Sen. Jeff Pittman's 2021 Legislative Update #3
Legislative Update #3 February 8, 2021
IN THIS ISSUE:
Greetings Chris - 2021 SESSION CONTINUES The Kansas Legislature has what is known as a citizen legislature. Each member works through an annual 90 day session. We just completed week 4 of that 90 day session for 2021. It will continue through May. Monday is the last day for individual bill introductions for 2021. I am honored to serve as your Senator. My office is located in 124E. Please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com Daily calendars, committee and district information, and full text and summaries of bills are all available online at www.kslegislature.org. If you want to watch the proceedings of the House or the Senate, legislative proceedings and committee meetings are live-streamed from the Kansas Legislature’s website and Youtube channel. Here are links to all Senate side committees:
UNEMPLOYMENT RESOURCES I have had more calls this week than normal with constituents stopping by my house out of frustration after many were locked out of the system. If you need help, please send me your name, phone, last 4 of SSN, address and describe the issue to my firstname.lastname@example.org email. Thank you! I know it’s a difficult time. Though businesses are recovering, many people are still seeking work. A lot of the frustration this week was a result of a bigger effort to combat what’s been epic levels of fraud attempts. The Kansas Department of Labor deployed a new security system to fight unemployment insurance fraud. Under this updated system, every claimant will be required to verify his or her identity by answering questions specific to the person’s credit history. Once an identity is verified, the system will prompt the claimant to set up two-factor authentication for her or his benefit account moving forward. This additional layer of security is an important factor in protecting KDOL unemployment insurance. KDOL is continuing to aggressively monitor claims for fraudulent activity and is actively working with federal law enforcement officials to bring criminals to account. Since deploying this update, KDOL has successfully stopped over 576,000 suspected fraud log-ins. If you have received a 1099-G Tax Form and you did NOT receive unemployment benefits in 2020, you may be a victim of identity theft. Report this fraud to KDOL at uiassistance.getkansasbenefits.gov by selecting “Dispute my 1099” and make sure to include a copy of the Unsworn Declaration. Since March 15, 2020 KDOL has paid out over 3.9 million weekly claims totaling over $2.6 billion between regular unemployment and the federal pandemic programs. For more information, or to apply for unemployment benefits, go to www.GetKansasBenefits.gov.
VACCINES Kansas continues to work against a constrained supply situation to help deliver vaccines to all citizens—we have a long ways to go. We are in Phase 2 which has different sub-phases. As with the Unemployment Issues, I understand the frustration of some having to wait for others to get the COVID-19 vaccinne. We are fortunate in some ways because we have veterans who are able to access the vaccine from the VA and Muncie Hospital. To see current county level vaccination data on the COVID 19 vaccine dashboard: click here 👉 https://www.kansasvaccine.gov/158/Data To sign up for phase 2 of the vaccine at Leavenworth County click here 👉 https://www.leavenworthcounty.gov/information/covid-19_information/covid_list.php To sign up for the vaccine in Wyandotte County click here 👉 https://us.openforms.com/Form/2f2bcc68-3b6a-450b-9007-d39819db6572
While no prisoners have been vaccinated as of yet, the Senate took it upon itself to send out a non-binding (ie it doesn’t really do anything) resolution that urged the governor to delay vaccines to prisoners. We must protect our Corrections workers and control community spread, and to that end, I urged on the floor that all Corrections staff and family be highly prioritized. I was the sole Democrat to vote for this measure, my reasoning being that after we vaccinate Corrections staff, we can prioritize at risk prisoners as we do others in our community. I had a lot of people react badly to the idea that a healthy prisoner may get the vaccine before an at risk elderly person, and I understand that. The Kelly administration has done an excellent job in finally shutting down the spread of COVID-19 in congregate settings like prisons. As I stated above, we are now in Phase 2 per the administration. I know the LVCO focused on teachers where WYCO had done that the past week. Because of federal constraints, not everyone in Phase 2 will be able to receive their vaccine immediately. Here are the Phase 2 current targets, largely established by the CDC:
Persons aged 65 and older
High-contact critical workers necessary to maintain systems, assets, and activities that are vital to the state security, the economy or public health, or who interact with large numbers of contacts and job-related COVID-19 exposure. COVID-19 risk is associated with the likelihood of infecting oneself or spreading the virus. Factors that increase risk include proximity, type of contact, duration of contacts and challenges to implement protective measures. This includes: o Firefighters, police officers, first responders, and correction officers o Grocery store workers and food services o K-12 and childcare workers, including teachers, custodians, drivers, other staff o Food processing, including meat processing plants o Large-scale aviation manufacturing plants o Transportation workers o Workers in retail, agriculture, supply of critical services or materials for COVID-19 response, the U.S. Postal Service, and Department of motor vehicles
Those living or working in licensed congregate settings and other special care or congregate environments where social distancing is not possible, including: o Homeless shelters o Congregate childcare institutions o Emergency shelters or safe houses o Corrections facilities o Behavioral health institutions
NATIONAL UNCLAIMED PROPERTY DAY
February 1 was National Unclaimed Property Day. The State of Kansas currently has more than $400 million in unclaimed property; my wife checked and she had $18! Types of property include bank accounts, wages, stocks, dividends, and utility deposits. Does any of it belong to you? Take a minute to find out by searching at www.kansascash.ks.gov. Be sure to search your current name, your maiden name, or any previous name you have used. This service is provided by Kansas State Treasurer Lynn Rogers, and it is completely free. If you are asked to pay any kind of fee, then it is not the official Kansas website.
GENERAL ORDERS The Senate met on Monday and Thursday to take action on 11 bills and one resolution. All of them passed on Emergency Final Action. (Leadership’s reason for requesting Emergency Final Action was to minimize time in the chamber.)
MEDICAID EXPANSION UPDATE On Monday, Governor Kelly announced her proposal to pass Medicaid expansion this session. Medicaid Expansion is critical to Kansas' COVID-19 recovery. Expansion creates jobs, supports a healthy workforce, and improves struggling rural hospitals’ bottom lines. If we don’t expand Medicaid, we will forgo over $10 billion in economic output in the next five years. For years, opponents to Medicaid Expansion have used the price tag as a scapegoat. Governor Kelly’s bill addresses their problem by creating a medical marijuana program. Medical marijuana would help Kansas recovery by bringing in sufficient revenue to Kansas and will cover the cost of Medicaid expansion – while creating Kansas jobs. Kansas is one of three states left that does not permit some form of medical marijuana use, which leaves us less competitive and at a disadvantage. Medical marijuana helps Kansans with a chronic illness, children with seizures, and veterans suffering from PTSD, and it has been shown to reduce opioid use and drug-induced mortalities. With medical marijuana we can pay for Medicaid Expansion in Kansas with money left over.
SENATE BILLS TO WATCH
SB 12, which requires the Kansas Department of Children and Families to implement performance-based contracts. Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau (D - Wichita) introduced this bill, which would ensure evidenced-based prevention and early intervention services are implemented in out-of-home placements.
SB 135, which provides membership in the KP&F retirement system for security officers of the Department of Corrections. Senator Jeff Pittman (D - Leavenworth) introduced this bill into the Senate Committee on Financial Institutions and Insurance this week, where it awaits a hearing.
SB 22: This bill has existed in some shape or form for the past several years. While there are some portions of the bill I support, the Kansas Division of Budget estimates that the state would lose over $620 million over the next three years to pay for multinational corporate tax giveaways. SB 22 would reintroduce the failed policies of the Brownback/Colyer tax experiment, significantly reducing state revenue and jeopardizing our economic recovery from the pandemic.
SB 61: This bill would expand a K-12 scholarship program that allows families to use taxpayer dollars to pay for private school. Private schools do not have the same reporting and operating criteria as public schools, which raises concerns about equity and transparency. Furthermore, an expansion of this program would result in a reduced budget for public schools, which are still recovering from being chronically underfunded, as well as new challenges presented by the pandemic.
HOUSE BILLS HEADED TO THE SENATE The House passed the following bills this week, which will move on to Senate committees for consideration:
HB 2071, which increases the criminal penalties for stalking a minor. This bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary.
HB 2077, which extends and updates the Kansas Criminal Justice Reform Commission. This bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary.
HB 2079, which transfers duties concerning the address confidentiality program from the Secretary of State to the Attorney General. This program provides substitute mailing addresses for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, or stalking. This bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.
HB 2082, which authorizes the Crime Victims Compensation Board to waive application time restrictions for a victim of a sexually violent crime to receive compensation for mental health counseling. This bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary.
Sub-HB 2049, which prohibits a public agency from charging a fee for records requested for an audit by the Legislative Division of Post Audit. This bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Transparency and Ethics.
HB 2029, which counts any crime with a domestic violence designation as a prior conviction under domestic battery. This bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary.
HB 2090, which creates a procedure for the appointment of an acting official when an elected official’s military service causes a vacancy. This bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Transparency and Ethics.
SENATE COMMITTEE HEARINGS OF POTENTIAL INTEREST The public can listen into all committee hearings and proceedings. This is a non-inclusive list, but some that could be of interest this week Vaccinations for COVID19. In Senate Ways & Means, Thu, 10:30 am, Room 548-S Sec of KDHE, Lee Norman will discuss the economics of COVID vaccine distribution I have heard a lot of interest in legalizing sports betting in Kansas. In Senate Fed & State, Wednesday at 10:30, Room 144-S Proponents can testify on SB84 that would authorize sports wagering under the Kansas expanded lottery act. Thursday, February 11 will be the neutral and opponents. STAR bonds has been a success for the Legends area development, but controversial on some smaller uses. There will be a hearing on STAR bonds in Senate Commerce, Tueday at 10:30am, Room 546-S, SB 124 — Amending STAR bonds by adding rural redevelopment projects and major business facilities, changing certain project financing, investment and sales provisions, adding a visitor tracking plan requirement and additional feasibility study requirements with oversight by the secretary, requiring approval by the secretary for real estate transfers, requiring district contiguity, and extending the sunset date KPERs is always of interest to many of my constituents. Senate Financial Institutions and Insurance, Thursday at 9:30am, we will have a hearing on SB 86 — Conforming certain KPERS provisions with the federal CARES act In Senate Taxation, Thursday, 9:30am in Room 548-S, those interested in city vs county issues may be interested in the hearing on SB 87 — Discontinuing apportionment of countywide retailers' sales tax imposed for general purposes between the county and cities located therein. The committee continues to debate a number of tax issues. Transportation funding continues to be an important issue in my district. In the Senate Transportation committee, I am excited to review the Transportation department's budget on Tuesday and Wednesday, starting at 8:30 in room 546-S. Veterans budget. The Senate Public Health & Welfare committee will take up the nuts and bolts of the Commission on Veterans' Affairs Office, which directly impacts VFW & American Legion positions in the VA, on Tuesday, Feb 9, 8:30am in room 142-S. The House also does this on Monday, 3:30 in the Social Service Budget committe in Room 152-S. They also deliberate on current veterans homes, but not the proposed new one. We are hoping for another Senate hearing on one of those propositions (like SB109 or SB110) the following week...stay tuned. Corrections officers are a key part of our justice system and our community. As mentioned above, I introduced SB 135 this week which would include Corrections Officers in the KP&F retirement fund. There is a similar bill in the House which puts more burden on the officers for the increased contribution. Here is a link to an article: https://bit.ly/3rtFPeV And, in Senate Ways & Means, Thu, 8:00 am, Room 548-S Review of all Correctional Facility budgets including Lansing. Expungement proposition. In Senate Judiciary, Wed, 10:30 am, Room 346-S, there will be a hearing on SB 105, Prohibiting denial of a petition for expungement due to the petitioner's inability to pay; and HB 2026 — Creating a drug abuse treatment program for people on diversion A small bill that could have longer term implications on electric vehicles and how they get their electricity will be in Senate Utilities, Wed, 1:30, Room 548-S, SB 133 which would exempt retail sale of electric vehicle electricity from the KCC. Unemployment legislation. Something to watch and investigate around Unemployment Insurance is House Bill HB 2196 in the House committee on Commerce & Labor. Proponents will be on Tuesday, Opponents on Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. in room 346-S. Here is a description: HB2196 — Changing provisions of the employment security law, including creation of the unemployment compensation modernization and improvement council, development of a new unemployment insurance information technology system, provision of tax information to claimants, publication of trust fund data, the maximum benefit period, the charging of employer accounts for benefits paid, employer contribution rate determination and schedules, abolishment of the employment security interest assessment fund, crediting of employer accounts for fraudulent or erroneous payments, transfers from the state general fund to the unemployment insurance trust fund for improper benefit payments, changes to the shared work compensation program and other unemployment trust fund provisions. With criminal sentencing a hot topic in justice reform circles, House Corrections committee has some interesting bills being heard Wednesday at 1:30 in Room 346-S. There is obviously much more to be done: HB2139 — Reducing the criminal penalties for most severity level 5 drug crimes and increasing the penalties for offenders in criminal history category 5-I. HB2146 — Expanding the number of presumptive probation abd border grid blocks in the sentencing grid for drug crimes. HB2147 — Allowing early discharge from prison for certain drug offenders. Then on Thursday at the same time, there is a hearing on a bill directed at riot inciters, though here only in prisons, not the US Capitol: HB2191 — Increasing criminal penalties for the crimes of riot and incitement to riot when the crime occurs in a correctional facility In a similar vein, Monday in House Judiciary at 3:30 in room 582-N, there is a hearing on autoexpungement (HB2226) House K-12 Education budget is taking a foray outside their budget review to have "discussions" on Virtual Learning (Tuesday, Room 546-S, 3:30pm) and on Hybrid Learning (Thursday, same time/place) For my realtors out there, House Taxation Monday at 3:30 room 346-S has some interesting action. They will have a briefing ondifferences between decoupling from federal tax law by allowing itemization and increasing the standard deduction from Becky Shaw, BT & Co. and Kansas Society of CPA's. Followed by a hearing on HB2141 — Increasing the Kansas standard deduction for income tax purposes. Tuesday will also be of interest as they will have a hearing around business that have been shutdown by officials. This is HB2142 — Providing for reimbursement of property taxes from county government for business shutdown or capacity limitation caused by the county. House Elections continues to look at more restrictive regulations for voting. One such bill (Tueday, 3:30, Rm 218-N) is HB2054 which essentially restricts helpful organizations get their members advanced ballots to the ballot box. Another one on Thursday is a discussion on HB2183 — Prohibiting the governor, the executive branch and the judicial branch from altering election laws or procedures and limiting the authority of the secretary of state to enter into consent decrees with any court absent the approval of the legislative coordinating council. This last bill is apparently a reaction to national election fraud claims, even though our Secretary of State has stated very clearly our Kansas elections proved to be highly secure and effective even through the COVID pandemic.
BLACK HISTORY MONTH February is Black History Month, a time devoted to celebrating and recognizing the central role of Black Americans in U.S. history. The Senate Democrats highlighted two of my colleagues this week on Facebook and Twitter pages this week:
Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau made history when she was elected to the Kansas House of Representatives in 2004. She became the first Black woman to represent the 84th district. Then, in 2008, she was elected as the first Black woman to ever serve in the Kansas Senate in Kansas history. She is also the first Black woman in state history to serve as Assistant Minority Leader.
WYCO’s most senior Senator David Haley is the son of the late Ambassador George Haley, who was the first Black man ever elected to the Kansas Senate. David's uncle, Alex Haley, is the author of Roots and co-author of The Autobiography of Malcolm X.
10TH ANNUAL BLACK HISTORY MONTH CELEBRATION I was glad to participate in the 10th Annual Black History Month Celebration on Saturday, February 6, 2021. Due to the pandemic it was a virtual event live on Facebook. This years theme was "What it means to be black in America: Milestones" with keynote speaker Mr. Chester Owens. Great evening with lots of local entertainment.
Check out the Leavenworth Black History Month Celebration here: https://www.facebook.com/Pittman05/posts/4289003627795279
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