Sen. Jeff Pittman's 2021 Legislative Update #4
Legislative Update #4 February 15, 2021
IN THIS ISSUE:
2021 SESSION CONTINUES The Kansas Legislature is about a third of the way through our annual 90 day session for 2021. It will continue through May. Monday was the last day for most 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 email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org 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.
STAGE IN 2021 SESSION
For a bill to become law it must go through a series of steps. The first step in this process is the bill’s introduction in a committee, either in the Senate or the House. Though the Senate and House floor is where bills go to be ultimately debated, the majority of the legwork for bills, such as the formulation of specific legal language and the actual writing of the bill, is done in committee. These committees made up of Legislators are organized by topic. For example, in the Agriculture committee obviously works exclusively on bills related to agricultural matters in the state. The Education budget committee focuses on that topic. In these committees, bills are worked and amended by legislators of both parties until there is a vote on whether or not to pass the bill out of the committee to the House. Bills that are approved by a majority in the committee are passed on to that chamber to be potentially debated on the floor. This week the Senate met as a whole to look at bills that had come out of committees. The following passed out of the Senate and are on their way to the House: SB 70, SB 64, SB 58, SB 55, SB 36, SB 32, SB 22, SB 4, SB 56, SB 68, SB 69, SB 61
Most were non-controversial but three bills caused some division. The first was SB70, which allowed for sales tax to be calculated on a car price after a manufacturer rebate was taken into account. SB 22 was controversial because it introduced huge tax cuts, many for corporations, at a time when we are just coming out of the Brownback disaster and during a pandemic. SB61 was controversial because it uses state dollars to subsidize kids at private schools. While our state is recovering from the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic, SB 22 would cut our state budget by over $1 billion over three years. Our state has a constitutional duty to adequately fund our public schools and an obligation to Kansas taxpayers to keep our roads and bridges safe. SB 22 jeopardizes our ability to fulfill those responsibilities, and I voted NO. It was largely a political stunt by those in the majority. I like many of the provisions, including the increased deductions but it is too much too soon. While there were amendments to keep SB 61 targeted toward students in struggling schools, and to ensure that these qualifying, private schools are held to the same accreditation, reporting, and non-discrimination standards as our public schools, these efforts were rejected along party lines. All Kansas children have a right to high-quality public education. Redirecting public dollars to private schools creates an unlevel playing field for public education students, which is why I voted NO.
BILLS TO WATCH
SB 100 would remove the requirement that an individual who is found to be driving on a suspended or revoked license would receive an additional suspension or revocation period of 90 days. Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau (D - Wichita) has been working on this legislation since 2009, and the bill awaits a hearing in the Senate Committee on Transportation. A similar bill had a hearing this week in the House Committee on Transportation.
SB 76 was introduced by Senator Tom Holland (D - Baldwin City) and I co-sponsored. The Golden Years Property Tax Freeze establishes a property tax freeze for over 76,000 qualifying senior and disabled veteran households. The homestead would have to be appraised at $350,000 or less and homeowners would have to have a household income of $50,000 or less. The bill passed the Senate in 2019 on a vote of 39-0, and awaits a hearing in the Senate Committee on Assessment and Taxation.
HB 2120 passed the Kansas House yesterday 110-13. This bill removes the spousal exemption from the crime of sexual battery. The bill now comes to the Senate.
SB 208: This bill was introduced by Senator Renee Erickson (R - Wichita). It requires student athletes to participate in school athletics based upon their biological gender at birth. The Kansas State High School Activities Association currently has a policy in place that gives local school districts authority to make such decisions and allows for transgender students to participate in the gender category with which they identify. The bill is currently awaiting a hearing in the Senate Committee on Education.
SB 214: This bill was introduced by Senator Mike Thompson (R - Shawnee) and makes it a felony for a physician to provide gender affirmation surgery or other treatments to transgender youth wishing to transition. The bill is currently awaiting a hearing in the Senate Committee on Judiciary.
Here are links to all Senate side committees:
VETERANS HOME - **LOCAL ACTION ITEM!** I am excited to have a hearing on two bills I sponsored this week for veterans in the Senate Federal and State Affairs. This committee meets at 10:30 a.m. in room 144-S. There will be a hearing on my bill for a new veterans home on Wednesday, Feb 17. It is SB 109 — Requiring the Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs to apply to the Federal Government VA for cost sharing a VA home in NE Kansas. There is a companion bill in the House that passed the House Appropriations committee. I am excited that both bills have made it this far. To submit proponent testimony... To submit proponent testimony by Tuesday at noon, send a pdf of your testimony to Connie.Burns@senate.ks.gov –she is the committee assistant for the Fed & State. Write up a 1 or 2 page letter in MS Word, save as a pdf and email it. You can also cc: me email@example.com Put in the email subject: Proponent testimony for SB 109 Needs to be submitted by noon Tuesday Feb 16. If you want to speak at the committee, you must inform the committee assistant beforehand. It's best if you submit your written testimony first, and in the email tell the committee assistant you'd like a webex link to the meeting at 10:30 on Wednesday Feb 17 to speak as a proponent for SB109 . Example of testimony. <Name> <Address> <Org/Rank if applicable> "Mr Chairman and members of the Fed & State committee-- Thank you for the opportunity to write in support of SB 109 which would direct the state of Kansas to apply to the Federal VA to cost share a new Veterans Home in NE Kansas." <Write something about yourself, why it's important, importance of a new home in NE Kansas, doing more for our veterans, etc> <Finish with a thank you and your name> If you have any issues, contact Connie Burns, Committee Assistant–785-296-4335 or email my assistant Sue.firstname.lastname@example.org On the same day, there will also be a hearing on SB 108 — Creating the veterans benefit lottery game fund and transferring monies to veterans service programs, which basically serves to ensure money from the lottery flow more steadily towards veterans programs than it has in the past.
CORRECTIONS There will be a hearing on allowing Corrections Officers to be in the KP&F retirement fund vs the KPERs fund if they elect to do so. The KP&F is a more secure version of the retirement fund set up for Police & Firefighters. There is a higher benefit level and an earlier retirement age. I introduced this bill to give better benefit to local Correction officers. Hearing will be at 9:30 Tuesday in Financial Institutions. It is SB135.
I am encouraged as I hear people are getting their vaccines. I encourage you to do so if you are eligible. As of today, the Kansas Vaccine Dashboard shows that 273,428 Kansans are reported as vaccinated — over 9% of our population. You can find our COVID-19 vaccine dashboard here. It is updated every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday by 12:30pm. Recently, Governor Kelly’s administration rolled out the Find My Vaccine Tool. The mapping tool is designed to help Kansans locate sites that are administering vaccines in their communities. Kansans in vaccine phase 1 and 2 are recommended to use this tool as a resource for finding providers who are or will be offering the vaccine.
UNEMPLOYMENT RESOURCES Speaking of unemployment, calls continue to come in. The wait time for call backs has gone up to 5-7 days and that’s after acknowledgement. It’s been frustrating for me to see the number of people locally struggling as weekly payments make a big difference getting through this crisis. I’ll continue to advocate for those who are constituents who continue to have issues. Send me your name, phone, last 4 of SSN, address and describe the issue to my email@example.com email. I know it’s a difficult time. I feel the state and the legislature should be doing more in this area, versus some of the other activity many have focused on. That said, the state has made big advances in fighting fraud. On Monday, the Kansas Department of Labor announced that the agency’s new identity verification software system has blocked over one million fraudulent login attempts and attacks since it went live at the beginning of February. If you haven’t already, you will need to sign up for a new benefits account. Once you’ve set up your new account, you will be required to use multi-factor authentication each time you log in. You can learn more here. The department also announced that the extension of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program from 39 weeks to 50 weeks is now available. To file for the additional weeks, claimants should log into their unemployment benefits claim portal. For details and to determine whether you are eligible for PUA benefits, read the full statement from KDOL here. The PUA program expires on March 14, 2021. This means that the last payable week for PUA is the week ending March 13, 2021. However, if you receive a PUA payment for the week ending March 13, 2021, and have remaining entitlement on your claim, you may be eligible to participate in a phase-out period and you may continue to collect PUA through the week ending April 10, 2021. 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.
NATIONAL UNCLAIMED PROPERTY DAY Last newsletter, I sent out a link that had a period in it that caused it not to work for some. It is to check whether you have unclaimed property. Here is that link again: www.kansascash.ks.gov
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. Here are a few Black Americans highlighted:
Lt. William D. Matthews moved to Leavenworth in 1856, where he opened the Waverly House, a boarding house which served as a stop on the Underground Railroad. He served as commander of the Independent Kansas Colored Battery during the Civil War. After the war, he ran twice for the Kansas Legislature.
Lucinda Todd was born in 1903 in Crawford County, Kansas. She attended school in Girard and graduated from Pittsburg State University with a bachelor’s degree in education. After marrying her husband Alvin in 1935, she gave up her teaching career and began her work in advocacy. She served as secretary of the Topeka chapter of the NAACP and led the Citizens Committee on Civil Rights. In 1952, Lucinda became a plaintiff in the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case, and after the Supreme Court’s decision in 1954, she returned to teaching Kansas children.
Earlier this year, we lost Cicely Tyson, a groundbreaking Black actress who earned Emmy, Black Reel, Screen Actors Guild, Tony, Peabody, and Academy Awards over the course of her career. Representing the Black experience in film was hugely important to her, once saying, "Whatever good I have accomplished as an actress I believe came in direct proportion to my efforts to portray Black women who have made positive contributions to my heritage.”
VALENTINE'S DAY I want to give a shout out to my 559-S Office Assistant at the Capitol, Mrs Sue Perry. She has been a trooper taking care of talking with constituents who have had issues with unemployment and access to COVID-19 vaccines. I really appreciate her years of dedication and work.Valentine’s Day is here! Show a loved one just how much you care by investing in their education!
Learning Quest 529 Education Savings accounts help Kansas families save for their children in tax-advantaged 529 accounts. Learning Quest offers education savings accounts to help you pay education expenses for individuals that you designate, or for yourself. 529 accounts also allow charitable organizations to contribute to the fund, normally in the form of scholarships. Visit the Kansas Learning Quest Educational Savings Program website or call 1-800-579-2203 to speak to a Learning Quest Specialist. Spread some love this Valentine’s Day—start planning for your children’s or grandchildren’s future. #IHeart529