2020 Session - Legislative Update #1
Updated: Jan 21
Welcome to 2020! If you haven't yet had a chance, please take a moment to provide your input for my 2020 Legislative Survey. Your voice matters to me.
On Monday, January 13, the Kansas Legislature gaveled back into session and will run for about 90 days.
I'm proud to serve the Representative of our 41st House District for Leavenworth.
My committee assignments this session include serving as the Ranking Member for Transportation and Public Safety Budget, which is a sub-committee of the House Appropriations Committee. I am also serving on the Veterans & Military Committee and the Transportation Committee, which will steer the next Comprehensive Transportation Plan for our state. Over the past year, I have been on the Transportation Strategic Vision Taskforce set up by KDOT Secretary Julie Lorenz and, also, on the Joint Committee on Information Technology. I have also been serving on the Information Technology Executive Committee, which spans all branches and areas of government for setting technology standards and ensuring we utilize tax dollars wisely when procuring new technology for the State of Kansas.
2020 State of the State
Governor Laura Kelly presented State of the State address last week. The State of the State Address is an annual update from the Governor on the state of our state from Administration point of view, and the address sets forth the Governor's agenda for the year. Governor Kelly highlighted how we had been ranked in 2019 as the "Comeback State" by CNBC. With that said, we must exercise fiscally responsible strategies that meet as many needs as possible.
Governor Kelly’s address had a recurring theme – moving forward from the disasters Kansas has faced throughout the last decade. She pointed out several issues that have been resolved, such as adequate school funding, as well as future plans to resolve issues that still haunt Kansas, such as Medicaid expansion, infrastructure, and closing the “Bank of KDOT.”
She also pointed out that for the first time in Kansas history, women sit at the helm of each branch of the Kansas government – exactly 100 years since women were granted the right to vote.
Governor’s Budget Proposal
On Thursday, Budget Director Larry Campbell presented the Governor’s budget to a joint session, just before the winter storm closed the State Capitol on Friday. This becomes the starting point for the House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means Committees to begin the detailed process of reviewing state agency requests and making modifications as necessary or, more often, desired.
During the State of the State, the Governor stated her goals are to further restore fiscal responsibility with a plan that is balanced; build end-of-the-year buffer as mandated by the constitution, but ignored for more than a decade; and reduce state debt that was used to pay for the fiscal challenges over the last decade.
Major budget points included:
For the third year in a row, state employees would receive a 2.5% raise. This is important for our locally based state employees did not receive regular raises for years during the Brownback Administration.
It would continue the phase-out of the “Bank of KDOT,” prohibiting the Executive Branch from further raiding highway funds to fund general government.
The Governor’s plan, as presented, would involve no new taxes. The following recommendations are in the budget: formalizing the internet sales tax pursuant to the Supreme Court's Wayfair decision, food sales tax relief, and local property tax relief.
One of the challenges, politically, will be the proposed re-amortization of KPERS, resulting in massive debt reduction. This will probably be proposed by the KPERS Board eventually, but I do not feel that it is needed at this point unless we can point to how it makes the KPERS obligation itself more fiscally sound.
Medicaid Expansion Compromise
Following months of negotiations, on Thursday, January 9, Governor Kelly and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning announced the introduction of Senate Bill 252, a proposal to expand health insurance coverage to more than 150,000 Kansans and lower health insurance costs in the marketplace.
Expanding Medicaid has been a priority for many Republicans and Democrats for years, as well as local area Chambers of Commerce, so this is a huge bipartisan step in reaching this goal. The plan would include work referral requirements for those enrolled (if not already employed), a premium payment for those not in extreme hardship and a fee to hospitals to help finance the state’s portion.
Constitutional amendments seeking to eliminate the right to an abortion in Kansas were introduced Thursday in the House (HCR 5019) and Senate (SCR 1613). A joint hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee and the House Committee on Federal and State Affairs is scheduled for Tuesday, January 21, at 9:00 a.m. in the Old Supreme Court Room in the Kansas Capitol. The hearing is expected to last most of the morning.
The amendments come in response to the ruling of the Kansas Supreme Court that determined Section 1 of the Kansas Constitution includes the right to personal autonomy, which includes decisions about pregnancy. The proposed constitutional amendments seeks to give the Legislature express ability to make all legislative decisions regarding abortion and as written specifically states the legislature could prohibit abortion even in the case of rape, incest or if it threatens the life of the mother.
Governor’s Military Council Meeting
In December, I joined Ft. Leavenworth Schools Superintendent Kieth Mispagel on the Governor’s Military Council. He presented the need to somehow expedite the reciprocity agreement when dealing with incoming military spouses who have teaching certificates. In our area, there are a number of teachers who come here as CGSC spouses. School districts must make staffing decisions relatively quickly after the new students arrive and could have taken advantage of the influx of teaching professionals if our teacher certification process for reciprocity had worked more quickly.
He also spoke to the need to address the way we deal with federal Impact Aid dollars in our school finance plan, noting that Kansas is fairly unique in our method and has garnered the attention of top ranking officials in the DoD. Impact Aid exists to make up for the lake of local property taxes that could be used for education. Our state method only allows 30% of that aid to go directly to the school districts.
An exciting topic of the Council was around the Army University effort to translate military training into college credit. Army University is partnering with Kansas to create a mapping between curriculum and enlisted training. This will aid in transitioning military members into the civilian workforce after the end of their service. More about this program is available here.
Veterans’ Organizations Meeting
Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) met at the Capitol to discuss their priorities this week.
The top priority is obtaining funding for a new Veterans' Retirement home.
Here is a list of other presented priorities, some of which I have will have bills drafted for or, alternatively, have in the past.
Support veteran suicide prevention legislation to create LIVECONNECTEDKS system for ALL veterans and raise awareness for suicide prevention.
Increase funding for KCVA to fund Communications/Outreach staff and the Kansas National Guard Tuition Assistance Program.
Tax exemption for vehicles for military service-members (Active, Guard, and Reserve).
In-state tuition for all veterans/dependents (not just Kansas residents).
Eliminate taxes on VSO funds raised to help veterans directly.
In addition to these priorities, I believe it’s imperative to look at Veteran Courts and potentially putting a state legislative framework together for Veteran Courts, modeled after the Veterans Court program in Missouri.
Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day Recognition
There was a march in recognition of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this week at the Capitol with a program featuring Dr. DeAngela Burns-Wallace, the Secretary of Administration. Dr. Burns-Wallace is the first African-American to hold that position of the Secretary of Administration in the history of Kansas. Dr. Burns-Wallace is also the Chief Information Technology Officer (CITO).
On Monday, January 20, in Leavenworth, there is a MLK Day celebration at the Sunflower Missionary Baptist Church at 1708 5th Ave, Leavenworth, KS 66048 on Monday, Jan 20 at 6pm.
I will be sponsoring the food afterwards.
Economic Development, Transportation Plan and More
I am looking forward to the new T-Works style plan that is being architected for the next ten-year strategic plan. I will update you in future newsletters and on some of the consolidated vision that is being reviewed for Kansas economic development strategy. There are more issues at the table, including criminal justice reform, corrections pay, and more that I will provide more updates on later in the session.
Pages and Interns
I’m excited to have Sean Marshall serving as my my third intern this session. Sean is in the National Guard and a senior at K-State studying political science. We have some page date openings so if you have kids in 7-10th grade who would like to come work at the Capitol for a day, get in touch with me! It’s an experience they will remember for a lifetime.
My Honor to Represent Leavenworth
As I have stated before, it is a special honor to serve as your State Representative. I both value and need your input on the various issues facing state government. Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions.
My office address is Room 561-W 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612. You can reach me at (785) 296-7522 or call the legislative hotline at 1-800-432-3924 to leave a message for me. Additionally, you can e-mail me at email@example.com. You can also follow the legislative session online at www.kslegislature.org
Rep. Jeff Pittman
Kansas House of Representatives
House District 41 (Leavenworth)