Please join Sen. Mary Jo Taylor for a town hall with Rep. Leonard Mastroni:
Saturday, April 18, 10 a.m.
Golden Belt Telephone Office
On Monday, March 25, Sen. Mary Jo Taylor reported to with two short weeks to finish their work, much of the heavy lifting had yet to be done: Medicaid Expansion, School Finance, Transportation, and the Budget. The Senate was also scheduled to debate 13 bills on Monday.
She thanked those who came to her town hall meeting with Rep. Len Mastroni in Larned. She also welcomed Rep. Alicia Straub who was recently selected to replace Rep. Greg Lewis. Here, the rest of her column:
The House did great work last week by passing Medicaid Expansion to help 150,000 Kansans have access to health care. HB 2066 passed the House 69-54 and I hope the Senate will give it the attention it deserves. Relative to the cost we’ve already spent – sending tax money to other states – our expenditure is minimal to attract hundreds of millions and help hard-working Kansans have access to health care. Surveys show 77% of Kansans support passage, and support from my Senate District was even greater in this year’s survey. We are among a small handful of states not to expand by now:
The Senate heard and passed a simple bill (SB 142) to comply with the Kansas Supreme Court’s order to add inflationary costs into school finance calculations. It passed 32-8, I voted YES. Meanwhile, the House is attempting to rewrite the entire funding formula. Briefs are due to the court by April 15, with oral arguments on May 9. The Attorney General has asked for swift action so they can prepare for these events. I’m frustrated the House won’t just pass our bill and get something to the governor.
The House approved (85-38) SCR 1606, the resolution condemning enactment of a law in New York state called the Reproductive Health Act. We discussed this resolution last month in opposition to the NY bill which would allow abortions as legal within 24 weeks of the start of a pregnancy – “or at any time when necessary to protect a woman’s life or health.” Read news coverage of the legislation here. The Senate approved this measure previously, 27-13. I voted YES.
On the Senate Floor
Sub S 75 is the Senate’s budget bill. A few highlights include:
$6 million to reduce waiting lists for Kansans with intellectual/developmental disabilities
$7.6 million for Community Mental Health Centers (CMHCs)
$1.5 million for Hepatitis C treatment for inmates – there has been an outbreak of the disease among our prison population.
2.5% pay increase for state employees
I’m not thrilled with this budget but there was enough sugar to get me to swallow the bitter pill, including funding for the CattleTrace project I mentioned in a previous newsletter, as well as funding for the water plan. It passed 21-18, I voted YES.
SB 150 would protect domestic abuse victims living in rental properties. When applying for a lease, they could not be denied based on those circumstances. Additionally, a tenant could not be evicted or found in violation of a rental agreement based on those circumstances. This bill passed the Senate without opposition.
From my previous newsletters, you are likely familiar with Rural Opportunity Zones (ROZ). The student loan forgiveness and income tax credit programs for new residents to rural counties are set to expire in 2021. SB 125 would extend both programs until 2026. It passed 29-11, I voted YES.
SB 99 would require an emergency medical service provider to be fingerprinted and submit to a criminal background check. It passed 36-2, I voted YES.
Utility rates have been an increasing concern over the last year or two. The Kansas Corporation Commission did a rate study which was presented to the legislature. However, the Utilities Committee wanted additional information. Sub SB 69 would require the Legislative Coordinating Council (LCC) to authorize a study of retail rates of Kansas electric public utilities to provide information for future legislative and regulatory efforts in electric policy. It passed 38-1, I voted YES.
Agriculture & Natural Resources
We held a hearing and passed HB 2215 to the full Senate. The bill would authorize the State Fair Board to create a nonprofit corporation. The corporation would receive gifts, donations and grants, as well as engage in fundraising projects for the benefit of the Kansas State Fair.
Senate Substitute HB 2167 would allow commercial production of industrial hemp in Kansas and establish rules and regulations for growers. I have several constituents who will be glad to see this passed out of Committee. The next step is to debate it on the Senate floor.
Jargon Alert - Substitute Bill: Depending on where a bill is amended, in the House or Senate committee or the House or Senate floor, the change is denoted by a bold, bold italic, [bold bracketed], [bold, italic bracketed] type, respectively. Deletions in a bill can be in ̶s̶t̶r̶i̶k̶e̶t̶h̶r̶o̶u̶g̶h̶, ̶i̶t̶a̶l̶i̶c̶ ̶s̶t̶r̶i̶k̶e̶t̶h̶r̶o̶u̶g̶h̶, or ̶͟͟i̶͟͟t̶͟͟a̶͟͟l̶͟͟i̶͟͟c̶͟͟ ̶͟͟s̶͟͟t̶͟͟r̶͟͟i̶͟͟k̶͟͟e̶͟͟t̶͟͟h̶͟͟r̶͟͟o̶͟͟u̶͟͟g̶͟͟h̶͟͟ text! When a committee makes numerous, long, or complicated changes to a bill, it becomes difficult to read, so they create a substitute bill with the changes, and it retains the same bill number.
I’ll use an extreme (though not uncommon) example abbreviated H Sub S Sub SB 123:
When the Senate makes significant amendments to its own bill and decides to combine those changes into a substitute, the bill is renamed “Substitute for Senate Bill 123” (the bill number stays with the bill, I’m using 123 as an example). Then when the bill goes to the House and they make further significant changes, they can pass a substitute for THAT substitute! Therefore, the bill number above would read as follows: House Substitute for Senate Substitute for Senate Bill 123. Seeing a “Sub” in a bill number is a cheat sheet to know it’s been heavily amended and you should take a closer look.
We heard presentations on the Western Water Conservation Fund Project Fund, an algal bloom pilot study, Ogallala Aquifer groundwater measurements, and water integration dredging.
Public Health & Welfare
SB 113 would legalize medical marijuana in Kansas, to a maximum THC concentration of 5%. Marijuana could only be used to treat “debilitating medical conditions,” including those that cause seizures, and for which the patient is under the care of a licensed physician. A similar bill was heard by the House Judiciary Committee. We heard compelling testimony and I can see why people are so divided. Since it’s a schedule I drug, it has not been properly researched by the FDA, so I am doubtful the committee will forward the bill. Your survey responses on this issue were supportive of medical marijuana.
Finally, we heard and passed the following bills out of committee:
SB 194 would clarify that any Kansan could donate an organ and that individuals have the right to decide whether to make such a gift and the conditions for using the gift for transplantation, therapy, research or education. The bill also would prohibit discrimination against these rights of decisions.
HB 2103 would allow the state to institute a Qualified Residential Treatment Program (QRTP) for children and require the Department for Children and Families (DCF) to notify the courts when a child has been placed in a QRTP. The courts would be required to review assessments within 60 days after placement to determine if the child’s needs are being met and to determine the appropriate level of care. QRTPs qualify for additional federal funding under the Families First Prevention Services Act (FFPSA).
Education – Live Audio
We held a hearing and passed HB 2144 to the full Senate for debate. It would create the Community College Taxpayer Transparency Act and require any student fees be charged for a specific purpose be listed on students’ billing statements. Revenues from the fees could only be spent on the specified purpose of the fee. In addition, the bill would require community colleges to identify courses that are fully transferable to four-year state colleges and publish the information on their website. A detailed description of the required data is in the bill’s supplemental note. It passed the House 84-40.
We held hearings but have not worked the following bills:
SB 211 would require the Attorney General to appoint a Kansas Youth Suicide Prevention Coordinator who would be responsible for identifying, creating, coordinating and supporting youth suicide awareness and prevention efforts throughout the state. The bill also would outline initiatives the coordinator may pursue, including developing a website and phone application, developing multidisciplinary and interagency strategies, organizing events and disseminating information about youth suicide.
HB 2346 would change state standards for free school-administered vision screenings. Some of the changes would modify the frequency of visions screenings to specify the grade levels and circumstances under which the screenings would occur; provide for vision screenings for students in accredited nonpublic schools; and require screenings performed by someone who must follow the most recent state vison screening guidelines. You can read committee testimony here.
We also received informational briefings on higher education reimbursement for disabled student assistance and from the Dyslexia Task Force.
It is an honor and privilege to serve you in Topeka.
At your service,
Sen. Mary Jo Taylor
Serving West Central Kansas
Sen. Mary Jo Taylor serves West Central Kansas including Barton, Edwards, Kiowa, Lane, Ness, Pawnee, Pratt, Rush, Scott, Stafford. and parts of Hodgeman and Rice Counties.