Sen. Jeff Pittman's 2023 Legislative Update #5
CALL FOR TESTIMONY FOR THE MILITARY CHILD IN-STATE TUITION BILL
I have a couple of hearings on proposed bills this week. One came up quicker than I expected. As a military child, I would move from post to post often in different countries and states. Sometimes, kids move after they have grown attached to a particular state. I want to give the opportunity for those types of kids to come back to Kansas for college to live in the state they love. It is also a way to attract talented young people here to the state. It would allow kids whose parents were stationed in Kansas for a year or more, to come back to Kansas and get in-state tuition. It is a bi-partisan bill that hits home, but I'm looking for some folks to offer written or oral testimony at short notice.
If you are willing to write something of support, please put a letter together addressed to the Senate Education committee in support of SB 196 ( http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2023_24/measures/sb196/ ), put in your name and city of residence, save it as a pdf and email it to my office assistant email@example.com by Tuesday at noon. She will make the necessary hard copies. Also, let her know if you want it as written only or written and oral testimony.
Legislative Update #5 Feb 13, 2023 THIS ISSUE:
CONGRATULATIONS KC CHIEFS
WEEK 5 COMMENTARY
PROPERTY TAX RELIEF
LHS INTERNATIONAL FESTIVAL
SUPER BOWL Congratulations to the Super Bowl Champs, the Kansas City Chiefs! The parade will be Wednesday, February 15th at 12 pm, with the victory rally at 1:45 pm at Union Station. We have not heard yet if the Kansas legislature will conduct business that day.
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. Also feel free to forward my email to someone who may be interested in subscribing.
All committee hearings and chamber proceedings can be found on the Kansas Legislature’s YouTube Page here:
HONORING DIRECTOR OF BUFFALO SOLDIER DOCUMENTARY
I was honored to host Director Jurian Daniel Isabelle in the Kansas Senate who partnered with the Richard Allen Cultural Center & Museum in Leavenworth to make the documentary "Buffalo Soldiers: A Quest for Freedom" telling the story of black soldiers throughout the US military history from the Revolutionary War, through to the Buffalo soldiers serving from the Civil War through WWII and concludes with a modern perspective of military officers of color.
SUMMARY IN WEEK 5
The Senate debated and voted on 10 bills on Thursday. It was the first time we resolved into the Committee of the Whole this session. We also confirmed a series of appointees, including the new KBI director Tony Motivi, who ran against Kris Kobach. Other appointees:
We passed a number of technical statutes bills out around the insurance code, but there was one that I spoke to. SB25 is a tax cut for some small businesses that have to insure specialized equipment or other things. For example, if you were a famous guitarist, you may have special "surplus" insurance on your hands. A specialized tax on those types of insurance was at 6%. Missouri and Oklahoma are at 5%, the national average is 3.54%. We brought our rate down to 4% at the request of an organization of insurance brokers who monitor these things.
Another bill I was proud to support is SB39 which directs the capitol preservation committee to develop and approve plans for a new mural in the Capitol honoring the 1st Kansas (Colored) Voluntary Infantry regiment, one of the first Black regiments in Kansas. This goes along great with my bill that has a hearing this Wednesday at 8:30 in Senate Transportation, SB 132, which will create the Buffalo Soldier license plate in support of the Richard Allen Cultural Center and the new Frontier Museum, both of which will help publicize the history of Black soldiers in the US Army.
Of local interest, there was a hearing challenging the ability of cities, like Basehor, to regulate the county development within 3 miles of their borders. This is HB2150. More on the pros/cons can be found here:
Those that suffer from Alzheimer’s had a strong voice this week at the Capitol, with teams from our community advocating for an appeal process when Alzheimer’s patients are pushed out of assisted living homes - and for an Alzheimer’s specific position to be placed in the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services agency that focuses on disabilities.
PROPERTY TAX RELIEF Kansas homeowners have been clear: They need property tax relief. We have seen some efforts in the past such as the so-called "truth in taxation" bills from the last session, but those turned out to be failures in doing anything other than increasing costs on local governments due to increasing postage costs. We did put together a nice solution last year with a property tax "freeze" for elderly and disabled veterans when we passed the "Golden Years" tax I cosponsored with the main author, Sen Holland. However, this was focused only on those most vulnerable to increasing costs and capped with certain conditions. There are bills this year that focus heavily on giving property tax exemptions to veterans with varying conditions. I support these efforts, yet we must look further than picking winners and losers. I commend one that focuses on levels of disability, HB2036 ( http://kslegislature.org/li/b2023_24/measures/hb2036/ ) However, if we aren't careful, we will give one group complete exemptions, and put all the burdens of local government on the "have nots". We really need to look across the board at more fundamental solutions. A proposal put forward by some in the House would be an amendment to the Kansas Constitution lowering the assessment rate for residential property from 11.5% to 9%. This is ok, but I don't think it gets at the real issue. When I discussed this with constituents and some members of local chambers of commerce, it is actually the rapid increase in assessed values that are the issue. They have risen so rapidly, people can't plan for them. Most understand the need for property taxes which fuel primarily local government, but with year-over-year increases of over 30-40%, people can't manage. That is why I have introduced the idea of a property assessment cap of 5% year over year. Property tax law is governed currently by the Constitution, so adjustments require Constitutional amendments. Assessors' hands are tied--they are required by law to assess the property according to a few methods and find the fair market value. However, from a tax assessment point of view, I believe local governments can run on a modest increase of 5% assessed value per year when property values are rising at a higher rate. The proposal would allow for the legislature to provide for exceptions for this cap through statutes (such as when there is a substantial addition when emergency situations require a higher adjustment, and what happens when a property is sold). http://kslegislature.org/li/b2023_24/measures/scr1604/ I have also introduced a bill, SB196, http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2023_24/measures/sb196/ , that would return the luxury added taxes or LAVTR, collected by statute by the state but meant to be returned to cities and counties each year but never has. This would also help counties have a source of revenue to balance property taxes. There is enough discussion across the state on this that I believe it will at least spark a hearing.
MEDICAID EXPANSION My colleague Sen Pettey introduced the Governor's Medicaid expansion bill for yet another session, though the Senate GOP has stood staunchly against it for years. By expanding Medicaid, Kansas taxpayers will have access to health care services they are already paying for through federal taxes. "I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: expanding Medicaid will not only provide health care to hundreds of thousands of hardworking Kansans, it will also boost our economy, strengthen rural communities, and bring hard-earned dollars back to our state." Governor Kelly said. "Expanding Medicaid has received the bipartisan support of 39 other states, including every one of our neighbors. We must get this done." Kansas taxpayers have paid more than $6 billion for affordable health care coverage through federal taxes but have yet to see a penny of that investment. This program will be paid for with 90% federal funding beginning January 1, 2024. If Medicaid is expanded, Kansas could receive an additional $370 million in federal dollars over the next two years, sufficient to cover the state's share of expansion costs for up to 8 years. If this legislation is not passed in this year's budget, it will result in the loss of $70 million in State General Fund savings for the next fiscal year. I like this quote from the clergy: "Kansans and Kansas businesses are paying more for health care because of the legislature's failure to expand KanCare, which is why I applaud Governor Kelly's common-sense plan to expand KanCare," David Jordan, President, and CEO, United Methodist Health Ministry Fund, said. "KanCare Expansion would bring down costs for all Kansans, protect our rural hospitals from closing, and make our state more economically competitive."
EDUCATION A series of bills have been introduced with hearings that are pushing for school vouchers from state tax dollars to pay for private education, once again. One such bill had quite a hearing. HB 2218, which has a mirror bill in the Senate, is an expansion of anti-public education voucher programs. Like voucher programs in years past, HB 2218 funnels taxpayer money into unaccredited private and parochial schools without any oversight or restriction. The Sunflower State Journal further broke down the financial impact, “The fiscal analysis indicates that for every 1% of the state’s 484,000 public school students participating in the program, or 4,840 students, about $24.6 million would be transferred out of the state budget to pay for private-school tuition.” The bill would allow parents to obtain about $5,000 from public school funds or use it in covering private school or homeschool costs. There are no guidelines mandating the funds go to accredited schools. http://kslegislature.org/li/b2023_24/measures/hb2218/ Due to the fiscal irresponsibility, academic questionability, and inequitable provisions in the bill, HB 2218 was opposed by numerous pro-public education advocacy groups including the Kansas National Association of Education, the Kansas Association of School Boards, public school officials, and several Kansas State Board of Education members during a Monday hearing of the House K-12 Education Budget Committee. Another controversial bill, HB 2236, lays the groundwork for extensive classroom censorship under the guise of a “parental bill of rights.” Similar legislation was brought forward last year, where dozens of teachers, parents, students, school administrators, and more testified in opposition to the bill calling it legislative overreach and basically an attack on teachers. Governor Kelly vetoed the bill with no override by the legislature. http://kslegislature.org/li/b2023_24/measures/hb2236/ ELECTION ATTACKS The Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs looks to be leaning hard into restricting voting access and further politicizing our elections next week as it considers the following bills: ● SB 209, requiring all advance voting ballots be returned by 7 PM on Election Day, further restricting advanced ballot voting; ● SB 210, allowing nonpartisan candidates for office to include their political party affiliation on the ballot with the candidate’s name, politicizing local elections; ● SB 220, establishing uniform requirements for all advance voting ballot envelopes, making it more difficult to vote by mail by having more ways to throw out that ballot; ● SB 221, requiring affidavits of write-in candidacy for certain locally elected offices and providing requirements for counting write-in votes on ballots, presumably to make it harder for non-party people to get elected; ● SB 208, restricting the number of remote ballot boxes that may be used in each county and requiring certain monitoring conditions for such use, making it harder for counties to have ballot boxes for remote areas. http://kslegislature.org/li/b2023_24/measures/sb209/ http://kslegislature.org/li/b2023_24/measures/sb210/ http://kslegislature.org/li/b2023_24/measures/sb220/ http://kslegislature.org/li/b2023_24/measures/sb221/ http://kslegislature.org/li/b2023_24/measures/sb208/ Some of these bills are less troubling than others, but there is a constant stream of bills that perpetuate the idea that the 2020 election was "stolen" and the people that are paying for this are those voters that work or have some kind of challenge with voting on election day in-person. We have good election processes in Kansas. These bills don't appear to improve much and are reactionary and not proactive. Of course, there were some good election bills introduced, just not getting hearings at this point. For example, my colleagues and I submitted a bill that would allow same-day voter registration, with provincial ballots on election day for those that turned up with the proper identification that showed exactly who they were and where they lived. We have a lot of first-time voters that get turned off by the process because of the perceived hurdles in the infrequent voting process, and they are perfectly valid voters. This is SB 197. http://kslegislature.org/li/b2023_24/measures/sb197/
INTERNTIONAL STUDENTS VISIT CAPITOL Great to have these foreign exchange students from Italy and Denmark come shadow me at the capitol for a bit to learn about US and Kansas government! Pictured are Nico Bori, Brooke Collins, and Ayla Dyhr Winslow.
ANTI- ANTI- ANTI- A series of controversial hearings happen next week in the Senate Health Committee where the chairperson (Senator Beverly Gossage), has decided to hear three bills that threaten the health and safety of a wide swath of Kansans. Monday is Senate Bill 6, restricting public health. It’s all in the bill’s short title: restricting the authority of the Secretary of Health and Environment and local health officers to prevent the introduction and spread of infectious or contagious diseases. Personal responsibility has a role in disease mitigation, but it cannot and should not be the only way out of potentially deadly situations. On Tuesday, Senate Health hears Senate Bill 12, which sponsors are insidiously calling the “Kansas Child Mutilation Prevention Act.” It would criminalize gender-affirming care for transgender individuals under 21 years old, making such care a level 4 felony. It is troubling how keenly interested some legislators are in controlling Kansans’ private medical decisions. Further transgender-related bill, the committee is hearing the so-called “Women’s Bill of Rights” on Wednesday. It has odd biological essentialist language that suggests that women’s sole purpose is to reproduce (and is more explicit that men exist solely to fertilize women’s eggs). And though Kansans sent a clear message in August, a bill that would prohibit the prescription of medication used in pregnancy termination involving telemedicine also has a hearing on Wednesday.
KANSAS ON THE CANA-BUS?
As the Senate sits in a similar posture as last session with leadership blocking most attempts at legalizing any form of marijuana, a number of bills have been introduced though expect little movement at this point on any of the
I helped co-sponsor a veteran-focused approach with SB 171 http://kslegislature.org/li/b2023_24/measures/sb171/
while a more corporate-focused approach was introduced by Senator Longbine in SB 135 http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2023_24/measures/sb135/
More on the Veteran's first bill here:
Two pieces of cannabis-related legislation were introduced this week in the House: HB 2363 and HB 2367. Nearly three dozen House Democrats put forward HB 2363 -- “cannabis amnesty.” Anyone serving probation, parole, prison, or jail sentences, along with other cannabis-related sentencing, would be immediately released. The bill also effectively ends any future prosecution and incarceration for nonviolent crimes related to cannabis use or possession.
HB 2367 creates the adult-use cannabis regulation act. This bill regulates the cultivation, manufacturing, possession, and sale of recreational cannabis in Kansas. Kansans have repeatedly pointed to the economic, health, and recreational benefits of legalizing recreational and medical access to marijuana. States across the U.S. have seen revenue grow like a weed after legalization. The Kansas House passed the policy in 2021 but after crossing over to the Senate, the bill went up in smoke.
"Our state spends an obscene amount of time, energy, and money sending people through the criminal justice system for nonviolent, cannabis-related crimes. It clogs the court system, keeps law enforcement from handling real crises, and creates criminals out of ordinary, hardworking Kansans -- many of whom are simply looking for relief from an illness outside of pharmaceuticals," said House Democratic Leader Vic Miller.
We will see how these or other more focused approaches proceed over the biennium, as our neighbor state Missouri has opened up full-on recreational use and reaped millions in taxes in the first week.
STUDENTS INTERNATIONAL DAY Great job by the Leavenworth Senior High School DECA Club for putting on an outstanding International Festival! I was able to sample foods from around the world and learn about different cultures. The festival was funded by a grant from our Leavenworth Public Schools Education Foundation
HOUSE WANTS A ROOF ON INSULIN COSTS With a father diagnosed with diabetes, I applaud the efforts of one of my colleagues in the House. Rep. Meyer was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at 12 years old and grew up with a single father who also had diabetes. Informed by firsthand experiences, and stories from constituents, friends, and families across the state, she introduced HB 2347 this week to help curtail the financial impact of caring for diabetes. HB 2347 caps the cost of insulin and insulin products for Kansans at $35 per month. The cap would apply to people with or without insurance, with the only exception for those on Medicaid or Medicare because federal insurance already has protective provisions in place for diabetes patients. “We struggled constantly,” Meyer told the Kansas Reflector in an interview about the bill this week. “And it was between rationing insulin and paying bills. And which are we going to do? We know we need to stay alive and we want to live. So we’re going to do our best with what we have to stay alive."