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Legislative Newsletter II

                        April 15, 2019                             J.C. Moore, District 93

House rules: Under the house rules, the majority party has great latitude in determining the direction the House takes. The majority leadership determines committee chairmanships, the makeup of committees, which bills are voted on, and the makeup of conference committees.

Committees: Much of the nuts and bolts work of government is done by the committees. When bills are submitted to the appropriate committee, testimony is taken from proponents, opponents, and those who are neutral. The bills are debated and submitted to the full house with a pass, a don’t pass, or a neutral recommendation. Bills without support from the committee may die in the committee and never be voted on.

Bills which are passed out of committee are listed and a line is drawn above them. Bills which the leadership wish to debate and vote on are moved “above the line” and considered on the house floor at the next session. Some bills leave the committee with a recommendation they put on the consent calendar. If there is no objection by any member of the House, they are considered by a voice vote, and usually pass unanimously.

After March 6, bills passed by the House were sent to the Senate for approval and the House received the Senate’s bills. Different versions of bills, or amended bills, are taken up by a Joint Resolution Conference Committee. The Conference Committees may combine as many as four bills covering the same topic under the number for one bill, making it somewhat difficult to track bills. Bills passed by the Conference Committees may not be furthered amended, and receive an up or down vote.

My committees are:

Local government – The committee passed:

– bills involving the Eudora Library District and the White Clay Watershed District, and property tax changes to fund them. – SB105 – which authorizes cities to determine the regular term and start date of city    officers by resolution of the city. – HB2135 – which allows cities to regulate placement of political signs.- HCR5007 – which recommends a constitutional amendment regarding County home rule

Higher education budget – In 2017, higher education budgets were reduced by 4%. About 2% of that was restored in 2018, and the other 2%, about $10.0 million dollars, was recommended for restoration this year. The committee also recommended that $500,000 to be added to financial aid for the Community Scholarship Program which provides scholarships for both public and private colleges based upon need.

Elections – a number of changes were introduced to improve elections.  Most of the bills considered by the election committee were combined into an omnibus bill by a Conference Committee, Sub. for SB 130. It has been signed into law by Gov. Laura Kelly. It will:

– Allow local city governments and school boards to elect officers in January instead of July.

 – Require county election officers to make an attempt to contact each voter who submitted an advance voting ballot without a signature or with a signature that does not match the signature on file and allow the voter to correct the deficiency.

– Allow all voters in a county to vote at any polling place on election day, at the discretion of the county election official. Kudos to Commissioner Tabetha Lehman for instituting this in Sedgwick County.

– Correct unintended consequences of legislation that moved city commission and school board elections from April of odd-numbered years to November of even-numbered years.

– Allow school boards to decide when to hold internal leadership elections and meetings.

The committee also considered same-day voters registration. Currently, anyone who does not register to vote 21 days before an election is excluded from voting. This excludes people such as young people who turn 18, military personnel who move often, and people who have trouble finding documents in time. Some county election commissioners opposed the bill, and the motion failed by a vote of 7 to 5.

Insurance – this committee has mainly been concerned with changing Kansas laws to be consistent with changes to health insurance laws made at the federal level. These changes were combined into the Association Health Plan, HB 2054. This allows small associations to band together to form a larger association which may then purchase insurance at a lower group rate. HB 2054 covers pre-existing conditions and is regulated by the Kansas insurance commissioner.

The committee passed HB 2041 which prevents life insurance companies from charging higher fees for organ donors. It is now considering how long a temporary insurance policy should last, and whether insurance policies can be issued which do not cover people with chronic illnesses or pre-existing conditions.

The committee also considered Senate Bill 32, known as the Farm Bureau Healthcare Plan. The committee was concerned that the plan would not cover members with pre-existing conditions nor did it have the consumer protections provided by the Kansas Insurance Commissioner. After amendments to correct the bill were contested, the bill was tabled and the session ended before it could be removed from the table and debated.

The bill was then moved to a Conference Committee where it was combined with the other two bills under the number HB 2054. That bill passed the House and Senate and has been sent to the governor for her signature. I supported the bill as I want every Kansan to have good healthcare, but I think the Farm Bureau should develop a better plan for its members.

                       

Newsletter 1 February 15, 2019                             J.C. Moore, District 93

House rules: The first item of business in 2019 was to consider rule changes.  Two changes were proposed and approved almost unanimously. The first required that bills submitted to committees must have the name of the legislator proposing the bill and it must be presented to the committee by one of the legislators. In the past, many bills which favored special interest groups or out-of-state corporations were submitted without an author. This ends that practice and makes the legislative process much more transparent. It also requires documentation when an amendment removes the entire contents of a bill and replaces it with something else. (Commonly called “gut-and-go”.)

The second rule change permitted women legislators to breast-feed their babies during legislative sessions. Although this received much attention in the press, the first was actually much more substantive.

Committees: During the first weeks of the session much of the work of the legislature is done in committees. When bills are submitted to the appropriate committee, testimony is taken from proponents, opponents, and those who are neutral. The bills are usually taken up at a later date and submitted to the full house with a pass, a don’t pass, or a neutral recommendation. Bills without support from the committee may die in the committee and never be voted on.

My committees are:

Local government – which is considering issues such as whether municipalities  may make laws governing placement of political signs and the incentives that local government may grant businesses.

Higher education budget – which reviews the budget requests of all post secondary public colleges and universities in Kansas. Budgets are to be based upon performance and the regents are requesting a $50 million budget increase. In 2017, higher education budgets were reduced by 4%. About 2% of that was restored in 2018, and it appears that the other 2%, about $9.5 million dollars will be restored this year. The schools have made up for the cuts by raising tuition, and the state now pays about 20% of the cost of a student’s education. This has resulted in students leaving college with an average of $25,000 in student debt, and has made higher education unaffordable for many low income families.

Elections – this committee has so far received reports from the Secretary of State’s office about voter data, registration, and the crosscheck program. Next week a bill will be introduced for same-day registration which will require much work and testimony before the committee makes a recommendation.

Insurance – this committee has mainly been concerned with changing Kansas laws to be consistent with changes to health insurance laws made at the federal level. It approved a bill which would prevent life insurance companies from charging higher fees for organ donors. It is now considering how long a temporary insurance policy should last, and whether insurance policies can be issued which do not cover people with chronic illnesses or pre-existing conditions.

Bills approved by the House were:

HB 2033 – Providing sales tax authority for Dickinson, Jackson, Russell and Thomas counties. The state must improve sales tax increases, and this one was a bit controversial because sales taxes are regressive, and because one of the cities had already approved the tax increase before authorized by the legislature. Passed 79 to 36.

HB 2034 –  provides a statutory framework for adults who want decision-making assistance in one area without granting a full power of attorney to someone. Passed 101 to 15.

HB 2197 – this would amortize the state and school KPERS liability. This would reduce the payments to KPERS over the next five years, making about $800 million available – but it would increase the time to fully fund KPERS by 15 years and require $7.4 billion extra. This was requested by Governor Kelly to fund improvements to the state. While I support many of the Governor’s initiatives to improve the state, I have never approved of taking money from school funding, KDOT, or KPERS, as previous administrations have. This failed by a vote of 36 to 87.

HB 2044 – provides incentives for private businesses to provide work for the blind and disabled. Passed on voice vote.

HB 2039 – provides full faith and credit to the judgments of tribal courts in our state. This bill ensures judgments will be enforced by state and tribal courts so those who would commit an injustice cannot hide in a loophole between Kansas and the sovereign tribes. Passed on voice vote.

There are about 20 bills waiting to be considered by the House and more will be coming over the next few weeks. After March 6, bills passed by the House will be sent to the Senate for approval and the House will receive the Senate’s bills. Different versions of bills, or amended bills, will be taken up by a Joint Resolution Committee. Bills passed by both houses and signed by the Governor will become law.

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J.C. Moore

J.C.Moore@house.ks.gov