Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Problems with CAFO’S

With a tremendous amount of work, the “No Tyson” organizations in Sedgwick County, Haysville, and Clearwater were able to keep Tyson from building a factory farm in District 93. We should all be grateful for several reasons:

They distort state politics.

“I can understand why they want to be free of regulations and scrutiny, but I cannot understand why we should let them.” That is a quote from Drew Edmondson, the former Atty. Gen. of Oklahoma, who sued Tyson for polluting the scenic rivers of Eastern Oklahoma. Tyson responded by pouring tens of thousands of do;;ars into elections to defeat Edmonson and elect an attorney general (Scott Pruitt) and a governor who were less concerned about pollution. Tyson now wants to expand their business into Kansas, and the Kansas Legislators were amenable to “letting them”.

The 2017 Kansas Legislature, after intense lobbying by Tyson, passed SB 405, which changed the animal conversion rate, i.e., the number of chickens whose manure weight equals that from one cow, from 0.008, the normal value, to 0.003. That small change had big consequences. The result of that bill is that now a chicken farm may house 330,000 chickens, and it may be placed within 1/4 of a mile of neighboring houses and within 100 feet of the neighbor’s property line. Would you want a chicken farm that close?

They harm the surrounding communities. 

The chicken farms and the processing plant would bring a influx of workers into the area. The surrounding cities would have to supply the infrastructure to support the farms. They would need additional water resources, housing, roads, schools, and sewage treatment plants. The chicken manure would pollute the streams and the ammonia, odors, and bacteria produced by the farms would endanger the environment for the local residents.

They are bad for the workers and the chicken farmers.

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The workers in the processing plants stand shoulder to shoulder and perform the same operations all day long. They are often poorly paid and often work overtime to make ends meet. As they found in Oklahoma, the farmers who raise the chickens are sometimes not treated much better. The farmers often have to borrow to build million dollar chicken barns, but Tyson controls everything. They provide the baby chickens, they deliver the feed, and they control what the farmers are paid for the chickens. Farmers who don’t play ball with Tyson may find themselves cut out of the business and bankrupt.

They are bad for the chickens.

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The chickens are confined so closely that they can hardly move, and are given antibiotics to control disease. The antibiotics residues left in the meat are not good for consumers. And, such overuse of antibiotics results in antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria.

As Dr. Temple Grandin said about the ethical treatment of animals, “If we’re going to eat animals, we should treat them  humanely and with respect while they are alive and give them a painless death. “ Do you think the chickens in the photo are treated humanely?

They are bad for the environment.

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Nutrients from waste cause fish kills

Besides the damage to the local environment, waste from the chicken farms end up in streams and rivers, and affect everyone down stream. The waste has E. coli and other bacteria and is laden with nitrates and phosphates. The extra nutrients cause algae blooms and oxygen depletion which causes fish kills. The wastes have even been linked to dead zones in the oceans.

 

There should be a law.

Kansas needs legislation for home rule, whereby county residents would have the right to file petitions against industrial-agricultural chicken operations and have a county-wide vote. Help elect people who will make that happen.

My Goals for 2021

Thank you for electing me to be your Representative. My Campaign priorities were fiscal responsibility, school funding, infrastructure improvements, and quality healthcare for all Kansans. Here are some of the things I helped accomplish:

Kansas ended 2019 with a budget surplus.

The courts ruled school funding was adequate and equitable.

We passed the Eisenhower Legacy Transportation Plan, a $10 Bln, 10 year plan to improve Kansas’s infrastructure.

We passed the Farm Bureau Healthcare Plan which will help 25,000 Kansans.

Received a commitment from K-State to keep the Pair Research Facility open.

Helped dozens of constituents with problems ranging from oil well leaks to help with unemployment insurance, PUA, and PPP benefits.

The 2020 Legislative session was cut short by the Coronavirus pandemic, leaving much unfinished business and a projected budget shortfall of $1.3 bln. Here is what the 2021 Legislative session needs to do:

Fiscal Responsibility. We must make smart budget cuts which will maintain essential services yet continue programs necessary for Kansas to prosper.

Schools. Tobacco Settlement Funds need to be shifted to allow more funding for early childhood education. The school funding formula should be changed to provide more state aid for new buildings without property tax increases. School bus stop sign laws need to be improved and enforced.

Incarceration. It cost $35,000 a year to keep someone in prison. That money could much better be spent on job training and rehabilitation. The Smart Justice Initiative, which is sponsored by such diverse groups as the ACLU and Americans for Prosperity, will greatly cut the incarceration rate and save the state millions of dollars.

Insurance. The Insurance Committee I am on is working on bills to limit co-pays for insulin and other life-saving drugs. Regulations and disclosure on pharmaceutical middleman can save up to 50% on some prescriptions. Road blocks need to be removed so that people can more easily access mental health care through their health insurance.

Medicaid Expansion. Expanding Medicaid would insure 150,000 working Kansans and bring $800 million of our tax dollars back to Kansas each year. For it to pass, it must have amendments to trigger cancellation of the program if the federal match falls below 90% or if any of the money were to be use to fund abortions.

Do your part. Please Vote. You may register and request mail-in ballots at the website KSVotes.org

Change the Legislature’s Rules

Although we usually pass 80 or 90 bills each session, only 9 bills were passed in the 2020 session. This was in part due to the COV ID– 9 virus this session, but also because of a perennial problem with inefficient legislative rules. Those need to be updated.

The 2020 legislative session was characterized mostly by what did not happen. The Governor’s initiative to reorganize the Department of Child and Family and to create an Independent Energy Office failed, and several good pieces of legislation were not brought to a vote. The legislature adjourned early because of the threat of the COVI D-19 Virus and met again only for a Special Session to address the COVID-19 Virus response. On the bright side, the Legislature did pass legislation to address the Virus threat, a transportation plan, and a budget.

The legislation below passed and has been signed into law:

SB27 – provides for a maximum of 26 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits and compensation for the pre-payment waiting period. Under previous law, the number of weeks for which a worker may claim benefits was capped and workers must wait for a week prior to making a claim. The bill grants to workers an additional week’s benefit upon the completion of the third week of unemployment after the waiting week.

SB66 – provides appropriations and adjusted funding for fiscal year 2020 and 2021 for state agencies and FY 2020 and FY 2021 capital improvement expenditures for a number of state agencies.

SB102 –  Allows the Chief Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court to extend or suspend deadlines or time limitations to secure the health and safety of court users, staff and judicial officers in provides the court may use electronic audio-visual communication (videoconferencing). 

SB142 – clarifies the authority of the State Board of Education to grant waivers to the minimum number of school hours required each school year. It stipulated that schools teachers and staff should be paid and that they should find alternate ways to educate the children outside of school. It was left to the local teachers to decide how best to do it as some schools have Internet, laptops, mail, or perhaps can meet in small groups if considered safe. It also provided pay for hourly employees, paraprofessionals, and custodial employees during any school shutdown due to the disaster.

SB155 – deannexes all of the City of Valley Center territory within the Hillside Cemetery District, located in Sedgwick and Harvey counties, from the cemetery district.

HB2168 – expands the base of the hospital provider assessment and extends the quality care assessment imposed on skilled nursing care facilities.

HB2595 – eliminates the 30-day delay before offering state surplus property for sale to the general public. Current law allows the Surplus Property Program to sell state surplus property to the general public only after the property has been offered to qualified individuals and entities for at least 30 days.

SB173 – creates the 10 year Eisenhower Legacy Transportation plan. The bill requires at least $8 million to be spent in each county through fiscal year 2030, and allocates a percent of sales tax for the State Highway Fund. It includes a rural broadband fund and provides for the following types of programs in accordance with new or continuing law:

● An aviation program to provide assistance for planning, constructing, reconstructing, or rehabilitating the facilities of public use general aviation airports;

● Public transit programs to aid elderly persons, persons with disabilities, and the general public;

● A transportation technology program to provide for multimodal transportation-related projects that support innovative technology; and

● A multimodal program to provide improvement assistance for bike facilities ,pedestrian facilities, or other transportation-sensitive economic opportunities on a local or a regional basis.

HB2016 – creates the bipartisan COVID-19 response bill, containing essential provisions that will allow us to continue to deliver critical health and economic services to communities and businesses throughout the state during the pandemic. It provides the Legislature with the ability to more effectively engage in oversight while the Legislature is not in session while Governor Kelly retains the emergency authority to act as needed during the pandemic.

A key provision extends the current emergency declaration through September 15, 2020, providing stability and certainty for the state’s ongoing emergency response efforts. Beyond September 15, the State Finance Council may extend the declaration by a vote of 6 legislative members. The bill provides liability protection for medical providers and businesses when the businesses act within the scope of public health requirements.

Hopefully, the 2021 Legislative session will be more productive.

KDOT: The Eisenhower Legacy Transportation Plan

One of the highlights of the 2020 session was the Eisenhower Legacy Transportation Plan. It replaced the T-Works Transportation Plan, which was a 10 year, $10 billion transportation plan which was passed in 2010. Unfortunately, T-Works ended up $3.1 billion in the hole, and cost about 80,000 jobs, as money was borrowed from that program to shore up the state’s finances.  See: KDOT: How to Really Create Jobs (2018 Version)

The bill, SB173, created the 10 year, $10 billion Eisenhower Legacy Transportation plan. The plan was to be updated every two years to allow for changing circumstances, and it covered many areas of infrastructure besides roads. The bill requires at least $8 million to be spent in each county through fiscal year 2030, and allocates a percent of sales tax for the State Highway Fund. It includes a rural broadband fund and provides for the following types of programs in accordance with new or continuing law:

● An aviation program to provide assistance for planning, constructing, reconstructing, or rehabilitating the facilities of public use general aviation airports;

● Public transit programs to aid elderly persons, persons with disabilities, and the general public;

● A transportation technology program to provide for multimodal transportation-related projects that support innovative technology; and

● A multimodal program to provide improvement assistance for bike facilities, pedestrian facilities, or other transportation-sensitive economic opportunities on a local or a regional basis.

The Eisenhower Plan was designed to make it as difficult as possible for future borrowing from the transportation budget.

It is always nice to receive a little recognition for your work:

We Must Make Taxes Equitable

In 2012, the Kansas Legislature eliminated Kansas individual income taxes on business income earned by pass-through entities such as sole proprietorships, partnerships, LLCs, and S-corps.  The rationale was that the businesses would use the money to create more jobs and stimulate the economy. It did create jobs for attorneys and accountants, as the 191,000 small businesses it was to help soon proliferated into 330,000 exemptions as businesses rushed to restructure so as to take advantage of the tax break.

The tax cuts did not stimulate the economy as hoped as many companies did not use the money from the pass-through tax cuts to create jobs. The tax cuts did cause a hole in the Kansas budget which grew by about $70 million each month as time went by, eventually reaching $7.1 billion.  Rather than rescind the tax cuts, the legislature  borrowed against KDOT funds, which  cost the state about 80,000 high-paying construction jobs. It also made cuts to programs which actually create jobs, such as in public service, education, and healthcare.

In 2015, the legislature tried to fill the budget hole by passing the largest tax increase in the state’s history. The increases fell mostly on low-income workers and their families, demanding more from those least able to shoulder a higher share of the cost of funding schools, roads, and hospitals.  The 2015 tax increase raised cigarette taxes and sales taxes, increased fees for many government services, and eliminated some tax deductions for property tax and mortgage interest payments. Governor Brownback’s budget director made the case for sales tax hikes by warning that refusal to do so would force another round of stiff cuts to schools funding, Medicaid reimbursements, and criminal justice. Kansas sales taxes are now the 8th highest in the nation and low income workers must pay a larger share of their income to buy necessities and food.

Together, the 2012 tax cuts and 2015 tax increases drove tax rates up for the poorest 20 percent of Kansans, slightly reduced the tax liabilities for middle-class earners, and gave about $20,000 a year back to the richest taxpayers. Does that sound equitable?

Finally, in August of  2017, the Kansas Legislature overrode a veto by Gov. Sam Brownback and did away with the LLC loophole. The Legislature also increased Kansas income taxes to form a more equitable tax structure and put the state on a firmer financial basis. However, no provisions were made to repay KDOT or the KPERS funds.

On a positive note, the 2019 budget had a small surplus though it did not pay back most of the money borrowed in the past. This summer, the Governor and the leaders of the House and Senate plan to meet and examine the entire tax structure. The Governor has now appointed  bipartisan leadership for the panel,