Sen. Jeff Pittman's 2022 Legislative Update #9
March 14, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com . Also feel free to forward my email to someone who may be interested in subscribing.
EXCELLENT PUPILS OF THE LEGISLATIVE PROCESS Great to have Dr. Ashley Reddell and Dr Katherine Gunn of Family Eye are in Topeka advocating for better access to eye care in my community. They have offices in Wyandotte, Bonner, Lansing and Leavenworth.Wednesday, March 23rd, is the deadline for non-exempt bills to be passed out of their second chamber. As such, there should be an influx of work on the Senate floor next week. We plan to work every day, meeting at 2:30pm daily except for Friday, when we’ll gavel in at 9:30am. You can watch live on the Kansas Legislature YouTube Channel.
SENATE FLOOR WORK The Senate convened this week to debate bills on general orders that have come out of committees. We passed 19 bills, and one bill failed to reach the majority required for passage. We also approved two of Governor Kelly’s appointments. Several of the bills prompting floor debate this week centered around spending, taxes, and economic development.
TAX RELIEF A number of amendments were adopted during debate on SB 282, an otherwise relatively uncontroversial bill. With affordable housing an issue for developing a strong workforce, I supported the amendment to add the Kansas Housing Investor Credit Act, which provides tax credits for investment in residential housing projects in underserved rural and urban communities to accommodate new employees and support business growth; the amendment to add the Kansas Affordable Housing Tax Credit Act for qualified low-income housing projects; and the amendment to provide an income tax credit for school supply expenditures by teachers. I also supported the only amendment that did not make it on the bill, which was offered by Senate Minority Leader Sykes to provide a $250 tax rebate for Kansans who filed taxes in 2020. That amendment failed on a vote of 16 to 18. http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/measures/sb282/
VETERANS COURTS With opportunities to have proactive intervention in the justice system, I rose in vigorous support of S Sub for HB 2361, establishing rules and operations for specialty courts problem solving procedures to address underlying causes to help rehabilitate veterans, those suffering in the spiral of drug addiction and more. It has been demonstrated to work in Wyandotte and other locations across the state and the nation. It is proactive and I commended the Senate for passing this legislation that helps push these alternate courts forward. http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/measures/hb2361/
KPERS AND COLA I have had many people ask about Cost of Living Allowances for our KPERs retirees, something I have introduce and supported since I started in the legislature. The Republican majority in the House voted down a small COLA last week, and again the majority party voted down a smaller provision which would have allowed a one time additional check for KPERs retirees out of the extra one Billion dollars used to put into the investment account. SB 523 would transfers $1 billion from the State General Fund to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System Trust Fund and reduce the employer contribution rate by over 2% over two years. Honoring our state’s commitment to paying our retirees has always been a priority to me – however, we have gone a long way since I helped reverse Brownback's terrible tax experiment. In the last couple of years through fiscally responsible policies we have paid back payments skipped during those years. We are on a solid path that can accomplish our goals to plan without this massive expenditure from our budget. KPERS will be 80% funded by next year, even with no extra payments, and reported savings for the State General Fund would decrease if the assumed rate of return is lowered this year. Even so I supported the measure as it does have a fiscally sound impact on reducing the debt load by $74 Million and does help solidify KPERs committment to retirees. http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/measures/sb523/
GOODWILL MOBILE TOUR Had the opportunity to tour Goodwill Industries of Kansas and Goodwill of Western Missouri & Eastern Kansas mobile unit with Rep. Brandon Woodard led by Jobe Rainey. They use the mobile unit to drive to communities in counties like Leavenworth and Wyandotte to go directly to the need and help workforce development by helping with resumes, online job applications, finding housing and more advanced skills development like their bridge to technology course.
ELECTIONS BILLS ON THE SENATE FLOOR LAST WEEK With the mantra that elections were stolen across the US, Kansas has had a lot of politicians appealing to their base by introducing election bill after election bill this year. Two elections bills also hit the floor on Wednesday: SB 439 requires county elections offices to send a confirmation of address when there is no election-related activity for any four calendar year period. In its original form, non-response to the confirmation of address would have triggered the process for removing the voter in question from the rolls. An amendment that passed made it so that that process would only begin if the confirmation of address is returned to the office as undeliverable. While I appreciate that the amendment improved the base bill, I disagree fundamentally with the principle guiding this legislation. Voting is a right, and voters have the right not to participate in elections, not have bureaucrats making it harder. We have well-established processes for removing voters who do not belong on the rolls. http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/measures/sb439/ The other election bill, SB 418, is a bit more esoteric. It would prohibit the modification of election laws by agreement except as approved by the Legislative Coordinating Council. This is problematic for many reasons, but particularly because the Legislature has a nasty habit of passing unconstitutional election laws as reaction to not getting what they wanted during an election. Prohibiting the Governor and the Secretary of State from entering into consent degrees and instead giving that power to the people to an autocratic few who are on the LCC is not good governance, not representative and has a distinct possibility of leading to unnecessary lawsuits. http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/measures/sb418/ ELECTION BILLS COMING OUT OF SENATE COMMITTEES As I've been asked about upcoming election laws to watch, here are two more: VOTING RIGHTS: S Sub for HB 2056 is a collection of voter suppression bills mashed together. The bill limits counties to having one ballot box per county unless there are more than 30,000 registered voters (something that really does limit voting boxes in WYCO and LVCO); limits drop boxes to only be available during the operating hours of county election offices; requires that drop boxes be monitored by an election official or camera where you can see the voter’s face; requires that drop boxes have all enclosed ballots back at the election office by 7pm; removes the 3-day grace period for ballots postmarked by Election Day; extends the advance voting period from 20 days prior to the election to 23 days prior to Election Day; and shortens the voter registration deadline from 24 days before Election Day to 21 days before Election Day. A couple of other bills introduced, SB 389 and SB 390, propagate the theory that our elections are not safe and secure. They would add administrative responsibilities to our election offices and county clerks. http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/measures/sb389/ http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/measures/sb390/
HEALTH GROUP MEETINGS Hospitals and others health groups have come to the capitol this session, advocating for steps that would help with their workforce challenges and help provide better access for our citizens. Topics that come up commonly are Medicaid expansion, clarifying the 340B program, and other steps. Here I am meeting with Advent Health and separately the pharmacists.
MEDICAL MARIJUANA Speaking of healthcare, I continue to be asked about when is Kansas going to do something on medical marijuana! You will recall the Senate President shuffled the House approved measure into a non-meeting committee at the beginning of the session. After an abrupt shift at the beginning of legislative session, medical marijuana is back on the docket for the Kansas Senate. Senate Federal & State Affairs will hold an informational hearing on the topic on Thursday and Friday of next week.
FLIRTING WITH CENSORSHIP SB 496 capitalizes on national figures’ successful manipulation of parents’ anxieties around learning and growing by suggesting that our public schools – which are subject to strict oversight by the state – are hiding nefarious materials used to brainwash our children. This “Parents’ Bill of Rights” co-opts civil rights language in order to undermine our public school teachers and districts that teach and care for Kansas kids. I have heard repeatedly that these types of bills are causing teachers to quit after going through a super-tough two years teaching during the pandemic. http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/measures/sb496/
REDISTRICTING UPDATE It’s been over a month since the Legislature sent the Republican Ad Astra 2 congressional map out. Since then, three lawsuits have been filed in state court. Democracy Docket has an excellent summary of the differences between each of the cases, and their statuses: two focus on political and racial gerrymandering, in addition to a violation of legislative guidelines; the third focuses primarily on partisan gerrymandering. Partisan gerrymandering is permitted under federal law, but has not been challenged in Kansas courts yet. Racial gerrymandering is unconstitutional at both the state and federal level. Attorney General Derek Schmidt filed suit in the Kansas Supreme Court in February asking it to block two of those suits. His petition was denied last week. We expect movement on these suits to begin by the end of the month. https://www.democracydocket.com/cases/state/kansas/ In the meantime, the Legislature is moving on to legislative maps. House Maps are expected to be revealed next week for discussion. Senate Republican leadership introduced its state senate map into Senate Ways & Means on Thursday. Senate Minority leadership also introduced their map, as well as a map drawn by the League of Women Voters, into Senate Federal & State Affairs at the same time. We expect that the Republican map will be worked early next week and could come to a vote on the Senate floor by the end of the week. The process is being rushed once again to slam out a map with little review or true opportunities to get the best map possible with full transparency to all stakeholders unfortunately. Republican Introduced Senate Map: https://bit.ly/3I9HgHw Democrat Introduced Senate Map: https://bit.ly/3w3MZw3
SECRETARY OF HEALTH APPOINTMENT Governor Kelly appointed Janet Stanek as the new Secretary of Health and Environment last year, following the departure of Secretary Lee Norman. After much debate, Ms Stanek was approved 32-5.
BABY ON THE FLOOR Had to include this picture of Minority Staff member holding Senator O’Shea's baby on the floor!
POLITICIZING THE JUDICIARY Over the past decade, there has been a contingent bent on demonizing the judiciary. With a Republican super majority in the legislature, it has turned out to be a year when Constitutional Amendments can be pumped out to fulfil different agendas. Two proposed constitutional amendments targeting the Kansas Supreme Court made it out of committee this week. The first, SCR 1621, would require Senate confirmation of gubernatorial appointments of Supreme Court justices, thereby eliminating the Supreme Court Nominating Commission. The second, SCR 1622, would provide for partisan, statewide elections of Supreme Court justices. Merit-based selection for our state supreme court justices has served our state well for decades, and I do not support changes to our constitution like this that make the Supreme Court partisan. http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/measures/scr1621/ http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2021_22/measures/scr1622/
APPLICATIONS OPEN FOR COMMUNITY SERVICE TAX CREDIT PROGRAM Governor Laura Kelly announced this week that applications are currently being accepted for the Community Service Tax Credit Program (CSP). CSP provides an opportunity for private, non-profit organizations and public health care entities to improve their ability to undertake major capital campaigns for projects involving children and family services, non-governmental crime prevention, youth apprenticeship and youth technical training and health care. To be considered for funding, newly licensed or established child care programs must maintain an active permanent license with the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, whether they remain open or temporarily closed. Funds may be used for any normal operational expenses, additional expenses the child care program has due to meeting CDC guidance for mitigating the spread of COVID-19, and other activities necessary to maintain or resume the operation of programs. Under this program, the state authorizes nonprofit organizations to offer tax credits to donors making contributions towards approved projects. Proposed projects should be unique or one-time in nature and create a lasting value for charitable organizations. Applicants may request up to $200,000 in tax credits. Applicant organizations in rural areas (less than 15,000 population) are eligible for a 70 percent credit. Applicant organizations in non-rural areas are eligible for a 50 percent credit. The application window is open through April 30, 2022 at kansascommerce.gov/csp.
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