2024 Statehouse Snapshot Week 5
Photo: Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture, was once proposed to sit atop the Capitol dome, reminding us of our state's contribution in the country's breadbasket.
Kansas Action for Children
February 9, 2024
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Tell Welfare Reform Committee to Help with Child Hunger During the Summer
As we get closer and closer to some legislative deadlines at the end of the month, the House Committee on Welfare Reform keeps avoiding spending their time on legislation that would improve the lives of the Kansans who are eligible for family support programs. Yesterday, the Committee voted to pass HB 2627, a bill that just reorganizes the statute determining eligibility for these programs. A few members attempted several amendments to make it easier for eligible families to access these programs, but most Committee members voted NO on each amendment attempt with little or no discussion on the merits of the proposed policies.
But it’s not all busy work in the Committee this year; one substantive bill they are entertaining targets hungry kids. Under HB 2674, Kansas would be prohibited from participating in the new, permanent Summer EBT program. The federal program would provide just $120 in summer grocery benefits for children who are eligible for free or reduced-price school meals. That modest benefit, 100% federally funded, would help fill the gap that many Kansas families face when their children are on summer break and no longer have access to school breakfast and lunch.
We are still having trouble believing that some lawmakers want to prevent Kansas kids from having enough to eat during the summer, but that’s what would happen under this bill. A hearing has not been set for the bill yet, but the Committee needs to hear from Kansans like you that we should decrease child hunger in the summer months, not make it worse. You can tell Committee members to do the right thing and oppose HB 2674.
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Medicaid Expansion Hearings? Nope, Senate Tackling Bad Health Bills Instead
Instead of holding Medicaid expansion hearings – which an overwhelming majority of Kansans support – the Senate Committee on Public Health and Welfare is choosing to hold hearings on anti-vaccine and anti-public health bills (SB 390 and SB 391).
For five sessions in a row, some lawmakers are continuing to attack the health and well-being of our children and communities by taking up proposals that would greatly diminish Kansas’ childhood vaccine policy and hamper the ability of state and local officials to stop the spread of infectious diseases.
So far, these different proposals haven’t become law, but every attempt remains concerning. If you believe in healthy communities and protecting children from deadly diseases, learn more from the Immunize Kansas Coalition on how you can take action.
As we impatiently wait for the Legislature to hold hearings on Medicaid expansion, here are a few ongoing or upcoming opportunities to show your support and continue putting pressure on lawmakers:
- Keep contacting your lawmakers, demanding hearings be held on Medicaid expansion.
- Next week, on Feb. 14, join the “Love Thy Neighbor” event at the Statehouse. More details are available from our partner, the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas.
- Mark your calendar to come to the Statehouse on March 6, at 12:30 p.m. for the 2024 Rally for Medicaid expansion.
In some good news, a school health bill (HB 2547), championed by the Kansas School Nurses Organization, passed out of the House Health Committee this week. This bill would allow school nurses to stock and administer albuterol and epinephrine, two life-saving medications for kids and others experiencing asthma attacks or allergic reactions. We hope a floor vote is scheduled on it soon.
Bill Introduced to Establish Office of Early Childhood
The creation of the Kansas Office of Early Childhood was officially introduced in the House Committee for Child Welfare and Foster Care as HB 2785. First proposed by the Governor in January, this office is anticipated to streamline and unify the governance system for early childhood care and education. Families and providers must interact with up to four state agencies to address care and education for our youngest citizens, creating an opportunity for the state to offer comprehensive service delivery.
If the Office of Early Childhood were to be established, existing programs related to child care, home visiting services, and Head Start would be under a “one-stop shop,” streamlining the early childhood system. KAC believes that collaboration in a unified office increases government accountability to eliminate duplication and overlap and increase efficiency for providers and families.
Now it’s up to the Legislature to accept this idea to establish a single office devoted to early learning in Kansas. We expect there to be a hearing on the proposal soon, and KAC and partners will weigh in to ensure that those who know how frustrating our fragmented system is will be heard by lawmakers. We hope the Legislature will support child care professionals and the hardworking families who rely on them by moving this policy through the legislative process.
Waivers, Child Care Prominent in This Week’s Budget Discussions
On Tuesday, the Governor released an amendment to her proposed budget that would increase funding for the intellectual/developmental disability (I/DD) and physical disability (PD) waivers. If the Legislature invested $23 million, 250 additional slots for the I/DD waiver and 250 slots for the PD waiver would be added. While this is a good first step, the Governor’s increase is not quite to the increased level that disability rights advocates support, which would add 1,100 total slots to the I/DD waiver and 500 total slots to the PD waiver, reducing the two waiting lists by 20 percent. And just as a reminder, implementing Medicaid expansion would be an additional path forward to helping the estimated 15,000 Kansans with disabilities get the health care services they need.
Tell your lawmakers to eliminate the 11-year waitlist for disability services here.
Unfortunately, some budget talks resulted in disappointment to early childhood proponents. As a reminder, early in the session, Governor Kelly requested a landmark $56.4 million allocation for funding the early childhood system. This request includes $30 million for child care accelerator grants, $15 million toward sustainability grants for family child care providers, and $5 million toward a pilot program in Northwest Kansas to address the child care shortage in that region. This funding is spread out across several state entities that administer the early learning system in Kansas.
As the House Committee on Social Services Budget meetings looked at the Department for Children and Families’ (DCF) budget this week, requests using inaccurate information were enough for lawmakers to become confused about the details.
The Committee added a $500,000 grant for “home-based child care incubators,” which would allocate state dollars to an out-of-state for-profit company to replicate the work of Kansas’ local nonprofit organizations. At the same time, they removed the Governor’s $15 million request for sustainability grants for family (home-based) child care providers.
This leaves just around $3.7 million (plus $500,000 for the out-of-state company) of the Governor’s proposed $18.7 million earmarked for early learning in DCF’s budget, if left as is. The House or Senate appropriations committees could choose to revert back to the Governor’s proposal, however.
Still on “Flat Tax” Veto Override Watch; Other Tax Opportunities Slow to Move Forward
With the Governor vetoing HB 2284 two weeks ago, we’re still on a veto override watch. The House has until early in the last week of February to attempt their override vote attempt on the flat tax bill. With House margins close, leadership will need to ensure they get every member there to be successful.
And the Senate margins are even closer – it could come down to just one vote determining whether the veto will be sustained.
Until a veto override attempt plays out, other policies that would help Kansas families remains in limbo. Whatever happens, we are still hopeful we can see some movement on our state child tax credit proposal that we introduced in the Senate and House tax committees last week.
This would give every Kansas parent or caregiver up to $600 for every child back on their tax returns, depending on their household income. Putting money back in the pockets of families will help them meet their basic needs while boosting local economies.
We are confident this tax solution will help hundreds of thousands of kids have what they need to grow up healthy and thrive. Learn more about the proposal here.
What to Expect in Week 6
Next week’s schedule partially depends on the Kansas City Chiefs and if they’re able to pull off a third Super Bowl win within the last five seasons. If they do beat the San Francisco 49ers, we expect the Statehouse to be quiet on Wednesday when fans will celebrate in Kansas City. While we’re rooting for the local team to win (of course), this is likely to disrupt hearings and other action in the Statehouse next week.
With that in mind, this is what we’re testifying on in week 6 of the legislative session:
- We’ll present testimony on several key agency budgets:
On Monday in the House Committee on Social Services Budget, we’ll testify to highlight our support of several items in the Kansas Department of Health and Environment budget. We’ll do the same in the Senate Committee on Ways and Means on Thursday.
On Monday in the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, we’ll testify to highlight our support of several items in the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services budget. We’ll do the same in the House Committee on Social Services Budget on Thursday.
On Tuesday in the Senate Committee on Education, we’ll testify to highlight our support of several items in the Kansas State Department of Education budget.
On Monday in the House Committee on Health and Human Services, we’ll testify in favor of HB 2750, which would allow the use of expedited partner therapy to treat a sexually transmitted disease.
In the House Committee on Welfare Reform:
On Tuesday, they’ll hear HB 2673, which would require DCF to submit a waiver to the USDA requesting permission to ban purchases of “soft drinks” and “candy” for food assistance users in Kansas. The USDA has never granted such a waiver, making this bill a complete waste of the Committee’s time. We will present testimony in opposition.
With the schedule still showing as “to be announced” on Thursday, the Committee could hold a hearing on HB 2674, banning Kansas from participating in the Summer EBT program. If that gets scheduled, we’ll present testimony in opposition.
In the Senate Committee on Public Health and Welfare:
On Wednesday, we’ll testify in opposition to SB 390, which would create a conscientious right to refuse vaccines and other medical care and eliminating several laws related to public health quarantines.
On Thursday, we’ll testify in opposition to SB 391, which would weaken laws for responding to disease outbreaks.
- On Thursday in the House Committee on Taxation, we'll testify in favor of HB 2636, which would extend the Homestead Tax Credit to renters.
Next week, we’re also preparing for a hearing on HB 2785, the bill establishing the Office of Early Childhood. That hearing has not yet been scheduled in the House Committee on Child Welfare and Foster Care, but when it is, we’ll testify in favor.