01 May 2024 | Health Education Economic Security Tax and Budget Early Learning

2024 Statehouse Snapshot: Week 15

Kansas Action for Children
May 1, 2024

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Lawmakers Race to the Finish Line with Action on Vetoes, Rushed Legislation 

After three full days of legislative action during Veto Session, the Kansas Legislature officially wrapped up the 2024 session just past midnight this morning. The main things on their minds? Veto overrides, a new tax plan, and a hasty deal trying to entice the Chiefs or Royals to make Kansas their home.

Veto Override Attempts

Lawmakers came back after April break facing 15 bills vetoed by the Governor, half of which the Legislature overrode to become law. Of the bills that were overridden, the result hinged on just one or two lawmakers.

Here’s where the bills that KAC and other advocates were monitoring landed:

  • Senate Sub. for HB 2036 (large tax cut bill) — VETO SUSTAINED in the Senate 26-14 after House overrode the veto 104-15

  • House Sub. for SB 233 (ban on gender affirming care for minors) — VETO SUSTAINED in the House 82-43 after Senate overrode the veto 27-13

  • Senate Sub. for HB 2436 (creating the crime of “abortion coercion”) — VETO OVERRIDDEN in the Senate 28-10 and House 85-40 

  • HB 2446 (preempting local plastic bag bans) — VETO SUSTAINED after House failed to attempt an override

  • HB 2465 (providing funds for adoption tax credits and pregnancy resource centers) — VETO OVERRIDDEN in the House 85-40 and Senate 29-7

  • HB 2614 (recording the names of those delivering advance ballots) — VETO SUSTAINED after House failed to attempt an override

  • HB 2618 (creating the crime of falsely representing an election official) — VETO SUSTAINED in the Senate 26-11 after House overrode the veto 84-41

  • HB 2749 (requiring providers to report the reasons for an abortion) — VETO OVERRIDDEN in the House 84-41 and Senate 27-10

Rushed Legislation

After lawmakers failed to override the Governor’s veto on the tax plan (Senate Sub. for HB 2036), the Tax Conference Committee whipped up a deal with nearly identical provisions (and cost) of the failed bill. (Read more about the likely fate of the latest tax plan below.)

At the same time, the Commerce Conference Committee worked on a plan to try to incentivize the Chiefs and/or Royals to settle on the Kansas side. Despite lawmakers rushing to finalize the last-minute, unvetted legislation, neither chamber held a vote on it, making the attempt futile. This could come back up during the likely special session, however.

Senate Fails to Override Tax Cut Bill, Implications for a Special Session

While most of the House held their position on the tax bill sent to the Governor before the April break, the Senate was less enthusiastic, eventually failing to override the veto by a single vote. This left lawmakers (particularly leadership and those on the Tax Conference Committee) with the choice to compromise to get something done for Kansans or charge ahead without considering what could pass the Governor’s muster and come back for a special session.

Lawmakers, unfortunately, chose the latter. The Tax Conference Committee quickly worked up a nearly identical plan (House Sub. for SB 37) to the one Governor Kelly vetoed due to the bill’s cost. The plan was initially a tad more expensive than the vetoed legislation, exasperating opponents who wished to see something more modest in cost so the state budget remains stable in the long term.

Before the bill’s new components were even finalized, the Governor’s Office announced House Sub. for SB 37 was dead on arrival, including a reminder of the Governor’s threat of a special session. The Tax Conference Committee slightly amended House Sub. for SB 37 to decrease the overall cost, getting closer to where the Governor hoped the bill would be but not close enough to meet her threshold for a fiscally responsible tax cut package. Despite its likely lukewarm reception, both chambers passed the bill as one of their last items of business before adjourning for the year.

Now, the plan lies in the Governor’s hands, who has already announced her intention to veto the bill and bring lawmakers back for a special session focused on tax relief in a few weeks. If that happens, we hope the Legislature will bring a serious proposal to the table that is beneficial to all Kansans and responds to the need for sustainable tax cuts.

Child Care Bill Stays Stalled in Senate 

Coming into veto session, child care advocates paid close attention to House Sub. for House Sub. for SB 96, which was held up in the Senate, requiring only their up or down vote to progress to the Governor. The Senate failed to vote on the bill before the Legislature adjourned for the year, leaving the bill on the Senate’s cutting room floor.

As we’ve said before, we weren’t thrilled with some of the less-than-ideal provisions in the bill, but were excited at the prospect of establishing the Office of Early Childhood and expanding the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit to offer families and providers relief and streamlining the early childhood system in Kansas. If the Legislature is called back for a special session, there’s an ever so slight possibility the bill could be revived due to the tax credit inclusion, but that seems unlikely.

While this is a disappointing outcome for many, we keep admiring how child care providers and advocates proved their dedication to children in Kansas throughout this session. More than 1,100 Kansas providers, advocates, and stakeholders participated in an action alert to inform their lawmakers about the risks posed by the original version of House Sub. for SB 96, and many continued to connect with their lawmakers as the session progressed.

These connections have set up the child care community for success next year, as lawmakers became informed about the needs facing families and providers and the importance of adjusting regulations based upon feedback from the child care workforce. We wish that SB 96 could have avoided the negative amendments, but hope to come back in 2025 to promote the best ideas that surfaced this year.

Leaving Session with Wins for Kids' Health Issues

Throughout session, lawmakers considered multiple proposals addressing emergency health situations that can impact children.

Last minute, lawmakers passed a Good Samaritan law (House Sub. for SB 419), which includes immunity for bystander intervention in drug overdose situations. They also authorized EMS to leave behind over-the-counter medications with patients, including Narcan (House Sub. for SB 287). While forward progress faltered on numerous other health-related policies that impact kids and families, we are pleased the Legislature adopted these policies addressing emergency response to life-threatening situations.

With session ending, much of the health-related legislation we tracked over the past two years unfortunately (or fortunately) died. Here’s a brief list of some of what we monitored, supported, or worked against that didn’t make it through the process.

Beneficial health policy:

  • Medicaid expansion (HB 2415; HB 2556; SB 225; SB 355)

  • CHIP eligibility fix* (HB 2050; SB 45)

  • Newborn screening budget cap* (SB 139)

  • Maternal mortality review committee updates (SB 118)

  • Expedited partner therapy (SB 404; HB 2750)

  • Mental Health Intervention Team program (school-based mental health services) codification* (HB 2669)

  • Pediatrician-specific reimbursement rate increases through the budget process

(*Temporarily fixed through June 30, 2025, via a budget proviso)

Harmful health policy:

We are disappointed these good health policy pieces did not pass, but we’ll continue pursuing or supporting partners’ championing of these issues again in 2025, as we are adamant that these issues still be addressed. And with no anti-vaccine or anti-public health proposals becoming law, we believe this session has been a huge victory for kids’ and community health!

Making Progress on Reframing Family Support Programs

With session ending, so do several harmful bills that have had us holding our breath. While we’re disappointed proactive legislation that could have improved families' economic security were left untouched, we are pleased that, alongside our partners, our work to prevent harmful legislation from becoming law was successful.

Here is a recap of the defeated or ignored harmful economic security policies this session:

  • HB 2627 would have reorganized the statute that determines food, child care, and cash assistance eligibility. It would not have made program eligibility more restrictive, but it also would have done nothing to make accessing the programs easier and could have opened the door for harmful amendments. The House Committee on Welfare Reform voted the bill out, but the House never voted on it.

  • HB 2673 would have required the Department for Children and Families (DCF) to request a waiver from the federal government allowing Kansas to prohibit purchases of “soft drinks” or “candy” with food assistance benefits. The definitions in state statute are very broad, encompassing groceries like juice and granola bars, and the federal government has never accepted such a waiver. The House Committee on Welfare Reform passed this bill out, but it was never taken up by the House.

  • HB 2674 would have prohibited DCF from implementing the Summer EBT program, a new federal program that will provide summer grocery benefits to families with children eligible for the free or reduced-price lunch program. The House Committee on Welfare Reform received such broad opposition to this cruel bill that it did not even hold a hearing.

  • HB 2723/SB 542 were introduced to restrict a $40 million grant program that would help municipalities expand emergency homeless shelter infrastructure. Two committees amended the bills with more egregious policies, such as criminalizing sleeping on public lands statewide, regardless of whether the municipality received any funding. The House version died in committee while the Senate version was passed by the committee but never taken up by the full Senate.

  • SB 488 would have allowed the Office of the Medicaid Inspector General, under the Attorney General to expand their “fraud” investigations to the food and cash assistance programs. There is very little fraud in these programs, and any fraud that does exist is already handled by DCF. The bill was passed by the committee and the full Senate but never taken up by the House committee.

While it’s frustrating that lawmakers keep bringing up new ways to make it more burdensome for Kansans to access family support programs, the lack of progress in these bills demonstrate we’re better educating lawmakers on why more restrictions would be harmful. With more conversations and relationship-building, we hope we can start reversing some of the barriers Kansas has built in the last decade.

Lawmakers Tie Up Loose Ends Through Omnibus Budget

The Budget Conference Committee wrapped up its negotiations on any final budget items before sending the bill (HB 2551) to both chambers for a final vote. The bill received a deep split of votes, with the Senate voting 22-11 and the House voting 71-49 in favor of the budget plan. It seemed that most of the no votes were from legislators who believed much of the bill included favors to special interests.

But there were many hard-won successes in this bill that advocates have been working toward for years. One such item added funding for preventative dental care (exams, x-rays, and cleanings) for Medicaid patients for FY 2025. The bill also includes the Mental Health Intervention Team program (a portion of the funding is for non-public schools) and funding for the Community Developmental Disability administration to support the 500 new slots on the I/DD waiver.

Additionally, while the committee debated adding millions in funding for a program administered by Equifax that could have illegally redetermined eligibility for support programs like SNAP, TANF, and Medicaid, they decided to remove that provision and funding from the bill.

View more of what kid- and family-related items are in the omnibus bill here.

While the legislative budget work is essentially complete for the year, the start of the next year’s budget process will start back up soon. Learn more about how the budget works and how advocates can get involved for their priorities.

Join Our Team!

KAC is hiring an Economic Security Policy Advisor to join our team! In this role, you’ll advocate to improve the economic security of Kansas children and families through policies related to food security, cash assistance, housing, and other anti-poverty programs.

The ideal candidate can build genuine connections with our partners, advocates, and policymakers and share complex ideas clearly and convincingly to assist them in improving policies and practices to benefit Kansas children and families.

If you enjoy building relationships, and using data, policy, and advocacy with work that impacts people and communities across Kansas, we encourage you to apply.

What's Next?

With the Legislature hitting the gavel for the final time during the 2024 session, this Statehouse Snapshot would typically be the last of the series for the year. However, the work isn’t quite done yet, since the likelihood the Governor will call a special session is almost a certainty.

If a special session is called, lawmakers will make their way back to Topeka in a few weeks to address the topic at hand – sustainable tax cuts. While the primary purpose of the special session would be to address the Legislature’s tax cut plan that the Governor has repeatedly rejected, it’s important to note that pretty much any bill from the 2023-2024 biennium dealing with taxes could be taken up by the Legislature during this time, if they so choose.

Special sessions are a rare occurrence, so there are a lot of unknowns about how everything will play out. We’ll come back with a special edition of our Statehouse Snapshot series when lawmakers inevitably return.