Sen. Jeff Pittman's 2021 Legislative Update #1
January 25, 2021
IN THIS ISSUE:
Greetings Friend -
2021 SESSION CONVENES I am honored to serve as your Senator. My office is located in 124E. I am practicing COVID-19 transmission mitigation strategies in order to keep my fellow legislators, staff, and members of my community safe. Please feel free to contact me at email@example.com. Legislators ceremoniously convened last Monday afternoon. The Senate swore in 14 new members and elected by acclamation legislative leadership:
Senate President Ty Masterson
Senate Vice-President Rick Wilborn
I was also honored with the trust of my colleagues to be elected to Caucus leadership:
Senate Democratic Leader: Dinah Sykes
Assistant Leader: Oletha Faust-Goudeau
Whip: Pat Pettey
Agenda Chair: Marci Francisco
Caucus Chair: Jeff Pittman
Committees Committees began meeting this week to begin reviewing proposed legislation and to hear presentations from associated agencies to inform legislators on topics related to issues the Legislature faces. This year, I am serving on the following committees:
You can click on the hyperlinked committee names to access the upcoming agendas. Daily calendars, committee and district information, and full text and summaries of bills are all available online at www.kslegislature.org. You can hear legislative proceedings in the Senate by clicking “Senate” under Audio/Video Broadcast on the home page. To watch the Senate and select committees, click here. General Orders in the Senate It is very unusual to pass substantive bills in the first week beyond organization rules and motions. However, Senate leadership felt it important to push through a tax bill that had been put on hold late last session as well as an extension of the KEMA (Kansas Emergency Management Act) passed in special session in 2020. Importantly SB 13 (if passed by the House and signed by the governor) would repeal the property tax lid law applicable to cities and counties, but then add extra transparency to property tax increases. In particular, it establishes notice and public hearing requirements for any taxing subdivision seeking to collect property taxes in excess of the subdivision’s revenue-neutral rate, prohibit valuation increases resulting solely from normal maintenance of existing structures, and expand the allowed acceptance of partial payments or payment plans for property taxes. I favor more proactive action on managing property taxes, and voted for an amendment that would have returned ad valorum taxes back to local governments from state coffers, but I voted YES on this bill as the tax lid was an overreach of state government in local affairs and often had the reverse effect. The KEMA extension was important to sustain Kansas’ availability for federal aid during the pandemic. SB 14 is an extension of the state of disaster emergency, which was set to expire on January 26, 2021. The new extension expires on March 31, 2021. I voted YES. On vaccines: While the state initially experienced a reporting lag of vaccines delivered, the CDC vaccine tracker is now showing that Kansas is in the top tier for vaccines administered per capita. The latest information about distribution instructions and timelines will always be available at this website - kansasvaccine.gov. But until we get the vast majority of Kansans vaccinated, it’s imperative that everyone continue to do their part in slowing the spread of the virus. More on that below. The Administration has prioritized nursing homes as well as health care workers, relying heavily on a third party to distribute the vaccines to the nursing homes, and hospitals/health departments to distribute locally. While I wish we would have prioritized some seniors and at risk individuals concurrently to speed dosage distribution of all available supplies as soon as possible, the distribution of available dosages is getting better from the initial reporting. On schools: We fixed our public schools once already - bringing Republicans and Democrats together to constitutionally fund education for the first time in many years. Now more than ever, it’s critical to maintain education funding. Now that the pandemic has created a new set of challenges – we’re going to get every Kansas student back in the classroom as soon as possible and provide their teachers with the tools and resources they need to get our kids back on track. I continue to prioritize our kids in Kansas as we get through this crisis.
GOVERNOR OUTLINES RECOVERY IN BUDGET PROPOSAL
Governor Kelly released her budget proposal Wednesday, outlining her priorities to keep our economy moving as we recover from the economic consequences of the pandemic. The Kelly budget accomplishes the following critical policy goals necessary to recover and rebuild from COVID-19 without any increases in individual or business income taxes:
Maintaining fiscal responsibility by recommending a budget with a healthy State General Fund ending balance of $600.9 million;
Continuing record-breaking economic growth by protecting tools like the Kansas Main Street Program and the Economic Development Initiatives Fund, which resulted in $2.5 billion in new investment in 2020;
Protecting Kansas K-12 public schools by fully funding the state’s constitutional obligation in FY 2022 and increasing school funding by $388.1 million through FY 2023;
Expanding access to affordable healthcare and behavioral health services by allocating $19 million to expand Medicaid and $8 million in additional funding for behavioral health crisis response and triage services to Kansans across the state;
Closing the “Bank of KDOT” by reducing transfers from the State Highway Fund to $133.7 million in FY 2021 and $66.9 million in FY 2022;
Investing in the state’s digital infrastructure by making substantial investments to improve the state’s IT systems, including leveraging $37.5 million in federal funds to begin to modernize and improve the state’s unemployment insurance systems;
Protecting state retirees by stabilizing KPERS through reamortization, which will ensure long-term viability of the state employee pension system while protecting KPERS benefits.
To access the Governor’s Budget Report in full, visit the Kansas Division of Budget’s website at https://budget.kansas.gov/.
LEAVENWORTH COUNTY DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION
Glad to participate in the Leavenworth County Development Corporation annual meeting. Congratulations to local Country Club VP Wesley Henning on his election to that board. We were fortunate to be able to listen to Guest Speaker, Chris Kuehl, Economist, who gave us the top 5 Pros and Cons of the post-pandemic emerging economy. He was able to give some local insights into types of businesses we should be targeting locally and more.
VALUE THEM BOTH CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT Special interests have pushed forward with nearly identical versions of a constitutional amendment regulating women’s access to abortions. (House version here and Senate version here). I have received many communications from the many sides of this issue. The measure came to the House floor this week and passed. Multiple amendments were offered to provide exceptions for cases of rape, incest, and risk of the health of the mother; to move the amendment to the November 2022 election, to promote higher participation; to move the amendment to the November 2021 election, in response to the argument that we must pass this quickly to save lives; and to also abolish the death penalty. All amendments failed, and HCR 5003 was passed 86-38. There is a lot of misinformation out there on this issue. While some argue it merely offers to go back to a former state of the Constitution, when reading the actual amendment, it specifically denies abortion in any circumstance as protected. As we are talking about putting this in the Constitution, I believe the Legislature should do some hard work and actually specify the situations where citizens will accept and not accept pregnancy termination, vs. the confusing text of this particular amendment. I anticipate that this constitutional amendment will pass the Senate with the required 27 votes as well, and that the body will not accept any amendments, including any that may create protections for cases of rape, incest, or when the life of the mother is at risk. If it passes, the constitutional amendment will be decided by voters at the ballot box during the August 2, 2022 Primary Election.
JUDICIAL NOMINATIONS The Senate Committee on Judiciary held hearings on the appointments of Amy Cline and Carl Folsom to the Kansas Court of Appeals this week. The committee recommended favorably the appointment of Amy Cline. The committee did not make a recommendation on the appointment of Carl Folsom, III. Leavenworth County native Carl Folsom was not appointed to the Kansas Court of Appeals by a vote of 18-17. A constitutional majority (21 votes) is required for a judicial appointment. I voted YEA, as I believe his background as a public defender is critically underrepresented on the Kansas Court of Appeals, especially given my understanding that 75% of the cases are criminal in nature. It’s unfortunate, but politics played a major role in his denial. Conservative Kansas Supreme Court Justice Caleb Stegall responded to the criticisms of Mr. Folsom’s qualifications in an opinion piece in July. All testimony provided this session was supportive of Mr. Folsom’s appointment. Letters of support from Trump-appointed US Attorney Steve McAllister and former Senate Vice President Jeff King made clear that Mr. Folsom would not be an activist judge and that his depth of experience as a public defender would be a welcome addition to the Kansas Court of Appeals.
MLK DAY OF SERVICE IN LEAVENWORTH
On Martin Luther King Day, I was happy to help with an NAACP organized day of service. In the Leavenworth/Lansing Muncie Cemetery, there is a section that had been an area traditionally reserved for African Americans back in the 1800s and early 1900s. We helped along with many volunteers to clean those gravestones in this area of lichen and other buildup, while laying flags in their honor at each grave.
CAPITOL SECURITY All branches of government were closed Monday in observance of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday. The Capitol also is closed Tuesday and Wednesday due to positive COVID results from Senate staff and a concern for legislators’ safety given the violence when a group of Americans caused a violent insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, which endangered our United States Senators and Representatives, government staff, Capitol police, and damaged the U.S. Capitol itself, and led to five deaths. There have been subsequent threats of violence against all 50 state capitols. Many of you have reached out to ask about the security of legislators, Capitol staff, and our Capitol building in anticipation of these protests. The Kansas Highway Patrol and Kansas Bureau of Investigation monitored these protests and any potential threats. Thankfully there was little activity, perhaps due to the preparedness.
Swearing in as Kansas Senator for District 5, January 11, 2021.
POPCORN FRIDAY!!! I enjoyed working with Anthony Elementary PTO to take popcorn to the kids. Volunteers made over 300 bags. What a great way to end the week! Check out more pics over at my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Pittman05/posts/4245092825519693
CHECK OUT: VACCINE DASHBOARD Last Wednesday, Governor Laura Kelly announced a new COVID-19 vaccine dashboard in Kansas. It’s a collaboration with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. The COVID-19 dashboard will be updated Monday, Wednesday and Friday by 12:30 PM. Click here to view the dashboard 👉 https://www.kansasvaccine.gov/158/Data
LOCAL SPOTLIGHT: VFW, KANSAS HOSPICE & PALLIATIVE CARE, & OPERATION RAPID RESPONSE FOOD GIVEAWAY Great to have local organizations band together and help veterans and their supporters in need. These groups came together like so many organizations have to provide for those in need across the community. They are planning to have a food giveaway each second Saturday from 9-noon, as they did this week.
IMPORTANT STATE PHONE NUMBERS Here is a list of numbers I often receive requests for during the Legislative Session. I hope you will find this information helpful.
Attorney General (888) 428-8436 Child Abuse Hotline (800) 922-5330 Consumer Protection (800) 432-2310 Crime Tip Hotline (800) 572-7463 Crime Victim Referral (800) 828-9745 Department on Aging (800) 432-3535 Driver’s License Bureau (785) 296-3963 Fraud Hotline (800) 432-3919 KPERS (888) 275-5737 Governor’s Office (877) 579-6757 Highway Conditions (800) 585-7623 Housing Hotline (800) 752-4422 KanCare Consumer Assistance (866) 305-5147 Kansas Jobs (785) 235-5627 Kansas Lottery (785) 296-5700 Kansas State Library (800) 432-3924 Legislative Hotline (800) 432-3924 School Safety Hotline (877) 626-8203 Social Security (800) 772-1213 DCF (785) 296-1491 Suicide Prevention Hotline (800) 273-8255 Tax Refund Status Info (800) 894-0318 Taxpayer Assistance (785) 368-8222 Unclaimed Property (800) 432-0386 Vital Statistics (Birth Certificates) (785) 296-1400 Victims of Human Trafficking (888) 373-7888
Sen. Jeff Pittman firstname.lastname@example.org