2023 Statehouse Snapshot: Week 9
(Daniel Klaassen, Education Policy Advisor, testifies against SB 282 on March 8. Screenshot taken from the Legislature's YouTube stream.)
Kansas Action for Children
March 10, 2023
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Senate Commerce Hears Bill Changing Child Care Safety Standards
The Senate Commerce Committee heard SB 282 this week, and child care advocates were ready to have their voices heard. While both sides of the issue are passionate about finding the pieces to assemble a solution to the child care crisis, they differ on the path that should be taken.
The bill would change several safety standards, such as increasing the child-to-staff ratio, lowering the minimum age of workers to just 14 years old, and placing standards in Kansas law, which creates an inflexible child care system that cannot be easily changed.
While supporters touted how the bill will create more child care slots, opponents (including KAC) focused on the safety and quality of care that regulations help provide. The workers on the frontline of the crisis have solutions and are happy to share the multiple ways the state can address child care provider shortages – they just need a seat at the table. Tiffany Mannes, a child care provider from Overland Park, brought a visual aid showing the number of children each provider could have under the ratios the bill proposes. Under the bill, one provider could be caring for four infants and have up to six additional children. If an emergency (like a fire) were to arise, how would a single provider be able to get all children to safety?
Whether in testimony or answering questions, the Committee left with a better understanding that child care is a profession and only trained, experienced staff can provide high-quality care. A more holistic approach of solutions must be prioritized by the Legislature and agency partners. Until all potential changes are balanced and examined together, the solutions will be hard to find.
We hope senators on the Committee will truly consider opponents’ concerns and make efforts to listen to all perspectives before passing legislation that could put children at risk while doing very little to address the shortage of child care slots.
Flat Tax Proposal Gets Picked up in House Tax
We will provide opponent testimony on SB 169 because we are concerned this proposal would cost the state between $500 million and $700 million per year, while giving the largest tax cuts to the wealthiest Kansans. Read more of our analysis of the bill here.
This week, the House Taxation Committee Chair introduced a bill that would package several big tax policies together, including a flat tax proposal (of 4.95 percent) and the elimination of the state-level food sales tax. While speeding up the food sales tax elimination might be a good short-term gain, these types of packaged proposals would likely not be worth the long-term revenue consequences.
The loss of state revenue caused by a flat tax would not only endanger funding for the support programs and services Kansas families and communities rely on, but they also endanger the state-level food sales tax elimination that was passed last year! As Kansas has experienced in the past, the pressure on future legislators to make up for the loss of income taxes – due to the implementation of a flat tax – could put re-implementing the food sales tax (or increasing the overall sales tax rate) on the table in the future.
Budget Committee Disregards Public Testimony
This week, some concerning actions in the House Committee on Appropriations showed the Committee’s disregard for public input.
After reviewing the budget recommendations for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) from the House Social Services Budget subcommittee, the Appropriations Committee voted to completely discard their colleagues' work and, more importantly, the substantial work and testimony of citizens and advocates who had successfully demonstrated the need for those crucial funding enhancements for services to disabled and elderly Kansans. The Committee will now meet next Wednesday to discuss the KDADS budget without the public input and context that conferees provided during the dedicated budget hearings. All the while, they refuse to hold a hearing and receive public input on Medicaid Expansion, which would reduce some of the increasing costs they state they so oppose.
To add contradiction to the process, the Committee also voted to allow the K-12 Budget subcommittee to work their own budget instead of bringing recommendations to Appropriations like every other subcommittee must do. So, this smaller, less representative body will now get to set the budget and include policy to spend public dollars on private education. For a committee that has spent considerable time on ridiculously small line items, washing their hands of about half of the state budget is quite troubling.
We know lawmakers have a tough job balancing infinite needs and finite resources – we've highlighted some of the tough considerations they must make in our latest blog post – but the budget process should not be this convoluted, political, and inconsiderate of the voices of families and advocates across Kansas.
Welfare Reform Committee Sends HB 2140 (Restricting Access to Food Assistance) Back to House
Representatives in the House Committee on Welfare Reform heard from the Department for Children and Families (DCF) on further information regarding “good cause” exemptions for food assistance work requirements and child support cooperation requirements. The presentation was informative, but we are still concerned HB 2140 and HB 2141 would cause confusion within the agency and result in otherwise-eligible Kansans to be unable to get a little bit of help to supplement their grocery budgets.
On Thursday, they quickly re-worked HB 2140, which would require low-income Kansans in their 50s without dependents (and who already must meet a work requirement to receive food assistance) to enroll in an employment and training program if they aren’t working 30 hours a week to be eligible for the program. Without much discussion or any additional changes, the Committee passed the bill onto the whole House. Despite what bill supporters say, HB 2140 will make it harder for older Kansans already struggling to have enough to eat for every meal to stay in compliance with the food assistance program while costing the state hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process. We urge you to contact your lawmaker and tell them that this bill would be costly, punitive, and increase food insecurity in Kansas.
The Chair stated that HB 2430, the bill the Committee heard last week that would effectively criminalize being homeless on public land in Kansas and that faced significant opposition when it was heard last week, will not be worked this year. Instead, he plans to hold a discussion with experts in two weeks. We are thankful the Committee is holding off on such harmful legislation and hope they will continue to do so next year.
Watching Anxiously as Many Health Policies Currently Paused
Thankfully, there have still been no hearings scheduled for the anti-public health and vaccine bills (SB 6 and SB 20). We continue to hope that important bills for infant and maternal health will receive hearings this session (SB 139 and SB 118), but the window for hearings is also rapidly closing.
Welfare Reform Committee Will Be Briefed on Medicaid Redeterminations
Next week, the House Committee on Welfare Reform will receive Medicaid-related briefings from the Kansas Department of Health and Environment. Tuesday will be a Medicaid 101 briefing and Thursday will be an overview of the Medicaid redeterminations process that will begin again next month. We will watch these conversations very closely and hope this is not a sign that the Committee is turning its sights on the Medicaid program.
KanCare Expansion Rally
Next Wednesday, the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas is hosting a KanCare Expansion rally at the Statehouse – the first rally in support of expansion since before March 2020.
The rally will be held on the 2nd floor of the Capitol 1:15-2:15 p.m. The public is welcome to attend, but please RSVP here if you plan to come to the event!
Sadly, this rally may be the only real opportunity this session to publicly show your support of this important policy for Kansas families, kids, and all Kansans. Lawmakers continue to refuse to hold hearings on bills to expand KanCare, ignoring the mountains of research in support, including potentially reducing the number of Kansas kids entering the foster care system. We hope to see you next Wednesday in Topeka!
What to Expect in Week 10
Committees will continue to hold hearings and briefings over the next few weeks before a major legislative deadline in less than a month. Next week, KAC will provide testimony on several bills:
- In the House Taxation Committee:
- On Monday, we will present testimony in opposition to SB 169, the flat tax proposal that passed the Senate at the end of February.
- On Tuesday, we will present opponent testimony on SB 33, which would exempt all retirement and Social Security income from taxation, primarily benefiting the wealthiest seniors in the state instead of giving relief to those struggling.
- On Tuesday in the Welfare Reform Committee, we will present testimony in support of HB 2179, which would remove the child support cooperation requirement for the child care assistance program. DCF introduced this bill to comply with federal program rules, and KAC supports the bill as written because it will make the crucial program more accessible.
- On Wednesday in the Senate Education Committee, we’ll provide neutral testimony on HB 2060, regarding creation of a Special Education Task Force.