10 May 2021 |

Legislative update: Week 17: Session business wraps up, with plenty of frustrations

Kansas Action for Children
May 10, 2021

That was a week.

You can read accounts from the KAC team below about how the veto session went. Suffice to say, positive outcomes for our state's kids and families were in short supply. So much business was left undone.

At moments like this, however, we all remember why this work is important. It's because good policy needs our work and support every single day of the year, not just when lawmakers meet. It's because every single Kansas kid deserves a state that puts them first.

Thanks for following along with these weekly updates. We'll be switching back to a monthly schedule, but always feel free to reach out to us with questions or comments.

EARLY LEARNING: Child care tax credit left for next year

The 2021 legislature has concluded its business for the year, and frustratingly HB 2414 – the employer child care tax credit – was one of several issues left unaddressed.

Despite having broad support from a variety of stakeholders, no opponent testimony, and passing out of committee with bipartisan support, legislative leadership declined to allow the full House of Representatives to even vote on the bill. It is disappointing that we must wait at least one more year to get this done, but the progress we’ve made so far is promising. The work will continue in the interim and next session.

We will continue to collaborate with lawmakers in both parties to get this across the finish line and bring a little relief to working families who need support with finding and affording child care. Thank you to all who have followed and advocated for this bill.

You can contact Early Learning Policy Advisor Mitch Rucker at [email protected].

HEALTH: Medicaid expansion remains elusive

At least one thing didn’t change by the end of session: the Kansas legislature STILL refused to pass Medicaid expansion, let alone allow hearings on expansion and have it follow the normal legislative process (fast forward to the 38:25 minute mark of this Alliance for a Healthy Kansas video to watch a frank discussion between a Kansas senator and representative about this situation).

During the wrap-up week floor debates, a few legislators asked: “Why are we taking up this issue (such as junk insurance plans), instead of addressing Medicaid expansion?” Ask your representative and senator this question before January 2022. Medicaid expansion affects communities across the state, and new reports reveal finally passing it would have significant economic benefits for Kansas communities (see KHI report; Leatherman report), not to mention help Kansas kids and families.

The other big health-related issue I closely monitored during wrap-up week: Would Kansas attempt to ban so-called COVID-19 “vaccine passports”? Much negotiating occurred behind the scenes and across multiple conference committees. In the end, watered-down language passed in the final budget bill, preventing state agencies from requiring COVID-19 vaccine “proof” through June 30, 2022. It was frustrating to watch lawmakers tie the hands of public health experts and not trust them to lead with their expertise -- a theme of the last 14-plus months. Certain lawmakers did push for the “vaccine passport ban” to also apply to other entities (like businesses or in health care settings), but that language thankfully failed to make it out of any conference committee.

So concludes my first session monitoring health policy for KAC. If there’s a health policy issue of interest to you or your organization, reach out to me!

You can contact Health Policy Advisor Heather Braum at [email protected].

FISCAL POLICY: House and Senate override veto of tax bill

Last Monday, the Kansas Legislature voted to override Gov. Laura Kelly’s veto of Senate Bill 50, meaning a two-thirds majority of lawmakers in both houses decided to support tax breaks for high-income Kansans and the well-connected over investment in our state’s foundations. Senate Bill 50 will reduce revenue by nearly $300 million over the next three years. That’s hundreds of millions of dollars that won’t be available for our state’s schools, health care system, family support programs, or to recover for the COVID-19 pandemic.

Over this session, the Legislature could have pushed forward proposals to make the food sales tax credit refundable, which would have helped low-income Kansans put food on their tables. Lawmakers could have considered reinstating the Homestead Property Tax Credit to renters, during a year when many Kansans have faced housing insecurity. The House and Senate could have considered tax policies that were equitable, responsible, and would have helped our state thrive. But instead, they passed a bill that does little for the average working Kansan, while offering yet another tax break to those at the top.

There are silver linings. This bill is less costly than SB 22, which came up earlier this session and costs hundreds of millions of dollars more. It also includes the marketplace facilitator provision, a way to collect some additional revenue, although not enough to cover the full cost of the bill. It still doesn’t do enough to level the playing field between Kansas businesses and their out-of-state competitors.

We thank those legislators in the House and Senate who took a challenging vote and stood up for commonsense fiscal policy by opposing SB 50.

You can contact Director of Fiscal Policy Emily Fetsch at [email protected].