Statehouse Snapshot: Week 6
Kansas Action for Children
February 18, 2022
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COMMITTEES SCRAMBLE TO VOTE OUT BILLS AS DEADLINE NEARS
As we near the halfway point in the 2022 Session, lawmakers are rushing to push out some big priorities before their opportunity passes. Notably, this is due to the Legislature now having just one work day left for non-exempt* committees to meet and vote out any bills they want to be considered by the full chambers.
Lawmakers also now have less than one week before the Turnaround deadline, which is February 24. This will be the last day lawmakers can consider any non-exempt bills if they aren’t already on the calendar. After this date, any remaining bills not on the calendar for floor discussion will require leadership approval to move forward, essentially killing many policies for the rest of the year.
This next week will be fast-paced and will show the priorities on which lawmakers choose to invest their limited time.
*Exempt committees include budget, tax, and federal and state affairs; all others are non-exempt.
CHILD CARE IN KANSAS: Grab a cup of coffee (or a pint) and tune into the most recent episode of "Ballots & Brews" to hear KAC President John Wilson talk about the state of child care in Kansas.
HOUSE COMMITTEE ADVANCES DANGEROUS EDUCATION PACKAGE
The House K-12 Education Budget Committee worked a slew of policy bills that they had heard earlier in session. They bundled the majority of the policies into new versions of three bills – now identified as HB 2511, House Sub. for HB 2615, and House Sub. for HB 2662. The Chair also announced (multiple times) that she intends to eventually combine the entire policy package into the funding bill later in session when lawmakers consider funding for the Kansas Department of Education and school finance formula. While we strongly oppose these bills, we will especially take issue with bad policies being tied to funding our schools.
HB 2662 (now known as House Sub. for HB 2662) contains the most onerous provisions. KAC and several other stakeholders – including teachers and a high school student – testified to how the bill will hinder student learning and divert needed resources away from the classroom.
Teachers are stretched thin, and HB 2662 adds burdensome reporting requirements for teachers, librarians, and school administrators, forcing them to divert time and resources to building duplicative, bureaucratic material catalogs instead of educating students.
A larger concern with the bill is how it will worsen disparities between the education Kansas kids have access to based upon where they live. By allowing community residents – including individuals who do not even have children in public schools – to challenge and potentially ban books and other resources they don’t like, HB 2662 will cause some students to be denied access to learning content that is available to other Kansas students. Now the education available to students will not only depend on the circumstances they were born into, but also the cultural and ideological bent of the most persistent of their community members. Kids don’t get to choose where they’re born, and their education shouldn’t be limited by factors outside of their control.
This Frankenstein bill has grown even more grotesque, and now includes:
- Parental review and approval of coursework and materials
- Creation of an online “transparency portal” for parent access to all school-provided materials
- A requirement that schools review all new materials and designate them as needing parental review when appropriate
- Procedures for banning books, magazines, and other materials from curriculum and/or the school library upon a successful challenge from a resident of the school district
- Vague immunization exemptions
- A requirement that parents approve a survey or assessment before it is given to their child
WILL THE FOOD SECURITY BILLS BE TAKEN UP BEFORE THE DEADLINE?
It was a quiet week for food security in the Capitol as we continue to wait for two bills expanding access to the food assistance program for Kansas families. Both received strong bipartisan support and are commonsense, fiscally responsible adjustments to help Kansas families.
The first of these bills, HB 2525, would allow parents to access crucial food assistance when choosing not to pursue child support for the safety and well-being of their children. The second bill, HB 2215, would allow Kansans with drug-related felony convictions to access the food assistance that is vital to reintegration into their families and communities.
We hope that House leadership will put both bills on the House debate calendar by the February 24 deadline.
CHIP CHANGE ADVANCES; KANCARE FREEZE ON HOLD
Great news: SB 407 – our bill to address a 14-year error in Kansas statute that impacts eligibility for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) – had a hearing before the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee. KAC testified in support of the bill. This morning, the Committee voted out the bill. We hope this bill will continue its forward progress to fix this 14-year error. Hundreds of Kansas kids could be impacted positively by the passage of this bill.
On hold: The House Health Committee discussed HB 2463, a bill that could freeze the state KanCare program until 2026 and force micromanagement of time-sensitive day-to-day operations, as well as delaying much-needed changes that impact kids for the state’s next round of managed care organization contracts.
The Committee started to work on the bill with a proposed amendment, but then a motion to table further discussion until the Kansas Attorney General can weigh in passed 10-5. We expect the Committee to return to the bill as soon as Monday.
FOOD SALES TAX: MORE IDEAS, LESS MOVEMENT
Last week, we shared that one (expensive) food sales tax bill (SB 339) passed out of Senate Tax Committee. The bill did not get debated by the entire Senate this week and sat “below the line” (non-active bills). Meanwhile, another bill about the food sales tax was introduced in the House Tax Committee. HB 2711 would:
- Gradually decrease the state-level food sales tax from 6.5% to 3.5%
- Focus on groceries, not prepared foods or farmers’ market products
- Return refundability to the food sales tax credit
- Keep the State Highway Fund revenue stable
- Reduce the state-level food sales tax (1.2% a year) in the future, as long as the balance of the budget stabilization fund is $100,000,000 or greater
WHAT TO EXPECT IN WEEK 7
With key deadlines looming, next week will be unpredictable on some big policies. Most committees have just one more day to make decisions on their bills, and the Senate and House chambers will hear a multitude of bills all Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday before adjourning until March 1.
Committee hearings on Monday:
- SB 519, which would increase the Kansas standard deduction for income tax purposes, will be heard in Senate Tax. KAC opposes this bill and will submit written-only testimony.
- A child-vaccine related bill (HB 2498) will be taken up in House Health. KAC will testify against the bill, because while the bill focuses on the COVID-19 vaccine for children, we have grave concerns about what the bill could mean for the current required (and non-COVID) vaccination list for Kansas kids attending public schools and child care centers.
Committee votes on Monday:
- HB 2463 (freezing KanCare changes until 2026) is likely to be voted on in House Health. We presented opponent testimony.
- HB 2186 (changing how some industries calculate their corporate taxes) will be voted on in House Tax. We presented opponent testimony.
- Potential for action on the Senate’s version of the “parents’ bill of rights” — SB 496 — in Senate Education. We presented opponent testimony.
Keep an eye on our Twitter @kansasaction to receive immediate updates on lawmaker action throughout the next week. We’ll do our best to keep you informed.