Statehouse Snapshot: Week 12
Kansas Action for Children
April 4, 2022
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LAWMAKERS ADJOURN WITHOUT TAKING UP IMPACTFUL POLICIES
Lawmakers adjourned at nearly 2 a.m. on Saturday morning after a long day of conference committees, debate, and voting on a number of measures. Our team stayed at the Statehouse until the end, just in case lawmakers took further action on cutting the state sales tax on food, K-12 school funding, or the child care tax credit for employers. However, despite conference committees having struck deals on these policies, all three failed to reach the floor of either chamber for votes.
Instead, lawmakers spent their time banning transgender girls from participating in school sports, debating the “Parents’ Bill of Rights” that contains provisions opening schools up to lawsuits, attempting to “freeze” the KanCare program from any changes for a period of time, and making it more difficult for certain Kansans to access food assistance.
The Legislature returns on April 25 for “veto session,” the time when lawmakers will attempt to override any vetoes from the Governor, as well as consider the omnibus state funding bill. With the Legislature having so many policies outstanding, it’s still possible lawmakers will consider bills they were unable to debate and vote on this last week. We will be monitoring closely when the reconvene for the final days of the 2022 session to see if lawmakers pass these policies that impact kids.
COMMITTEE COMES TO AGREEMENT ON FOOD SALES TAX, BUT BILL NOT CONSIDERED IN EITHER CHAMBER
While one tax policy bill passed out of both chambers last week, the Legislature’s first adjournment for the session ended without any food sales tax bill being brought to either the Senate or House floor.
The tax conference committee met many times last week to work on combining large amounts of bills into just three bills: Senate Sub. for HB 2239, Senate Sub. for HB 2597, and HB 2106 (most recent food sales tax bill). The tax conference committee’s agreement on HB 2106 would decrease the state sales tax on food from 6.5% to 4% on January 1, 2023, to 2% on January 1, 2024, and to 0% on January 1, 2025.
Senate Sub. for HB 2239, which included an overwhelming 29 provisions from other bills, passed the Senate and House chambers on Friday evening. Neither Senate Sub. for HB 2597 nor HB 2106 were considered in either chamber. When the Legislature returns on April 25, KAC will continue to monitor tax policy developments and encourage the Legislature to address Kansas’ high state-level sales tax on food.
FOOD ASSISTANCE RESTRICTION SENT TO GOVERNOR
This week, a conference committee met to work on Senate Sub. for HB 2448, a bill that would make the Department for Children and Families’ employment and training program mandatory for all “able-bodied adults without dependents” (ABAWDs) who are not working at least 20 hours per week. The committee, led by Representative Tarwater, Chair of the House Commerce, Labor, and Economic Development Committee, amended the bill to increase to 30 hours the minimum number of hours an ABAWD must work or be required to participate in the employment and training program.
Despite discussion on both the Senate and House floors about how punitive, mean, and a waste of taxpayer dollars this change is, the bill passed both chambers. The House vote, however, demonstrates that there is bipartisan opposition to imposing additional restrictions and requirements on Kansans who utilize the food assistance program.
CONFERENCE COMMITTEES UNABLE TO AGREE TO CHANGES TO CHILDHOOD IMMUNIZATION REQUIREMENTS
During conference committee week, anything can happen. On the health front, that was blatantly clear.
We spent all week closely monitoring multiple conference committee discussions to watch for any serious consideration of policies weakening both childhood immunization and infectious disease prevention procedures and requirements (including those passed out of the Senate last week in SB 541, SB 489, and Senate Sub. for HB 2280). These ideas did get raised in several different ways and places, but the House negotiators in each committee refused to seriously consider them. We are relieved to make it to First Adjournment without these destructive policies moving forward, but we will continue to monitor closely for them when the Legislature returns in late April.
The KanCare freeze language that passed in the House budget last week was removed from the budget bill during negotiations before reappearing in another bill and conference committee. This new language delays the next round of MCO contract negotiations until January 31, 2023. The Senate passed the conference committee report (CCR) for HB 2387 early Saturday morning, but the House did not take up the issue before adjourning. After all this time since the proposal first appeared in January in HB 2463, no one has ever explained how this proposal will help KanCare beneficiaries. Maybe someone will finally answer that perplexing question over the next three weeks.
AGREEMENTS REACHED ON EDUCATION, CHILD CARE POLICIES, BUT MOST NOT CONSIDERED IN EITHER CHAMBER
While conference committee week always retains the element of surprise, lawmakers took that to a new level as they rushed to get their work done ahead of Friday’s “First Adjournment” deadline. Here is where things stand for child care and K-12 education.
Employer Child Care Tax Credit – This now exists in two separate legislative packages — HB 2237 and HB 2597. The former is mostly a bundle of housing tax credits, and the latter contains a mixture of tax policy changes. The good news is that both bundles contain language that retains at least the full scope of the original child care tax credit expansion we originally proposed. Both bundles are ready for consideration by the Senate and House when lawmakers return later this month.
School Finance – Education negotiators met last week and agreed to extract the K-12 budget from the main budget bill and place it in HB 2567 alongside some controversial policies. While there was a great deal of speculation around what the final school finance package would contain, lawmakers ultimately decided to keep the budget for our public schools separate from their worst policy ideas of the session. They did pair education funding with a few questionable policy provisions – such as open-enrollment, part-time enrollment, and a fundamental change to the Kansas Promise Scholarship – but the core of HB 2567 still contains a school finance formula that provides constitutionally adequate funding for Kansas students’ education. The Senate would have been able to consider this bill late Friday night, but they chose to hold off until they return for veto session.
Education Policy – The Legislature passed two education bills on to the Governor for her signature or veto – SB 58 and SB 160. These are the Senate’s version of the “Parents’ Bill of Rights” and the anti-transgender athlete bill. Much has been said about these bills, including in our previous snapshots, so suffice it to say that Kansas Action for Children opposed both bills, and we are greatly disappointed in the outcome of the votes on these pieces of legislation. Fortunately, neither bill received a veto-proof majority in either chamber, which means there is still hope for preventing these unnecessary, ideologically-driven bills from becoming law. But both votes were close enough that it’s unclear how the potential override votes will turn out if the Governor uses her veto pen on these bills.
INITIAL STATE BUDGET PASSES, SENT TO GOVERNOR
The $14.9 billion budget bill, House Sub. for Sub. SB 267, passed both chambers late last week and will be going before the Governor to be signed into law. We are especially pleased that the funding to extend Medicaid coverage for pregnant women in the postpartum period was included (increasing from the current 60 days to 12 months), as well as much needed increases in reimbursement rates for I/DD and HCBS waiver service providers that were championed by members of the House Social Services Budget Committee. We look forward to the state taking the next steps to put in place these important changes for some of the most vulnerable Kansans. Upon their return, lawmakers will begin the omnibus budget process, which could include the K-12 education funding bill and deferred decisions on rural housing investments proposed by the Governor.
WHAT TO EXPECT IN WEEK 13
After three weeks in their communities, lawmakers will return to Topeka on April 25 to begin the last phase of the 2022 Session. Will lawmakers commit to policies helping Kansas kids and their families? Or will the Legislature use its limited time to focus on ideological debates? We will have a much better idea of what to expect for the last 15 days of session closer to when they reconvene.