2024 Statehouse Snapshot: Week 4
Kansas Action for Children
February 2, 2024
Want to receive this weekly recap as soon as it's released? Sign up for our emails here.
State Child Tax Credit Would Help Low-income Families
Kansas Action for Children is proud to have introduced two bills (one in the Senate and another in the House) that would establish a state child tax credit in Kansas. This bold proposal would benefit thousands of kids living in Kansas households by giving parents and caregivers between $25-$600 per child back on their tax returns. Around $145 million would go back to Kansas families each year. (Photo: John Wilson, President and CEO, introduces a bill establishing a state child tax credit in the Senate Tax Committee.)
We all know many families have increasingly struggled in recent years due to the rising cost of groceries, child care, and other basic needs compounded by low, stagnant wages. It’s time to put money back in the pockets of low- and middle-income families across Kansas to boost their financial security and local economies.
We are hopeful the bills will receive hearings in the tax committees in the next few weeks and will move to the full chambers for a vote. Read more about how the credit would work and who would benefit here.
Besides a child tax credit, there are other tax options that would target relief for low- and middle-income families. In the hearing on SB 377 (the Governor’s tax plan), the Senate Tax Committee heard about how hurrying up the state grocery sales tax elimination (and including diapers and feminine hygiene products), implementing property tax relief, and increasing the standard deduction and other tax credits would help Kansas families.
Making an investment in children and families will make Kansas a state where all can thrive. Lawmakers have plenty of options to channel part of the state’s budget surplus to Kansans who need it most without busting the state budget.
Summer EBT Program in Jeopardy in Kansas
A bill (HB 2674) was introduced in the House Committee on Welfare Reform that would prohibit Kansas from participating in the Summer EBT program. Summer EBT is a new federal program that provides $40 a month in grocery benefits for three summer months to children who are eligible for free or reduced-price meals during the school year. Those benefits are 100% federally funded, with the state and federal governments splitting the small administrative costs.
Summer can be the hungriest months for kids who rely on school meals to get fed throughout the school year. Current summer feeding programs cannot reach every child, especially in a rural state like Kansas, and Summer EBT would supplement those efforts. It’s a proven concept with a history of bipartisan support; Kansas’ own Senator Roberts spearheaded one of the earliest efforts to create a permanent Summer EBT program.
The bottom line is that Summer EBT is about making sure that Kansas kids in families living on low incomes have the nutrition they need to keep learning, playing, and growing in the summer months. We hope the Committee recognizes HB 2674 will worsen child hunger in Kansas and vote it down.
Following a hearing on HB 2627 (which would reorganize the statute determining eligibility for public assistance programs while making no substantive, impactful changes for Kansas families), the Committee learned more about child nutrition programs and the process by which schools verify eligibility for free and reduced-price meals. Committee questions then veered into the Community Eligibility Provision and Summer EBT, demonstrating the need for much deeper understanding of these programs in the Statehouse and a general suspicion of programs that make it easier for kids to have enough to eat in and out of school time.
Committee Proposes Ridding of Special Ed Task Force
It’s widely known by educators and parents of students receiving special education services that neither the federal government nor the Kansas Legislature has been spending what’s needed to serve these students.
But instead of focusing on meeting its required financial obligations, state lawmakers are dodging the real issue. A bill in the House K-12 Budget Committee seeks to create a new task force to study the school finance formula and, in turn, abolish the current Special Education (SPED) and Related Services Funding Task Force that was created just last year. While the school finance formula is fundamental to our public schools and ensuring they have the appropriate budgets to serve all Kansas students, abolishing the SPED Task Force is not the way to go.
SPED has been woefully underfunded for years, and the removal of the current SPED Task Force will only further delay the critical and immediate attention needed to fix the financial gap for SPED services. SPED advocates implored the House committee that both task forces are essential and can work in partnership.
The Governor has included an increase in SPED funding in her budget to get it up to the statutory requirement. Lawmakers should be focusing on how to help kids achieve success rather than playing politics with these services.
Good Health News for Kids
The House Health Committee held a hearing on HB 2547, a bill from the Kansas School Nurses Organization that would allow school nurses to stock supplies of albuterol and epinephrine. These life-saving medications are critical to have on hand so they can be readily administered in emergencies to students, staff, and even community members at school events. The Committee is scheduled to work this bill next week, and we look forward to seeing it move forward in the legislative process as something positive for kids’ health!
The House Health Committee also heard from KDHE on current vaccination policies and the required vaccination lists for children, as well as what happens in the business sector for adults. After four consecutive legislative sessions with an increasing amount of vaccine misinformation shared, it was a breath of fresh air to hear from Kansas experts on how the state’s vaccine processes work in reality.
With Kansas Day come and gone, the Legislature missed advocates’ deadline to hold a hearing on Medicaid expansion. But there are rumblings that Medicaid expansion hearings are likely to take place at some point (when and in what committees remains a mystery), thanks to Kansans like you who are keeping the heat on the Legislature. Real Kansans’ stories are vital to decisionmakers understanding how expanding Medicaid will make a difference, especially for families. We encourage you to continue to reach out to lawmakers and share this link for your friends and family to do so, too.
What to Expect in Week 5
As some legislative deadlines near, lawmakers and committees have been increasingly introducing bills for consideration in their respective committees and kicking off several bill hearings. Here’s what KAC expects to weigh in on next week:
On Tuesday in the House Social Services Budget Committee, we’ll submit proponent testimony on the Department for Children and Families’ budget.
On Thursday in the Senate Committee on Public Health and Welfare, we’ll submit proponent testimony on SB 404, which would give physicians the authority to prescribe medication for the partners of those diagnosed with STIs.
As of today, the Welfare Reform Committee’s agenda shows presentations on homelessness for both Tuesday and Thursday from UCS of Johnson County and the City of Topeka, respectively. It will be helpful for the Committee to finally hear in-state expertise and insights on this complex issue. However, we expect there could also be hearings on two harmful bills. If the Committee moves forward next week, we’ll present opponent testimony.
HB 2674 would prohibit the state from participating in the Summer EBT program.
HB 2673 would require the state annually to ask the federal government for a waiver to ban food assistance recipients from purchasing candy and soft drinks (using some questionable definitions) with their benefits. The ban is not currently allowed by the federal government.