Legislative News for 2020
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.
Legislative Newsletter II 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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