Sen. Jeff Pittman's 2021 Legislative Update #2
February 1, 2021
IN THIS ISSUE:
Greetings Friend -
2021 SESSION CONTINUES 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com Legislators have been managing through the COVID pandemic, often using new technology in the Capitol to discuss topics, listen to those testifying on certain issues and provide safe alternatives on committee participation for the staff. 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 issues continue to be a challenge for my constituents. Where early issues had to do with the states extremely old infrastructure nearly 40 years old, current issues have to do with the high degree of fraud attempts. Many legislators are vocal about the Department of Labor stopping all fraud attempts. All states are experiencing this, and I am sympathetic to their challenge. That said, as a member of the Joint Committee on Information Technology, I have pressed the KDOL to develop strategies to combat this. I was happy to hear they are implementing one such change over the weekend, which will help with identification prior to claims submission. This will help prevent having so many businesses face claims as it will require the bad actors to first self identify to claim vs forcing the businesses to defend against already filed claims.
VACCINES Kansas continues to work against a constrained supply situation to help deliver vaccines to all citizens—we have a long ways to go. I was invited in to speak to the Leavenworth County Commissioners Wednesday to hear their concerns, communicate state information and improve the public’s understanding of what’s going on. The Federal government determines each state’s allocation each week, and then the state allocates to each county based on at risk population, inventoried supply, allocation from the Feds and some final adjustments. WYCO and LVCO are in the top 5 counties in terms of receiving vaccines. Watch the first 30 minutes of the Leavenworth County Commission meeting for great information on vaccine distribution and clinics from Jamie Miller in the county. Thank you to the Commissioners for inviting me to speak - and for all the great questions. I’m glad we’re all working together! https://youtu.be/DfBxv0BvDKk
In an effort to prioritize transparency and communication with public health officials and Kansans to deliver the vaccine quickly and efficiently during Phase 2 - you can now see county level vaccination data on the COVID 19 vaccine dashboard. To view the 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/.../covi.../covid_list.php To sign up for the vaccine in Wyandotte County click here 👉 https://us.openforms.com/.../2f2bcc68-3b6a-450b-9007... As I said last week, the Administration had 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. That is opened up now, and LVCO/WYCO have moved into this next phase. I had some disgruntled citizens contact me last week as well as citizens who are thankful they have gotten the vaccine. WYCO has gotten many teachers already vaccinated, while LVCO has now had many veterans and elderly vaccinated. For full transparency sake, no prisoners have been vaccinated as of yet, but in an effort to protect our Corrections workers and control community spread, congregate settings like elderly homes and prisons where it is difficult to control rapid virus spread will be getting vaccinated by the end of the current phase. As a veteran, you may also qualify to get vaccines via the VA. We are now in Phase 2 per the administration. I have heard of many constituents who have successfully gotten at least the first dosage over the past week, whether through the local health department or via other locations like the VA. Approximately 1 million Kansans are in Phase 2 but the next weekly supply of vaccine from the federal government contains approximately 45,000 new first doses so not everyone in Phase 2 will be able to receive their vaccine immediately. Here are the Phase 2 current targets:
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/childcare workers: 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
TRANSPORTATION I’ll continue to give updates in general areas. We have had some briefings and bills come up in transportation. We hear various briefings from different organizations and groups. One example is hearing from the Trucking Organization that gave some overview information of their industry. Interesting to know that 98% trucking companies operate 25 trucks or less, they contribute nearly $3.5 billion in Kansas state revenues, and trucking pays for around 41% of taxes and fees of Kansas motorists, while representing only 19% of the vehicles on the road. We have had a number of bills introduced, including bill on enforcing handsfree mobile phone use, military surplus vehicle licensing and others have come through. I supported a bill, SB 33, out of the committee that will smooth the way for the Kansas City Auto Show to be showcased in our own Kansas Speedway location! It has been in KCMO for over 100 years, and they see big advantage to moving it to such a great outdoor location this year.
FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS & INSURANCE We worked a number of bills in committee regarding insurance and re-insurance this week. The Insurance Commissioner has introduced a bill that sets up a victims restitution fund for victims of investment fraud. I fully supported this bill, but had my first amendment that I introduced successfully pass to improve the bill for transparency sake. My amendment provided an appeal process so that there was at least a review process to prevent discrimination or personal favoritism when the funds are awarded, as the amounts will be very subjective. We also passed out SB15 which would enact the Kansas Economic Recovery loan deposit program, establishing $60 mil in low cost loans for business under a certain size and capped in terms of how large the loans can be. New Kansas Treasurer Lynn Rogers worked hard in the past two weeks to improve the bill, doing more in two weeks than former Treasurers have done in two years! The committee felt these changes made the bill better and explicitly focused the loan program on Kansas business. This bill heads to the Senate floor on Monday.
GENERAL ORDERS OF THE SESSION Senate work has been focused on committee hearings, but has picked up quickly in the late part of the week. On Thursday, we debated the constitutional amendment on abortion, followed by the Senate rules which stay in place for 4 years. Several amendments to the Senate rules were introduced to promote transparency and bipartisan compromise; but there was not much appetite for change. These rules are often used by majority party leadership to tightly control what is allowed to be debated and passed. This has been a big blockade in the past session and could present similar challenges as before. I voted against these restrictive rules for this reason.
On a vote of 28-11, a bill passed to put to a popular vote a potential change to the Constitution. In essence, the proponents are seeking to enshrine specific language in the Constitution that would allow the legislature complete control of all abortion rights to be determined by the Kansas legislature. There are no explicit protections for cases where the mother may die, or where a women is victim to rape or incest. It passed the Senate on Thursday after two hours of debate. I voted NO as I believe, if we are actually going to modify the Constitution, we should have at a minimum Constitutional protections in place. A version of this amendment was first introduced in the 2020 Legislative session. It was introduced in response to the 2019 Kansas Supreme Court 6-1 decision in Hodes & Nauser, MDs, P.A. v. Schmidt, which found that “Section 1 of the Kansas Constitution Bill of Rights affords protection of the right of personal autonomy, which includes the ability to control one’s own body, to assert bodily integrity, and to exercise self-determination. Despite this ruling, the Legislature already has the power to regulate abortion – which it has wielded frequently since 2011. This amendment, if it passes a popular vote, would enable it to pass restrictions in cases of rape, incest, or risk of the life of the mother. It also opens the door to more than just regulation: it allows the Legislature to ban abortion entirely. This amendment now goes to Kansas voters for approval. It will appear on the August 2, 2022 ballot. Constitutional Amendments are regulated to appear on a November ballot or a special election. Proponents chose the August 2, 2022 primary, over a year away, apparently to sway primary voters, not necessarily to promote the policy adoption as soon as possible. There was an attempt to change the date on the floor, but that was rejected. Other amendments introduced, that failed:
Senator Pat Pettey (D - Kansas City) introduced an amendment to protect victims of rape and incest, and instances in which the life of the mother is in danger. The Senate rejected this amendment 11-27. I voted YES.
Senator Marci Francisco (D - Lawrence) introduced an amendment to clarify the explanatory statements that will appear on the ballot to more accurately reflect what the Constitutional Amendment does so that voters would have a better understanding when deciding how to vote. The Senate rejected this amendment 11-27. I voted YES.
SENATE BILLS TO WATCH
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, but doesn’t put the burden of public schools around at-risk and special needs kids. Unfortunately, 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.
SB 35: This bill would take away power from the Kansas Secretary of State to allow mail ballots to be counted more than three days after an election. It appears to be a knee-jerk reaction to federal election results.
HOUSE FLOOR BILLS COMING TO THE SENATE The House passed three bills this week, which will move on to the Senate committees for consideration. Remember that bills need to go through the House and Senate before being considered by the Governor to be signed into law.
HB 2026, which would establish a program diverting people with drug offenses from prison toward resources to fight their addiction. This bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary.
HB 2008, which would require the attorney general to coordinate training for law enforcement agencies on missing and murdered indigenous people. This bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Judiciary.
HB 2022, which would clarify legal responsibility and consolidate funds used to plug abandoned gas and oil wells in the state. This bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Ways and Means.
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 include: Public Health & Welfare, Tuesday, 8:30am – SB 85 Requiring notification to legislature & governor of missing foster care youth; Wednesday 9:30am – SB12 on using performance based contracts for DCF. Transportation, Tuesday, 8:30am – SB 67, modifying recreational vehicle sizes Taxation, Tuesday, 9:30am – SB 23 providing relief in disaster situations on property taxes. Wednesday SB 50 dealing with internet sales tax, Thursday 9:30 SB 72 on regulating county appraiser courses Financial Institutions & Insurance, Wed 9:30am SB 48 on making insurance companies pay for proactive breast cancer screenings Commerce, Monday, 10:30am – SB 66, dealing with angel investor tax credits Fed & State, Tuesday 10:30am – Confirmation hearing of local Michael Kane to the Human Rights Commission Judiciary, Tuesday 10:30am – SB 59 Modifying sexual relations terminology to sex act; Thursday SB 57 Suspending statutory speedy trial requirements until 2024 Education, Tuesday 1:30pm – SB 63 Expanding free ACT programs to non-public school students, Wednesday SB 51 requiring foster care kids academic report card Utilities, Monday 1:30pm Presentation on broadband expansion program, Tuesday Evergy Rate briefing, Wednesday briefing on power grid balancing, Thursday KCC Rate study review
NEW NATIONAL MENTAL HEALTH HOTLINE Kansas has received the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline’s 988 State Planning Grant through Vibrant Emotional Health, the nonprofit administrator of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Lifeline). In July 2022, 988 will become the national three-digit dialing code for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, replacing the current phone number of 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The new 988 number, once implemented, will ensure the Lifeline will continue to be America’s mental health safety net by providing emotional support for people in distress, reducing suicides and mental health crises, and providing a pathway to well-being for all.
LOCAL SPOTLIGHT: LOCAL HIGH SCHOOL TRADE PROGRAMS Trade programs still continue to be an area we must support as all students are not college or military bound. Bonner Springs has invested significantly in their trade programs and have garnered interest in outside organizations.
Bonner Springs High School is one of seven metro high schools to receive a special grant to help fund wood technology projects through Kansas City NARI's Futures Fund! This organization supports local construction trades programs and workforce development. Congrats to Bonner Springs High School Wood Shop!
Sen. Jeff Pittman firstname.lastname@example.org