Sen. Jeff Pittman's 2022 Legislative Update #1
Legislative Update #1 January 20, 2022 IN THIS ISSUE:
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 . Also feel free to forward my email to someone who may be interested in subscribing. Today's will introduce some aspects of the first week, and later weeks will provide detail on different topics.Meeting with
Local School Board members in the Capitol.
STATE OF THE STATE SESSION OPENING CEREMONIES The Session began with two major ceremonies. The first was State of the Judiciary where the Supreme Court briefs the entire Legislature, Senate and House together in one room, about their view of the state as it pertains to judges, courts and the broader system of justice. For many years, the Supreme Court was not allowed to come into the House because of leadership anger towards judges, but my first year as a Representative, we reinstated the tradition of having judges invited. The judges thanked the legislature for finally putting more money towards judicial staff but repeated the need to do more, as we have the 48th lowest pay for our judiciary. The second impactful ceremony to start the session was the State of the State, where the governor traditionally comes in to speak about his/her vision for the state budget, assesses progress towards goals and sets out broader executive direction. With pomp and circumstance, this year was back to the norm after a virtual State of the State address last year. Governor Laura Kelly laid out how her administration has delivered on its promises of fiscal responsibility, economic growth, and steady leadership. You can watch her remarks at https://governor.kansas.gov/governor-laura-kelly-delivers-the-2022-state-of-the-state-address/
ECONOMIC NEWS In particular, I was excited the Governor focused on some of the good economic we have achieved over the past year. I emphasized last year and as I ran for office that we must focus on stabilizing our economy, fostering business growth that was going through drastic challenges during the pandemic and help our workers. I'm glad the governor emphasized these similar goals. In particular: On economic development: Working with the Kelly administration as State Senator, we have surpassed record-economic growth. There's more economic opportunity in the state of Kansas today than at any time in history. The unemployment rate has been below 4% for over a year. In 2021 alone, the private sector invested nearly $3.8 billion dollars in new facilities and equipment in Kansas. On fiscal responsibility: I ran as a Representative and as a Senator on fiscal responsibility. Working with the Kelly administration, we continue to pay down state debts incurred during the Brownback years. We are finally fortunate to be in a position where we can pay back things like KPERS, KDOT, PMIB and other funding sources, while also growing an ending balance as a buffer (sometimes called the Rainy Day Fund). It will allow some buffer when uncertainty threatens critical services like schools and law enforcement in the future. That said, we have a surplus budget this year of $1.3 billion, some of which will be one-time funds from federal stimulus. There will be talks of how much is one time, how much and where should we reduce tax burdens and where should we fund initiatives that have waited for a long time for adequate funding. On tax relief: I have fought for fair balanced tax responsibility, including removal of the tax on food that disproportionately impacts those in poverty. That's why I co-signed and support a clean, bipartisan Axe the Food Tax bill (SB 342 http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/measures/sb342/). It will save Kansas families hundreds, perhaps thousands, of dollars a year. And it’s a commonsense policy where Democrats and Republicans can completely agree - and most importantly, provide relief for working Kansas families. On agriculture: Despite many obstacles that our farmers and ranchers have faced, Kansas is on its way to another record year of agricultural exports. Kansas will surpass the $4 billion dollar mark in exports for the second consecutive year – a feat not accomplished in nearly a decade. We still need to protect our agriculture sector as we grow other areas, as it represents 53% of our state economy: ● I expect housing initiatives to help support housing opportunities in rural zones, as well as urban zones. ● Re-starting the Kansas Mainstreet program to help our communities keep their downtowns vibrant. Leavenworth is a prime example of where that program has worked. ● Establishing the Office of Broadband Development; expanding internet access to over 50,000 new households and businesses; and connecting rural communities that were frustrated for years by the lack of access. ● Deploying hotspots during the pandemic to ensure that students in low-income households could continue their education remotely. On transportation: I agree with the current administration that has prioritized investments in our infrastructure to make communities safer, create jobs, stimulate economic activity, and improve the quality of life for residents who rely on roads every day. I advocated for our area and road improvements from the time I started as a Representative, and have continued to be your voice for the broader area I serve. I have worked to bring local voices to the table in Topeka and that has resulted in prioritizing the K7 corridor, the Eisenhower bridge, investments in our intersections, safety areas and more. With our leadership, we have made unprecedented investments in the state’s roads, bridges, and highways, with more than 160 new infrastructure projects started. Governor Kelly’s proposed budget officially closes “the Bank of K-DOT,” and stops taking money from the highway fund to fill budget holes created by failed tax experiments. I support these efforts. On Education: The Governor's proposed budget includes adequate school funding to meet the requirements of the Gannon settlement for a fifth straight year, ensuring that as students, parents, and teachers continue to learn and overcome the unprecedented challenges of the pandemic, schools have resources to help keep our kids on track to graduate, earn postsecondary degrees and certificates, and ultimately join the workforce. I'm also happy with a bipartisan agreement to allocate $50 million dollars in Learning Recovery Grants for students who need that extra help to get caught up. These grants will give parents the ability to sign their kids up for counseling, tutoring, summer camps, and other programs to close the learning gap.
LOCAL SCHOOL FEATURED AT STATE BOARD MEETING Fort Leavenworth School District they were one of the only school districts in Kansas to earn the prestigious silver level award for student readiness entering high school. At a meeting with Kansas State Department of Education their leadership team described to the Kansas State School Board the challenges all too familiar dealing with COVID, deployments, and a population that has 94% turnover every three years. Two teachers discussed their innovative techniques, including local resident Staci Blount who actively records and posts her algebra/geometry lessons so kids and parents alike can better understand content remotely. Their focus on individual growth is inspiring, both for the students and as a way to focus professional development.
UNEMPLOYMENT With my background from MIT and in the technology industry, I have been tapped to work on many technology initiatives since session ended in June, including the Cybersecurity task force, Information Executive Council, Joint House & Senate Committee on Information Technology and other committees. Another initiative has been the Unemployment Compensation Modernization and Improvement Council. As happened across the country, Kansas faced many issues with our unemployment system during the pandemic. Our challenges were intensified by a four decades-old system that was vulnerable and cumbersome when it needed to flex to serve Kansans. The Legislature took action to modernize the Department of Labor IT infrastructure and dig into failures of the system, fraudulent claims, and how to better support Kansans. I have worked with many constituents over the past two years struggling with this, and I’m glad to use my expertise to find a solution. If you are my constituent and still having an issue, keep me in the loop. Email me at email@example.com ● Your first and last name, and middle initial ● A callback number ● Your email address ● Your residential address ● The last four digits of your Social Security Number ● A summary of your issue and whether you have already applied and whether someone has advocated on your behalf to this point with KDOL Also, remember that the Governor announced $200 million in statewide rental assistance to support housing stability and prevent evictions and homelessness. All applications for this program are now open. Tenants may qualify for assistance if they earn no more than 80 percent of their area’s median income, are experiencing documented financial hardship as a result of the COVID pandemic and may be at risk of housing instability or homelessness without assistance. https://kshousingcorp.org/emergency-rental-assistance/
VETERAN ISSUE: NEW CAPITOL GOLD STAR FAMILY MONUMENT Gold Star families are immediate relatives of U.S. Armed Forces members who died in support of defending our freedom. Among other committees and task forces I work on, I was proud to be appointed to the Gold Start Familes Memorial fund raising committee alongside retired Gen Wiggins to place one of these memorials on the Veterans’ Walk on statehouse grounds. First step will be to pass Legislative approval which I and others have co-sponsored (SB 330 http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/measures/sb330/) VETERAN ISSUE: NE KS VETERANS HOME Last spring, I worked with Governor Kelly on a framework developed the year before for a new NE Kansas veterans home. On Mar 2, she signed Executive Order No. 21-07, which directs the Kansas Commission on Veterans Affairs to submit an initial application to the US Dept of Veteran Affairs to fund up to 65% of new construction, with a House trailer bill based on that same work that should help move the application along more quickly at the federal level. Site selection applications have flowed in an the application will go out hopefully in April 2022. We need to continue to do what we can for our Kansas based veterans! I continue to advocate to the Director and stay in contact with local stakeholders about the application process. Thank you to all my colleagues in the House- it’s definitely a team effort that goes beyond one individual contribution!! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tz6tEGGdJm8 (I start at minute 11:11)
MEDICAL MARIJUANA Legalizing medical marijuana has not been a priority for the Majority party leadership, as many Republican legislators do not support it, despite surveys showing widespread Kansan support. It has the potential to help thousands of Kansans living with chronic illnesses and veterans suffering from PTSD, all while providing a major boost to our economy as we recover from COVID-19. I hope to see some form pass this session. Despite a bill passing the House and coming to the Senate for consideration, the Senate president made a move at the very last minute of the 2021 session and claimed it was a 'materially changed' bill and needed consideration by the Fed & State committee. Then when session started this week, he moved it unexpectedly to a committee he is chair of that has never met, effectively trying to kill the bill. We shall see how this drama unfolds, but it smells distinctly un-democratic.
MEDICAID EXPANSION I continue to support expanding Medicaid. It helps with workforce development and particularly helps small business workers, our hospitals, laborers and others in our community who are working at minimum wage. It continues to be blocked by the majority party leadership, but we are leaving billions of dollars on the table and threatening the very viability of our rural communities by not expanding Medicaid. Expansion is something we can and should do right now. However, it continues to be blocked by Majority party leadership.
ENCOURAGE COVID VACCINES & BOOSTERS I continue to encourage you to get the Covid vaccine and associated boosters. It helps protect you and our vulnerable citizens.
IMPORTANT STATE PHONE NUMBERS As I stated before, it is a special honor to serve as your State Senator 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 124-E 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow the legislative session online at www.kslegislature.org My Legislative Facebook Page: www.facebook.com/Pittman05 My Twitter Account: www.twitter.com/votepittman My Website: www.votepittman.com Below is a list of numbers I often receive requests for during the Legislative Session. I hope you will find this information helpful.
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 Attorney General (888) 428-8436 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