30 January 2023 | Economic Security Education Early Learning Health

2023 Statehouse Snapshot: Week 3

Kansas Action for Children
January 27, 2023

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State of the State: It's Time to Come Together for Kansas Families

Governor Kelly delivered her State of the State address this week, calling on lawmakers to choose “civility and unity” so that Kansas can be the “best place in America to raise a family.” KAC agrees that progress can only be made when our leaders reach across the aisle and work together for the good of every Kansan.

We can make progress by fully funding special education, because 1 in 6 students who use those services should have a robust, supportive learning environment that meets children where they’re at.

We can better ensure families are happy and healthy by expanding Medicaid, which would make health care accessible to 150,000 people in this state.

And we can support families – and help parents achieve long-term financial success – through state investments into making child care more accessible and affordable. As it is now, 21 counties do not have any open child care slots for infants and toddlers. Our current system is not sustainable, and we must make efforts into reversing the child care crisis we are experiencing.

We all want Kansas to be a place where kids have the best opportunities, and we can get there by coming together to prioritize every Kansas family when evaluating and passing policies this session.

Dolly Parton's Imagination Library

The House Committee on Appropriations introduced HB 2191, which would create a 501(c)(3) for the Children's Cabinet to administer the Dolly Parton Imagination Library. The Imagination Library has a broad reach, with one out of every 10 kids under the age of 5 in the United States receiving books from the program. The proposed bill could allow more Kansas children to participate in the program.

Emily Fetsch, KAC’s Director of Fiscal Policy, shares her experience with the program: When my baby was born recently, the program motivated us to decide on a name – even more than the requirement we needed to provide a name and fill out the birth certificate before we could leave the hospital! But our big push was because we needed a name in order to get signed up for the Imagination Library.

This week, we had story time with the first book we received in the mail (The Little Engine That Could), and I want to make sure every Kansan with a young child knows about the program and can participate. Click here to find out if the Imagination Library is available in your area.

“Welfare Reform” Informational Hearings Continue to Hint at More Restrictions on Family Support Programs

The House Committee on Welfare Reform continued with informational hearings and bill introductions. Tuesday, they heard about the child care assistance program. There was some pushback from the committee on a bill introduced by DCF (HB 2179) to bring Kansas into federal compliance by allowing families to receive child care assistance for at least 12 months if they are found initially eligible, regardless of their cooperation with the child support program. Under current state law, if a parent is not cooperating, they are immediately sanctioned and stop receiving benefits.

Thursday, the committee heard from DCF about the programs’ work requirements. We learned that since last session’s law requiring able-bodied adults without dependents to work at least 30 hours each week or be required to participate in an employment and training program was implemented October 1, 2022, 225 food assistance clients have already been sanctioned. These individuals now must wait at least three months before they can even reapply.

Last week, we told you about two bills introduced in this committee that would restrict eligibility for food assistance even further. HB 2141 would require non-custodial parents to cooperate with child support services “in good faith” and would disqualify a non-custodial parent for any month in which they are delinquent on a child support payment—including if they do not pay, can only afford a partial payment, or have any child support arrearages for any child support case. This will punish low-income working Kansans struggling to put food on the table and will only make it less likely that Kansas children can get all the support they need.

HB 2140 would require 50-59 year olds to work at least 30 hours a week or participate in a mandatory employment and training program they likely do not need or they will have their food assistance benefits taken away. KAC is particularly concerned about the effect this legislation would have on aunts, uncles, grandparents, and other older adults who help care for children in their families while those kids’ parents are at work providing for their families.

House K-12 Education Budget Committee Hears Bill Expanding Tax Breaks for Private School Scholarship Donations

After a quiet first two weeks of session, education policy heated up on Wednesday with an energetic hearing on HB 2048, an expansion of a low-income scholarship tax credit.

One looming question surrounding the expansion: does the scholarship program work in its current form? Education advocates, including KAC, brought the lack of oversight into focus, especially in comparison to the data continually requested from public schools in our state. With nearly one in six Kansas students receiving special education services, proponents of the bill agreed that they are not equipped to accept every student and cannot meet the needs of low-performing students. No committee action was taken on the bill this week.

The Early Learning Caucus held its first meeting of the 2023 session with 14 lawmakers participating. Monica Murnan, long-time advocate for early learning at the local level, led a discussion on the different aspects of early learning in Kansas and the funding that supports current practices. Discussion centered around child care and ways to improve our system. It was great to see so many legislators interested in how to help the youngest Kansans get off to a great start in life!

Waiting on Bill Hearings in Health Committees

We have little to report in the health space this week, as the health committees continue to receive briefings from various agencies and organizations, including through next week. We continue to monitor bills and await hearings to be scheduled, particularly on HB 2050 and SB 45, to permanently address an almost 15-year error in statute regarding eligibility for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

What to Expect in Week 4

Next week, many committees will continue to hold informational briefings on topics they likely plan to prioritize through bill hearings that following week or later on. KAC will weigh in on one bill that has a hearing next week, however.

  • On Tuesday, we will submit opponent testimony on HB 2110, which would allow single sales factor (SSF) apportionment of business income for certain types of organizations.