2020 Session - Legislative Update #5
We're through Week 5 of the 2020 session, wrapping up the week with Valentine’s Day, but there is a distinct lack of love going on in the Statehouse at the moment. Threats of stalling all legislative progress by leadership due to the politically charged Constitutional Amendment that was defeated two weeks ago continues to lurk overhead.
Valentine’s Day Fun Facts: In 1913, Hallmark Cards from Kansas City, Mo., began mass producing Valentines and Valentine’s Day has not been the same since. Following Christmas, Valentine’s Day is the second largest card-giving holiday, with an estimated 145 million cards sent each year.
Local Doctor of the Day
The Legislature continues the tradition of Doctor of the Day, which is a largely ceremonial post, as a means of showcasing the extraordinary talent we have in the medical profession across Kansas. Last week, Dr. Nicole Yedlinsky of Lansing was the Doctor of the Day.
If you are a physician interested in serving as the Legislature's Doctor of the Day, please let me know.
A big thanks to Dr. Yedlinsky and her family!
Introduced Bill for new Veterans' Home
Last week, I introduced legislation to build a new Veterans' Home locally. The legislation is introduced as House Bill 2609 and House Bill 2610.
Building a new Veterans' Home is one of the top priorities for the Veterans Service Organizations (VSOs) like VFW and American Legion. While many have talked about the concept, little has been done in recent years to make this happen. The first step is to get on the VA cost-share list which these bills will do if passed.
Kansas currently has just two veterans home and these are located in Ft. Dodge (Kansas Soldiers' Home) and Winfield (Kansas Veterans' Home). Winfield was constructed in the 1940s and Ft. Dodge is a collection of buildings that have grown old. Ten of the Soldiers' Home cottage-style houses were demolished last year.
Surrounding states offer access to more homes and facilities. Studies have shown the concentration of veterans has shifted over the decades since the Kansas Veterans' Home was constructed in 1940s.
Veterans deserve better treatment in Kansas and a majority of our state’s elderly veterans live in the Northeast region of the state. We have VA facilities in Topeka and Leavenworth. It just makes sense to take advantage of the VA cost-share program and at least start the process to have a purpose built modern facility with all the personnel efficiencies that brings.
The Executive Director of Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs estimated in a hearing last week that many of the ongoing costs would pay for themselves due to reimbursement programs.
National Guard Budget
In one of my committees on Public Safety and Transportation Budget, we passed out of committee the National Guard budget, focused on aiding their efforts on emergency management and the Fusion Center which tracks cyber and other threats, including the current Coronavirus Outbreak.
The Committee also reviewed the Kansas Highway Patrol’s request for new aircraft. They requested replacing three of the five aircraft in KHP's fleet. The committee pushed back and asked for a more scaled approach to their fleet renewal, approving one upgraded aircraft and an infrared retrofit system for one of their current planes. The hearing is available for listen here.
Veterans & Military Affairs
Last week in the House Committee on Veterans and Military, we were briefed on the Eastern VA. They emphasized the importance to all vets that those possibly eligible to enroll should try to enroll due to the increase in local funding that occurs with more local enrollees.
Leavenworth stands above the pack with 73% penetration, meaning of those eligible, it’s estimated that 73% are enrolled in VA healthcare. The national county average is 45% penetration. You can check your VA eligibility here.
Some Eastern KS VA Facts:
Leavenworth VA buildings were built in 1933, the Topeka facility was built in 1958. Eastern VA Healthcare is estimating that Leavenworth needs about $90 Million.
Locally, there will be a mobile Surgical Unit - in Leavenworth while doing renovations in Leavenworth surgical unit for a few months.
VA Chapel is currently shut down. It's in the Guinness book of world records. The VA has estimated $3 Mil to renovate and has that as an initiative, but hasn't been able to get funding for it. They have reached out to Bob Vila as well as Chip & Joanna Gains of Fixer Upper, but haven't been able to find any alternatives to make that happen yet.
No other VA has two 5-star community living centers. We also have a national Fresh Start Addiction Treatment program that has a 4 week rolling intense program for veterans in difficult addictive situations.
Here are some VA numbers that are important.
Urgent care notification: (785) 350-4555
Eastern Kansas VA Community Care: (785) 350-4330
Eastern Kansas VA Claims Reimbursement: (785) 350-4747
Veteran Suicide Prevention
The VA briefing also went into some specifics around suicide and veterans. Secretary Robert Wilkie has made Suicide Prevention a top priority for the Kelly Administration.
Some current stats:
Suicide rates of vets, excluding National Guard, is about 17 per day currently.
The suicide rates are higher among those not enrolled in the Veteran Health Services at 11 per day, while those suicides of enrolled vets is at six per day.
VA Suicides peak at two points: one year after service and again peaks at ~25 years after service.
Of suicide deaths in first year after service, 43 percent occur in the first 90 days.
It's important to reach out to these individuals as soon as possible.
We do have Leavenworth based VA Suicide prevention resources. If you are interested in these resources or know somebody who is, please contact:
Joseph Bishell (913) 682.2000, Ext. 52406
Donna Rakidzich (913) 682-2000, Ext. 53977
Medicaid Expansion Stalled
After Senate President Wagle moved all health related bills off the calendar in the Senate, the Senate Committee scheduled to debate the Medicaid bill, Senate Bill 252, on Monday was adjourned abruptly and the chairperson gave excuses that the bill needed to be more thoroughly vetted.
On Tuesday, an impromptu hearing was held without any public notice in the Senate and a subsequent one was held in the House where hand-picked groups provided testimony explaining how they believed Medicaid expansion would provide funding for abortions.
We know this not to be true. State and federal laws prohibit the use of public funds for abortion. No opportunities were given to anyone with opposing or differing viewpoints.
Bills of Interest
The deadline to introduce new legislation has passed until January 2021.
For the most part, if a bill has not had a hearing by the end of this upcoming week, it is considered dead. There are many ideas that have been proposed and died, often due to leadership's inaction. There are a few bills that remain in ‘exempt’ committees, and bills that have passed out of committee but have yet to be voted upon the floor.
Some of the ideas proposed this past week.
Introduced Bill Recognizing Funeral Processions in Statute
This past week, I introduced House Bill 2608 that would formally recognize funeral processions and their right of way in Kansas. Thirty other states have laws that do this, Kansas does not. I introduced this to give some type of protections to our local veteran escorts that do such a remarkable job aiding in the funeral processions at our two National Cemeteries. There is a hearing this Tuesday at 1:30pm on this bill where I'll be providing testimony in support of the legislation.
Aggravated Child Abuse
We recently recognized Domestic Violence day at the Capitol. According to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence, 29% of Kansas women and 23% of Kansas men experience intimate partner physical violence, intimate partner sexual violence, and / or intimate partner stalking in their lifetimes.
While in a slightly different category, child abuse also remains a problem in Kansas. There is currently a gap in the child abuse laws that make it difficult to prosecute this type of crime correctly. In response to a criminal case locally that involved a three month old who had over 30 broken bones and fractures due to beating, I worked with County Attorney Todd Thompson to draft amended language to enhance current statutes. The legislation is House Bill 2651.
Insulin Price Caps
In response to rising costs for insulin users, Senator Tom Holland of Leavenworth introduced a bill that institutes a $100 maximum out-of-pocket cost-share per month per covered person for prescription insulin drugs. Senate Bill 376 would go into effect January 1, 2021 and would apply to large group or individual health insurance policies, health benefit plans, medical service plans contracts, hospital service corporation contracts, hospital and medical service corporation contracts, fraternal benefit societies, and health maintenance organizations. It would also apply to state employee healthcare benefits plans.
An identical bill in the House (House Bill 2557) had a hearing this week.
They have been introduced in response to the recent layoffs at Spirit Aerosystems in Wichita related to the temporary suspension of the 737 MAX program.
Sexual Battery among Spouses
The legislation removes the spousal exemption for sexual battery. HB 2467 also requires a person convicted of a first offense to undergo a domestic violence offender assessment conducted by a certified batterer intervention program.
Other Bills of Interest
The following bills were introduced but are largely being left in committee by Majority leadership.
Affordable, Quality Healthcare
HB 2149 - Requiring a timely determination of KanCare eligibility
HB 2303- Enacting the Kansas safe access act (medical marijuana)
HB 2459 - Mental Health Parity
HB 2557 - Establishing a $100 maximum out-of-pocket cost-share for prescription insulin drugs.
SB 113 - Providing for the legal use of medical cannabis
SB 252 - Medicaid Expansion
Support Workers and Families
HB 2017 – Allowing local control to pay prevailing wages.
HB 2022 - Enacting the Kansas working families pay raise act. (increasing the state minimum wage)
HB 2263 - Prohibiting the denial of earned maternity leave
HB 2287 - Due process for terminating teachers’ contracts
HB 2310 - Reducing the sales and use tax rate of food and food ingredients; cuts it to 3.25%
HB 2311 - Eliminates sales tax entirely, providing a sales tax exemption for food and food ingredients
HB 2584 - Allowing cities and counties to raise the minimum wage by ordinance, resolution or law.
HB 2644 - Enacting the Paid Family Leave Act
SB 197 - Reducing the sales tax rate on food and food ingredients; cuts it by 1%
Opportunity for All
HB 2019 - Changing penalties for certain voting crimes
HB 2090 - Expanding the availability of voter registration program
HB 2130 - Amending the Kansas act against discrimination to include sexual orientation and gender identity or expression
HB 2189 - Voting provisional ballot allowed when voter moves to a new county without reregistering
HB 2259 – Providing fair consideration for employment (“ban the box” bill)
HB 2424 - Police officer-involved death of a person; mandatory investigation
HB 2434 - Revoking authority to suspend driving privileges for nonpayment of fines from traffic citations
HB 2639 – Prohibiting disclosure of wages (supports equal pay)
HCR 5006 - Opportunity to vote in fair districts
HB 2224 - Requiring fees for class I and class II injection wells and establishing the state geological survey monitoring well fund
HR 2402 - Climate Emergency Resolution
HR 2640 – Carbon farming
HB 2662 - Energy efficiency, benchmarking, and energy reduction targets
KCK Chamber of Commerce Meeting
Leadership from the Kansas City Chamber of Commerce came to the Capitol to discuss their priorities.
The KCK Chamber continues to support Medicaid Expansion as a workforce development tool for local economies and small businesses that can’t afford health insurance benefits. They also support a robust transportation plan, moderation of property tax increases on commercial/industrial properties, and streamlined internet sales tax.
Pages This Week
I was happy to welcome two students from Leavenworth to page with me this week, Wesley Redelberger and Payton Meredith. It’s always a great experience.
I also hosted students from Patton Junior High during a tour of the Capitol this week.
Governor Declares Susan B Anthony Day
At the request of the Leavenworth Historical Society, Governor Kelly declared Saturday, February 15, 2020 as Susan B. Anthony Day. I worked with the Governors office to receive the declaration.
Susan B. Anthony Day marks 100 years of the US 19th Amendment, guaranteeing women the right to vote. Ms Anthony’s brother was a long term resident of Leavenworth and she spent quite a bit of time here while she was lobbying our Kansas government to make the change.
I also have sponsored a bill, HB 2623, that would make Feb 15 Susan B Anthony day in Kansas every year.
Kansas was a critical state in the long struggle for passage of the amendment, which continues to have relevance for our political future.
Leading suffragettes came to Kansas as early as 1854 to cross the territory campaigning for universal suffrage. In 1867, Susan B. Anthony campaigned in Kansas for an amendment giving women and black men the right to vote, in spite of significant financial and physical hardship.
“We must not lose Kansas now,” she wrote, “at least not from lack of work done according to our best ability.”
Anthony and the Kansas suffragettes would lose that vote but continue to fight for Kansas. In 1912, they would make Kansas only the eighth state in America to grant the right to women.
This history is part of a traveling exhibit the League of Women Voters of Kansas created in honor of the anniversary. The exhibit, made up of seven panels, exhibit has toured 52 locations in 21 Kansas cities and continues to cross the state. A full schedule of appearances may be found at lwvk.org/centennial.
“Women died for the right for women to vote,” Joan Wagnon said in The Topeka Capital-Journal. “Now it is up to every single woman and man to vote. Our push is to get people registered so there’s no barrier. We are nonpartisan. We are not telling them who to vote for — that’s their choice — but it’s exercising that right to vote.”
My Honor to Represent You
It is a special honor to serve our community in the Kansas Legislature. I both value and need your input on the various issues facing state government.
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.
Rep. Jeff Pittman
Kansas House of Representatives
House District 41 (Leavenworth)
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