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  • Writer's pictureJeff Pittman

Sen. Jeff Pittman's 2022 Legislative Update #4

Legislative Update #4 February 7, 2022


I am honored to serve as your Senator. My office is located in 124E. Please feel free to contact me at or . Also feel free to forward my email to someone who may be interested in subscribing. This was an extremely short week for legislators in Topeka. Due to weather concerns, the Senate adjourned after quickly passing four bills on Tuesday. We will return on Monday, and expect to have a full week of work.

SUSAN B. ANTHONY DAY HEARING This past week, I testified with other local in support of SB 179 which I introduced per request of the Leavenworth Historical Society. SB 179 seeks to designate February 15 as Susan B. Anthony Day in the state of Kansas. This isn’t creating a holiday, so has no impact on state agencies, and is merely a designation. This would recognize the historic female role model that Susan B. Anthony was and her impact on Kansas. In her lifetime, Anthony had established a meaningful connection with Leavenworth by campaigning, despite significant financial and physical hardship, for an amendment which sought to give women and African Americans the right to vote. Anthony was joined by her brother, a long-time resident of Leavenworth, who helped her further the abolitionist cause they espoused. Col Anthony had connections with John Brown, the local newspaper and more. Their efforts culminated in Kansas becoming the eighth state in the United States to grant women the right to vote, leaving behind a legacy so prominent that my daughter’s school in Leavenworth is named after the Anthony family.

CONCERNED CLERGY MEETING Kicked off the month by meeting with the concerned clergy of Leavenworth made up of primarily African American ministers locally, and I was happy to give them an update on Legislative movement that may affect their members. We discussed many things like educating our youth, criminal justice initiatives, job training, elimination of sales tax on food, the effort to villainize race discussion in school and election/redistricting topics.

ELIMINATION OF FOOD SALES TAX HEARING Speaking of the food sales tax, the Senate Committee on Assessment and Taxation held hearings this week on SB 339 and SB 342. Both bills address the state food sales tax. There were some curious naysayers who weren't sure we would be able to meet the budget needs, but who voted wholeheartedly for widespread corporate tax breaks over the last years. However, I have hope the bill will be worked next week and probably move out of committee next week in some form.

HOUSING INCENTIVES I'm excited about renewed emphasis on affordable housing in the state of Kansas. To match the record setting capital investment being set, we need workers, and workers need houses. The governor and the state treasurer have publicly put these forth as 2022 initiatives on their side, and there is support. Two bill supporting this will have hearings this week, on Monday in Senate Fed & State: SB 375 — Enacting the Kansas housing investor tax credit act and expanding Kansas housing programs to facilitate economic development by providing tax credits for investment in residential housing projects in underserved rural and urban communities to accommodate new employees and support business growth. SB 376 — Expanding Kansas housing programs to facilitate economic development by broadening the Kansas rural housing incentive district.

VA HOME Speaking of housing options, check out my 3 minute interview with Commission on Veterans Affairs Director Bill Turner. We chat through the status of the application process for a new NE Kansas Veterans Home:

INTERN I was lucky enough to have an intern this session, as I have in previous sessions. This is a deep engagement opportunity where they volunteer their time to learn and help. I asked my intern to say a few words and here they are: NOTES FROM THE INTERN DESK I applied for the Kansas Legislative Internship Program for the 2022 Legislative Session, and I was fortunate to be placed with Senator Jeff Pittman. In my role, I attend senate, committee and caucus meetings, research and track legislation, and I help provide constituent and office support. I have been working with a team of truly incredible people, and I am enjoying every second of it. It may arguably be the most interesting time to experience the political climate in Kansas first-hand, with the trifecta of the pandemic, redistricting, and notable offices up for elections. I get a glimpse of how all these things affect each other, in obvious and not so obvious ways, as the process moves forward. I look forward to learning even more about Kansans' concerns from people passionate about effecting real change. – By Akshi Pruthi, Two-Year J.D. Candidate 2022, University of Kansas School of Law

AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES Hearings continue this week in my transportation committee on SB 379 . It basically would establish a very narrow definition for no driver self-driving vehicles (Autonomous Vehicles, sometimes shortened to AV). The legislation is being propose for generally smaller than semi-truck vehicles an used on local roads on highways between high traffic business to business areas. Walmart wants the bill to save money on drivers and stocking stores; opponents believe it is dangerous to have a truck drive itself and that it will eliminate trucking jobs in the future. Also going through the KDOT budget this week to make any recommendations.

ELECTION LAWS The Committee on Federal and State Affairs will hear two bills on Thursday that seek to undermine our election process and make it more difficult for Kansans to vote. SB 388 would require the use of the United States postal service when returning an advance ballot by mail. We already have tight rules on returning advance ballots: ballots must be postmarked by Election Day and received by that Friday to be counted in an election. Individuals have up until the week before the election to request an advance ballot; it is entirely within the realm of possibility that that ballot does not arrive in their mailbox until Election Day, especially those voters currently overseas. Currently then can then overnight it using UPS, FedEx, or another private service to guarantee delivery before the Friday deadline. This bill would eliminate that possibility and make it more difficult for voters to ensure their vote is counted. SB 389 would require all voting systems for elections to use individual voter-verified paper ballots with a distinctive watermark. While this is not prohibitive, this bill assumes our election are not safe and secure. It would add administrative responsibilities to election offices and county clerks who have testified repeatedly in Kansas that elections were fair and secure.

FINANCIAL INSTITUTIONS Slowly unwinding twisted funding mechanisms the legislature had put in place during the Brownback years to pay the bills. We have heard at least three bills where stakeholders from universities, to the department of Insurance to the Banking Association are tired of the fee sweeps and other behind the scene charges hitting their organizations. Many of these were put in place to find sources for funding and hide the terrible budgeting mess that came with the Brownback tax policy.

IMPACT AID HEARING I rose in support of my local school districts, testifying last week on SB 341 which addresses the way the state of Kansas divides up federal funds sent to support military children, known as Impact Aid. We are one of the only states that take the impact aid away from the district it was intended for and redistribute it to all schools. The primary reason we should reconsider is that, as the military looks at potential base closures and repositioning of military assets, they look at many factors. The use of impact aid to directly assist in the education of military and other impacted children on or near federal lands has specifically been called out by top military leaders in recent years. Kansas’ treatment of impact aid can be seen as a negative by these leaders.

NATIONAL GUARD AND VACCINES HEARING SB 370 had a hearing this past week. The bill, possibly prompted by the Leavenworth Representatives Oct 2021 letter, would have made it illegal in Kansas to require National Guard members to get a vaccine. Though it was claimed there was no fiscal impact, during testimony, it became clear that this would put at risk ~$240 Mil in federal funding of our Kansas National Guard.

PRIVACY RIGHTS BILLS TO WATCH There will be hearings this week in judiciary covering a number of aspects of privacy. One such bill prevents people from looking up captured license plate data on the one hand which helps with privacy, but prevents the public from seeing what license plate data police forces are capturing and tracking, bringing up concerns of a secret surveilance state: SB 434 — Creating exemptions in the open records act for records that contain captured license plate data or that pertain to the location of an automated license plate recognition system. Another one to watch is one that seems on its face reasonable, but has life altering consequences. It is a bill that would make it a registerable sex offender violation if someone takes pictures under stalls or using some kind of camera on the ground. While these are offensive and worthy of crimes, I have hesitancy until I hear more about whether these should be grounds for 10 to 20 years on the sex offender registry unless there are conditions laid out. SB 385 — Requiring registration as a sex offender for certain violations of the crime of breach of privacy

ANTI-WIND HEARINGS The Senate Utilities committee continues to be dominated by the chairman of that committee's relentless assault against wind energy and to a lesser extent, solar energy. This is ironic in that the chairman is a former prominent weatherman in Kansas City. These are everyday at 1:30 if interested. Personally, I see a lot of benefits in our state's wind energy assets, the jobs it has created, the lessening of our reliance on foreign oil and more.

EDUCATION A few education bills have had hearings in the House. One is HB 2511 that would make virtual school, homeschool and non-accredited private school students eligible for extracurricular activities in the public school district where they reside. The K-12 Education committee in the House is looking to pass HB 2068, which would expand tax credits to send students to private schools. It is also looking at HB 2119 which would allow state public school funds for use at private or home school.

CONGRESSIONAL REDISTRICTING: AD ASTRA MAP The governor ended up signing a veto on the first Congressional District map, which defines the area for the four seats of Congress. The House and Senate have 30 days to try to override the Governor's veto if leadership really wants to go with their map, known as AdAstra2. In it, you will recall Wyandotte is split across the middle using a highway with no community of interest data taken into account. It also arbitrarily puts Lawrence into the western Kansas Congressional District, having all the signs of extreme gerrymandering. I am working and will submit an alternate map, and hope to get some traction on it, called Jayhawk2, which puts JoCo and Douglas together in their entirety, keeps WyCO whole but now with the Congressional District 2 and has Congressional District 4 keep all of Sedgwick together but extends east to the border where their growth is happening. It has a lot of positives, we'll see if it gets considered.

BUILDING A STRONGER ECONOMY (BASE) GRANT APPLICATION This week, Governor Laura Kelly announced the launch of the Building a Stronger Economy (BASE) program. BASE is a new grant opportunity to help support infrastructure development and advance economic development opportunities across Kansas. The grant program will be administered by the Kansas Department of Commerce. As proposed by the Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK) Executive Committee, the program offers matching funds to address economic development opportunities with the goal of expanding the state’s base of businesses and residents as we continue to recover from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Projects submitted are required to document how the project was delayed or affected negatively due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting negative economic conditions. Additionally, there is a minimum 25% match requirement by the applicant. County and local governments, Economic Development Organizations, local Chambers of Commerce, and other stakeholders are eligible to apply. Awardees will be provided with 50% of award allocation in calendar year 2022. The remaining 50% of funding will be provided no earlier than January 2023. Projects to be funded by BASE would support infrastructure investments associated with economic development projects including: ● Development of new business parks ● Development of infrastructure required to support business expansions ● Renovation of existing business parks to bring them up to modern standards ● Development of infrastructure such as railroad spurs, water, wastewater, stormwater and other utilities ● Driveway aprons ● Business park signage ● Parking facilities directly associated with business attraction projects ● Speculative industrial office and residential space ● Development of infrastructure related to cybersecurity investments ● Other projects that achieve the goal of expanding the state’s base of businesses and residents. The BASE grant application process opens Monday, January 31, 2022 at 1:00PM with a Monday, February 28, 2022 11:59PM deadline for submissions. Grant awardees will be announced no earlier than March 25, 2022. An informational webinar on BASE will be available to the public on Wednesday, February 2 at 3:00PM. Registration for the webinar and guidelines for the grant application can be found at Applicants can contact for any questions regarding this funding opportunity.

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.

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