Hello from Topeka, it is a busy time as we are nearing first adjournment and I missed the deadline for this report to be published in the area newspapers and online publications. Here are some of the things that have gone on the house floor.
House Advances Major Mental Health Reform Legislation
This past week the House approvedSenate Bill 238. The bill was one of the recommendations that came out of an interim study on how to improve and modernize the state’s mental health services. SB 238 establishes a certification process for Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs) to transition into Certified Community Behavioral Health Clinics (CCBHCs). This move is anticipated to increase access to services, improve care, and keep individuals in need of services out of jail and emergency rooms. Other states already have CCBHCs in operation and have seen positive outcomes:
The House passed this important measure on a vote of 121-1. The bill now goes to the Senate for a decision to agree or not to the House’s amendments. I voted yes and support improving services for mental health in Kansas.
House Supports Rural Hospitals, Provides Innovative Grants
At least 74 percent of rural hospitals in Kansas are operating at a financial loss, according to a recent report by the Chartis Center for Rural Health. This week the House voted on critical legislation to help create sustainable access to healthcare in our rural communities. Senate Bill 175 includes both the Rural Emergency Hospital Act and the Rural Hospital Innovation Grant Program.
The innovation grant program is part of the House Republican “Make Kansas Work” plan. SB 175 is designed to do the following:
Provide a pathway for existing hospitals with less than 50 beds to transition to a new federal designation of “Rural Emergency Hospital.” The bill also brings Kansas in line with federal regulations.
Make up to $10 million in state matching grants available to qualifying rural hospitals. These grants must be used to implement changes needed at the community level to survive in the current healthcare market, such as modernizing the local healthcare model or right-sizing the hospital for the size of the community.
I have been an advocate of this proposal for our critical access hospitals and providing real help for our health care needs.
SB 175 passed the House on a vote of 119-3. The Senate now has the option to agree or disagree with the House’s amendments.
House Sends Legislation Addressing Court Backlog to the Governor
In March 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic began to affect operations of Kansas courts. To ensure every Kansan would receive their day in court and their right to a fair and speedy trial, the Legislature passed a bill to give courts the authority to temporarily extend deadlines. That authority expires on March 31.
This week the House approved of House Bill 2078, which gives Kansas courts additional time to make it through the backlog that has accumulated. It’s important to know this legislation protects our 6th Amendment rights, which ensures defendants a public trial without unnecessary delay under the U.S. Constitution. In addition to allowing for extended deadlines, the bill also addresses prioritization of cases for trials based on factors such as relative prejudice to the defendant, the defendant’s assertion of the right to speedy trial, and availability of witnesses.
Without passage of this, Kansas courts would have 180 days or less to try all of these cases. If not tried in that timeframe, criminal cases could be dismissed with prejudice. The House passed HB 2078 last month, sending it to the Senate for consideration. This week, the bill came back to us with a Senate change to lengthen the extension period by another year. The House approved of that change, sending the bill to the Governor for consideration.
House Passes Alternative Work Opportunity Programs
On Tuesday, the House unanimously passed House Bill 2401, which will allow the Secretary of Corrections to enter into public-private partnerships for projects at correctional institutions. This will boost educational and workforce opportunities for incarcerated individuals, while also helping employers better meet their critical workforce needs. In addition, research shows that employment in livable wage jobs can reduce recidivism by at least half. HB 2401 received strong support from regional chambers of commerce across the state as one more way to help jump start the state’s economic recovery in the wake of the COVID-19 shutdown. The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
House Denies Governor’s Attempt to Create Bigger Government Agency
Earlier this year, the Governor proposed the creation of a new mega government agency. Her proposal, Executive Reorganization Order (ERO) #47, would merge the Department for Children and Families (DCF) and the Department for Aging and Disability (KDADS) into one big agency called the Department of Human Services. These agencies already handle some of the state’s most important work, including oversight of our foster care system and services for Kansas seniors. Given a number of concerns that have not yet been resolved, including the number of missing foster children, it is difficult to see how those issues would receive more attention – rather than less – if rolled into a larger government agency.
There are also concerns about whether a behemoth agency handling all social services would become even more cumbersome for Kansans to navigate. The Governor’s administration has indicated there would be no cost-savings in creation of a combined agency. On Thursday, the House voted to disapprove the ERO (HR 6009). Without cost-savings or efficiencies to point to, most legislators could not find justification for a change that would create a larger government agency for children, their families and seniors to navigate.
Federal Update on Unemployment Programs
As a result of federal legislation, pandemic-related unemployment packages - which were originally set to expire on March 14, 2021 - have now been extended in Kansas through September 4, 2021. Here is an overview of the most pertinent unemployment insurance programs:
Additional Legislation Passed By the House This Past Week
HB 2150 Creating a definition of financial exploitation, requiring additional mandatory reporters and increasing investigation days in the abuse, neglect and financial exploitation of certain adults. The bill was requested by the Department of Children and Families. The bill passed 118-4.
HB 2329 Updating the entities who are subject to the pipeline safety program of the state corporation commission. The bill was requested by the House Committee on Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications. The bill passed 121-1.
HB 2401 Authorizing the secretary of corrections to enter agreements for public-private partnerships for projects for new or renovated buildings at correctional institutions for education, skills-building and spiritual needs programs; establishing a nonprofit corporation to receive gifts, donations, grants and other moneys and engage in fundraising projects for funding such projects for education, skills-building and spiritual needs programs. The bill was requested by Rep. Francis. The bill passed 123-0.
HB 2406 Sunday start time for the sale of alcoholic liquor and cereal malt beverage in retail stores changed from 12 noon to 9 AM. The bill was requested by a representative of the Kansas Association of Beverage Retailers. The bill passed 80-42. I voted no on this bill.
HCR 5015 Urging the United States Congress to reject the For the People Act of 2021, contained in H.R. 1 and S.R. 1. The HCR was requested by Representative Blake Carpenter. The HCR passed 84-38. I voted for this bill.
SB 24 Prohibiting municipalities from imposing restrictions on customer’s use of energy based upon source of energy. The bill was requested by representatives of Atmos Energy, Black Hills Energy, and Kansas Gas Service. The bill passed 93-29. I was a yes on this bill.
SB 26 Designating a portion of K-7 as the Senator Bud Burke memorial highway and designating a portion of U.S. Highway 77 as the CPL Allen E. Oatney and SP4 Gene A. Myers memorial highway. The bill also contains language from SB 19. The bills were requested by Senator Bowers. The bill passed 123-0.
SB 36 Requiring the Kansas highway patrol to make multiple vehicle checks within a set time period for certain salvage vehicle pools and allowing salvage vehicle pools and dealers to apply for ownership documents for vehicles that are disclaimed by insurance companies. The bill was requested by the LKQ Corporation. The bill passed 116-6.
SB 37 Updating producer licensing statutes pertaining to appointment, examinations, fees, licensing, renewal dates, continuing education, suspension, revocation and denial of licensure and reinstatement. The bill was requested by the Kansas Insurance Department. The bill passed 109-13.
SB 38 Establishing the Kansas pesticide waste disposal program and permitting up to $50,000 to be transferred annually from the Kansas agricultural remediation fund to a new Kansas pesticide waste disposal fund. The bill was requested by the Kansas Grain and Feed Association. The bill passed 121-1.
SB 58 Prohibiting the filing of certain liens or claims against real or personal property and providing for criminal penalties. The bill was requested by the Office of the Attorney General. The bill passed 122-0.
SB 63 Enacting the back-to-school act to require school districts to provide a full-time, in person attendance option for all students beginning March 31, 2021, for school year 2020-2021. The bill passed 77-46.
SB 64 Amending the private and out-of-state postsecondary educational institution act to clarify the state board of regents’ authority and provide additional student protections and institutional accountability. The bill was requested by the Board of Regents. The bill passed 120-2.
SB 66 Amending the angel investor tax credit with respect to the definition of qualified securities, tax credit limitations and amounts, investor requirements and extending the date that credits may be allowed. The bill was requested by the Department of Commerce. The bill passed 109-12.
SB 90 Amending the Kansas rural housing incentive district act to permit bond funding for vertical residential renovation of older buildings in central business districts. The bill was requested by the Department of Commerce. The bill passed 105-17.
SB 95 Exempting motor vehicle odometer reading recording requirements when such recording requirements are exempted by federal law. The bill was requested by the Director of Vehicles, Kansas Department of Revenue. The bill passed 123-0.
**SB 99 ** Increasing the bond amount required for a vehicle dealer license and providing for display show licenses under the vehicle dealers and manufacturers licensing act. The bill was requested by the Kansas Department of Revenue, Division of Vehicles. The bill passed 121-2.
SB 103 Amending the Kansas power of attorney act regarding the form of a power of attorney and the duties of third parties relying and acting on a power of attorney. The bill was requested by the Kansas Judicial Council. The bill passed 122-0.
**SB 118 ** Providing for the dissolution of special districts and the assumption of responsibilities by a city or county. The bill was requested by the League of Kansas Municipalities. The bill passed 121-2.
SB 142 Requiring coast guard-approved personal flotation devices as prescribed by the secretary of wildlife, parks and tourism in rules and regulations. The bill was requested by Wildlife, Parks and Tourism. The bill passed 102-20.
SB 143 Updating definitions and increasing maximum functional unit license and storage fees relating to grain and public warehouse laws. The bill was requested by Senator Kerschen. The bill passed 117-5.
If you would like to contact me: my office is still located in Room: 149-S. My phone number is (785) 296- 7463 and email is: email@example.com and you can always try my cell number at (785) 302-8416. When you call or write you might hear from Terry Bernatis, my assistant during the session.
It is my honor to be your representative.