08 March 2024 | Early Learning Health Economic Security Tax and Budget

2024 Statehouse Snapshot: Week 9

Kansas Action for Children
March 8, 2024

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Advocacy Day Highlights the Need for Early Learning Opportunities 

On Wednesday, nearly 150 child care providers, early learning professionals, and advocates gathered for Early Learning Advocacy Day at the Kansas Statehouse. Governor Kelly kicked off the day by thanking attendees for their commitment to the children in Kansas and shared her hopes for the work they do. She encouraged participants to use their voices to strengthen the early childhood system in Kansas.

Attendees participated in a range of activities, including an advocacy training, meeting with lawmakers, and reading to children alongside lawmakers in the Statehouse Rotunda (photo). Additionally, both the House of Representatives and the Senate recognized the contributions of the early childhood professionals during their chamber proceedings.

During Advocacy Day, the Early Learning Caucus gathered to learn about innovative business solutions used around Kansas. Eight presenters discussed strategies they’ve implemented to address child care needs in their communities, such as the Small Center pilot program created to accommodate the unique needs of rural communities and the Baby Steps pilot program that addresses financial losses when a provider offers infant care. Lastly, a few presenters discussed accreditation programs and professional development that have strengthened their businesses and connected them to their larger community of early childhood educators.

The bill to establish the Office of Early Childhood (HB 2785) was originally scheduled for a hearing during Advocacy Day, but unfortunately had to be postponed due to Representatives running late on the House floor. If the House Committee on Commerce, Labor and Economic Development had been able to meet that day, members would have been greeted with a full room of supporters! The Committee ended up holding the hearing the next day and plans to finish this coming week. With more than 30 people offering proponent testimony and 700+ signatures from individuals and organizations on a sign-on letter, we hope the Committee will move this bill forward.

Welfare Reform Continues Its Focus on Homelessness

The House Committee on Welfare Reform held a hearing on HB 2723, which would establish a $40 million grant program for cities and counties to improve and develop infrastructure for emergency homeless shelters. Many in-state agencies and service providers testified expressing their support for the funding but concern for a few of the stipulations for municipalities receiving funding, including:

  • A requirement to enforce local camping and vagrancy ordinances;
  • A requirement for a dollar-for-dollar match from the city or county receiving funding;
  • The restriction on the use of funds for only emergency shelter infrastructure instead of including transitional and supportive housing; and
  • The lack of a severability clause, given concerns that some of the above provisions could be challenged in court.

These concerns were heightened when the Committee held an open discussion on homelessness, state versus local responsibilities, and possible policy directions. While the discussion was robust and Committee members generally agreed that evidence-based, data-driven, and locally-led approaches are likely the most successful in addressing homelessness, it was clear the Chair believes statewide criminalization is the correct policy direction. This is in despite of research and data demonstrating that criminalization only makes it harder for people experiencing homelessness to regain stability.

Last year, this Committee held a hearing on a bill that would have instituted this policy, and there was such overwhelming opposition from Kansas service providers and subject matter experts that the Committee did not even work the bill. Hopefully the Committee remembers the outpouring of opposition and will refrain from going in that direction again.

Medicaid Expansion Rally Draws Hundreds to the Capitol

Hundreds of Kansans from all over the state rallied loudly in support of Medicaid expansion in the Statehouse this week. As the rally began, Alliance for a Healthy Kansas Executive Director April Holman reminded the audience that the House hasn’t held a hearing on Medicaid expansion since 2017 and the Senate hasn’t held one since 2020.

Governor Kelly, among other speakers, addressed why the Legislature must expand Medicaid now. The Legislature is out of excuses, the Governor shared.

Parents and caregivers in the coverage gap often put their own health on the backburner (which can turn disastrous). Expansion would provide affordable opportunities for parents to finally focus on their health, which will also benefit their families. A pediatrician shared the numerous ways expansion will directly benefit kids and their families — including long before kids are even born — and impact the trajectory of kids’ lives into adulthood.

There have been indications the House Health Committee will hold a hearing, but time is running out. We have heard that the Senate will also hold hearings, but those dates have yet to be announced.

Keep contacting your lawmakers about holding hearings and sharing why they must support this important issue for the health of our Kansas kids, families, and communities.

Flat Tax... Round 3 

The Senate Tax Committee plans to move quickly on a new bill that, among some good changes, would give lawmakers another shot at passing a flat tax. SB 539 was finally revealed to the public late yesterday afternoon and will have a hearing on Tuesday morning – giving anyone who’d like to testify on the bill very little time to craft testimony in response to the proposed tax package.

Under this newest proposal, the single-income bracket would group everyone into the highest percentage bracket (5.7%) and then gradually decrease the rate by 0.05% every year until it hits a floor of 5.45% in 2029.

There are some trade-offs that could offset the income tax increases some Kansans would see under the bill, such as through standard deduction and personal exemption increases. But with such short notice for a quick analysis, we are concerned middle-income households could see their taxes increase just so the highest-income Kansans can benefit.

This bill comes just after the state released its most recent monthly revenue report, showing Kansas falling below collection estimates for the fourth month in a row. While not great cause for alarm right now, the less-than-appealing revenues should make lawmakers more cautious when doling out large-scale tax cuts like in SB 539.

As the appropriations committees finish working through their final budget bills with their full chambers in the next week or so, we’ll be watching if they continue giving a status quo, bare bones budget. If they do, the Legislature could use this to arbitrarily inflate the state coffers and give excuses as to why the state can “afford” to give hundreds of millions in tax breaks to Kansans who already make the most.

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 three bills:

  • On Tuesday in Senate Health, we’ll provide proponent testimony on HB 2547, a bill allowing school nurses to stock emergency supplies of albuterol and epinephrine.

  • On Tuesday in Senate Tax, we’ll provide opponent testimony on SB 539, the Legislature’s third attempt at passing a flat tax.

  • On Wednesday in House Appropriations, we’ll provide proponent testimony on HB 2811, establishing the Nursery Program for Incarcerated Moms.

Get day-to-day updates on what bills KAC is monitoring during the 2024 Session here. And don't forget to follow us on Twitter @kansasaction for updates throughout the week.

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