28 February 2024 | Economic Security Tax and Budget Health Early Learning

Post-Turnaround 2024, Much Work Left to Do for the Good of Kansas Kids

Jessica Herrera Russell | February 28, 2024

Lawmakers ended the first half of the 2024 legislation session with two days of floor action on Wednesday and Thursday ahead of the Turnaround deadline last Friday.

Now, any bills that can move forward this year must be from an “exempt” committee*, have passed its originating chamber, or have been “blessed” by legislative leadership and approved to move forward.

Here is where the Legislature is on bills impacting kids and families going into the last few months of this year’s Statehouse action.

(*Exempt committees include budget, tax, and federal and state affairs; all others are non-exempt.)

What Passed during Turnaround Week

Of the bills we were watching closely last week, three of them were debated and voted on.

HB 2536, the SOUL Family Legal Permanency Option, passed the House 112-8. With such wide support, we’re hopeful this bill will keep moving through the legislative process so that young people who exit foster care have permanent, legal relationships with trusted and supportive adults, while still allowing them to maintain close relationships with birth family members.

HB 2547, allowing school nurses to stock supplies of albuterol and epinephrine, passed the House 116-4. If the Senate takes up the bill, school nurses will be able to administer these life-saving medications in times of crisis before emergency medical help arrives.

SB 391, eliminating quarantine laws and restricting proactive collaboration among health officials, passed the Senate 23-17. We’re working to stop this bill in its tracks on the House side so that our state health officials can continue protecting our state from infectious disease outbreaks.

Bills that “Died” after Turnaround Deadline

With the Turnaround deadline behind us, several non-exempt bills weren’t voted on nor given approval by leadership to move forward.

HB 2673, requiring the state to submit a waiver to the federal government to allow the state to ban SNAP recipients from using benefits for “soft drinks” and “candy,” failed to get blessed. We're hopeful this means this unnecessary, controlling legislation is dead for the year and won’t pop up as an amendment to another bill.

HB 2674, banning Kansas from participating in the Summer EBT program, stalled in the House Committee on Welfare Reform and didn’t receive leadership’s blessing to stay active. After the bill had been introduced in Committee weeks ago, advocates were quick to shine a light on this punitive legislation targeting hungry Kansas kids. The pressure seemed to work, and this policy is unlikely to come up again this session.

HB 2581, removing child support order requirements during the process of a child coming into state custody, stalled after it left the House Committee on Child Welfare and Foster Care. This would have been a positive change for many struggling families who are trying to reunify with their children and become more financially secure. Perhaps next year the policy will inch closer to success.

HB 2750, permitting the use of expedited partner therapy (EPT) to treat sexually transmitted infections (STIs), would have potentially helped expecting mothers get the medication they need before giving birth. It passed the House Committee on Health and Human Services, but did not come up for a vote on the House floor. SB 404 was the Senate version of this policy. While a hearing was held, the Committee didn’t work the bill nor did Senate leadership bless it.

What Legislative Leadership “Blessed”

Several non-exempt bills were on the legislative agenda for last week but weren’t debated or voted on. Typically, this means the bills can’t progress, but with leadership’s “blessing,” can continue on as normal. Five key bills are likely to get further action in the coming weeks.

HB 2627, reorganizing the Kansas statute dealing with family support program eligibility requirements, could be amended to add policy changes (most likely ones that would not improve eligibility nor access).

SB 390, easing vaccine requirements, was given approval to move forward despite it catering to just a few Kansans who want to upend our vaccination laws that have kept our communities safe for decades. If the Senate Committee on Public Health and Welfare sends it out to the full Senate, we’ll promptly work to defeat the bill.

SB 488, expanding the powers of the Office of the Inspector General to include oversight of food and cash assistance “fraud,” is still in the Senate Committee on Public Health and Welfare. The bill came up in the last few days before the Turnaround voting marathon, so little time has been devoted to really understanding the need for such a duplicative proposal. We'll keep an eye on when the Committee works the bill.

SB 489, establishing the Nursery Programs for Incarcerated Moms Act, was heard by the Senate Committee on Public Health and Welfare a little over a week ago. We hope committee members work and pass out this bill to the full Senate so that small children with incarcerated mothers can experience fewer adverse childhood experiences that can follow them throughout their life.

HB 2785, establishing the Office of Early Childhood, has been stalled for some time. Seeing it “blessed” by leadership is a positive sign that the House Committee on Commerce, Labor and Economic Development may hold a hearing on the proposal soon. Unifying Kansas’ early childhood system into a single agency would help providers when starting businesses and help parents accessing child care assistance.

What's Next

Taxes

With the House failing to override the Governor’s flat tax veto, lawmakers can craft a new tax package that returns more money to low- and middle-income Kansans. We believe our plan to create a state child tax credit is the most meaningful way to support children and families through tax policy. A hearing on HB 2687 was given in House Tax the day before Turnaround. We'll continue to lay the foundation for this proactive policy.

State Budget

No matter what, the Legislature must pass at a basic state budget. Agency budgets will soon be reviewed and deliberated in committee before both chambers reconcile their differences through the conference committee process in March and April. We’ll be watching the conversation during budget discussions to find opportunities to invest state dollars into key priorities, like the historic child care funding proposed in the Governor’s budget that some committees have already stripped out.

Child Care

Despite several lawmakers having said child care would be a focus of theirs, we have yet to see the Legislature move forward on any policies yet this session. The Office of Early Childhood is likely to get a hearing soon, however. Besides that and early learning-focused funding in the state budget, lawmakers are not having meaningful discussions of how to help improve the child care system in Kansas. We’ll still be watching if any bills diminishing Kansas’ safety regulations come into play this late in session.

Medicaid Expansion

We’ve been waiting for weeks to see when the Senate and House committees will hold a hearing on Medicaid expansion, as many Kansans have asked for. Those have not yet been set, but both sides of the Legislature have said publicly there will be hearings at some point – when and in which committees remain to be seen.

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