves.  18-20-year-olds in Kansas are current able to open carry firearms, and this bill extends the ability for them to express their Second Amendment rights.  Democrats offered amendments that would have damaged the Second Amendment rights of every Kansan.  One would have limited the amount of ammunition in any magazine to ten rounds.  Another would have exempted college campuses from the Personal and Family Protection Act, effectively banning concealed firearms from colleges and universities.  A third would have banned concealed firearms from campuses unless an individual held a conceal carry permit.  A fourth would have required expanded background checks for firearm sales, and the final amendment would have granted the state the authority to remove firearms from specific individuals (Red Flag legislation).  All of these amendments were either ruled nongermane to the bill or were defeated.

We are scheduled to be back in Topeka for the start of the veto session on May 1st.  I will be out and about the district and state of Kansas for the month of April, I hope to see many of you.