15 January 2021 |

Legislative update: Back to the statehouse, with a difference

Kansas Action for Children

Kansas Action for Children has kicked off the new year as we always do – by monitoring a new session of the Kansas Legislature. But there’s a big difference this time around. Rather than spending hours inside the statehouse, our team members are working from home, listening into sessions through livestreams and delivering testimony remotely.

Unfortunately, we saw an abundance of technical issues during the first week of session, and a disturbing lack of transparency with some bills. We made our concerns known, and we hope the situation improves. Despite the obstacles, we remain committed to the children and families of Kansas. Here's what we were watching:

EARLY LEARNING and FISCAL POLICY: Testimony highlights child care, bad tax proposal

On Wednesday, KAC staff testified for the first time this session. Mitch Rucker, our Early Learning Policy Advisor, joined the House Committee on Children and Seniors to share details about the work KAC does to advance the interests of children and families across the state, particularly around child care.

High-quality child care is essential for healthy brain development in children, the ability for parents to go to work, and for our economy as a whole. Right now, Kansas’ child care system is broken – families can’t afford to pay more, and providers can’t afford to make less. The legislature must act quickly to support the industry if we are to have any chance of economic recovery.

You can read Mitch’s testimony here. Watch him testify during the hearing.

Emily Fetsch, our Director of Fiscal Policy, joined the Senate Tax committee to oppose Senate Bill 22, a compilation of bad tax policy ideas from previous years. KAC believes the many Kansas families currently experiencing job, housing, and food insecurity should be lawmakers' focus. Instead, on the second day the tax committee took up a bill that would help corporations avoid their tax responsibilities and change itemized deductions to primarily favor the highest earners in Kansas.

You can read Emily’s testimony here. Watch her testify during the hearing.

HEALTH: Looking at maternal mortality, Medicaid expansion

Also last week, several legislators announced they will introduce bills in both chambers for more reporting on racial elements of Black maternal deathsCurrently, KDHE gathers data on race for infant deaths, but not for maternal deaths. Nationally, maternal mortality is significantly higher for Black moms. What are the numbers in Kansas? We will be watching for this important legislation.

The Senate and House health committees held several COVID-related informational hearings, including on testing and vaccine distributions. On Jan. 19, the two committees will hold a joint meeting at noon for a COVID response briefing with KDHE.  

Finally, Gov. Laura Kelly’s state of the state address highlighted her continued support to expand Medicaid, and her new budget includes prioritizing Medicaid Expansion. At this writing, no bill for expansion has been introduced; KAC will continue to watch for this legislation, as Medicaid Expansion matters for kids and families. 

Next week, we expect more testimony about SB 22 (the tax bill), and the Capitol will be closed to the public amid security concerns. KAC promises to keep you up to date!