Turnaround 2023: Private School Funding, Barriers to Food Assistance, Health Bills, and Flat Tax
Jessica Herrera Russell | February 22, 2023
This week is Turnaround, the deadline by which lawmakers must consider non-exempt* bills voted on by committees for full consideration by the originating chamber (House or Senate). If bills are not brought up on the chamber’s floor for debate and a vote, they will need leadership’s approval to continue in the legislative process.
The next three days (Feb. 22-24) include all-day floor action as each chamber considers a long list of bills. Here’s where we stand going into this three-day marathon of bill actions.
(Note: *Exempt committees include budget, tax, and federal and state affairs; all others are non-exempt.)
PUBLIC FUNDING TO PRIVATE SCHOOLS
STATUS: Two bills focused on privatization of our state’s school system will be heard by the Kansas Legislature this week. In committee, several lawmakers expressed dissatisfaction with Kansas public schools and have been searching for ways to send tax dollars to non-public schools.
HB 2218 is a large privatization of education funding in Kansas. Supporters of the policy claim that it will increase educational freedom and choice. However, given the limitations that private schools place on enrollment, the choice really ends up belonging to private schools — not the families.
SB 83 is a massive expansion of a tax credit for private school scholarships. With a 100% tax credit, these bills create a passthrough for people to donate tax dollars to private school scholarship granting organizations.
Lawmakers should vote NO on both of these bills.
STATUS: While KAC did not take an official position on SB 6 as it was heard in committee, we are gravely concerned with how the bill will limit the authority of state and local health officers over infectious diseases, allowing health authorities to only recommend (not require) quarantining individuals exposed to harmful or deadly infectious diseases, like Ebola, avian flu, measles, mumps, and more. We are also concerned this dangerous bill will only become worse, as we anticipate anti-vaccine amendments could be added.
Lawmakers should vote NO on SB 6.
Some good bills that would help Kansans and their families and would strengthen our public health systems in Kansas will be debated in the House:
- HB 2260 revises the medical student loan program and residency programs, which could help with provider deserts.
- HB 2263 authorizes pharmacy technicians to administer certain vaccines, allowing families to get the care their family needs without having to take a trip to the doctor. However, we will be keeping an eye out for any amendments that could negatively change vaccine requirements for children.
- HB 2034 requires alleged child abuse cases to be referred for examination; it also sets up funding and training to increase the number of abuse examination providers and fund payment for exams.
- HB 2390 decriminalizes testing strips for fentanyl and date rape drugs, establishing a drug overdose fatality review board.
- HB 2023 creates crime of interference at a health care facility, protecting health care providers.
We encourage lawmakers to vote YES on these House bills.
STATUS: Both bills were voted out of the House Committee on Welfare Reform favorably last week.
HB 2140 would make low-income Kansans in their 50s without dependents subject to a 30-hour work requirement or be referred to a mandatory employment and training program to qualify for the food assistance program. This is an unnecessary and inflexible piece of legislation that will just make it harder for already-struggling Kansans to have enough to eat for every meal.
HB 2141 would require non-custodial parents to cooperate with child support to be eligible for food assistance and would disqualify these low-income parents for not having enough money to pay child support every month. If we want to support children, we should not make it harder for their parents to afford groceries.
Lawmakers should vote NO on both of these bills.
STATUS: Since the tax committees are considered “exempt,” there is less urgency on tax bills this week. However, despite the lack of need to rush big tax bills, we anticipate the Senate floor will debate SB 169, a flat tax proposal that would provide the biggest tax cuts to Kansans with the most financial resources and reduce needed revenue to the state as a result.
It is essential that Kansas continues to have (and improve) its graduated income tax structure to ensure every Kansan pays their fair share according to their means. Any proposal to “flatten” the income tax tilts the overall tax structure even more in favor of the richest Kansans, while low- and middle-income families will continue to have a higher percentage of their household income going toward their taxes than the top 1 percent of Kansas tax filers.
Lawmakers must vote NO on SB 169.
STATUS: The House will hear HB 2238, the “Fairness in Women’s Sports” bill, which allows for legal discrimination of youth who already struggle with inclusion. Every Kansas child deserves to belong and participate in extracurricular activities.
Lawmakers should vote NO on HB 2238.
There are other bills relating to gender issues that we know will come up for debate this week. If this subject is of interest to you, follow our partner, Kansas Interfaith Action, to learn more about these bills.
STATUS: Both tax committees passed out bills (SB 96/HB 2135) that would create a tax credit for contributions to crisis pregnancy centers. These centers are controversial due to being found to commonly disseminate misinformation.
WHERE IS THE LEGISLATURE AT WITH THE BUDGET?
Aside from each chamber's budget bills, neither the Senate Ways and Means nor the House Appropriations committees have worked major spending bills to date. As lawmakers have spent the last month reviewing and deliberating budgets for the state's hundred-plus agencies in subcommittee meetings, this week has consisted mostly of subcommittee reports being shared with the full budget committees for approval.
Major sticking points in meetings have been the recurring need for better pay for state employees to mitigate staff shortage across several agencies, as well as increasing need to upgrade the state’s IT infrastructure for the sake of both function and security. Lawmaker priorities seem to include reducing spending for programmatic and payroll expenses and cutting taxes.
WHAT WON’T WE SEE DURING TURNAROUND WEEK?
Child Care and Early Learning Issues
Even though 21 Kansas counties have no infant or toddler child care spots and 44% of Kansans live in a child care desert, lawmakers have decided to not prioritize solutions so far in the 2023 Session. We are disappointed at the lack of action, as all kids should have the opportunity to access high quality early learning before they reach kindergarten.
Instead, we could see efforts to deregulate child care in coming weeks, raising the child-to-provider ratios. We know that regulations like staff-to-child ratios exist to guarantee the basic safety of the children and should not be deregulated with the hope that it will create more availability. Increasing licensee capacity will not necessarily correspond to an increase in available child care slots if providers choose not to increase their desired capacity either. We’ll provide further analysis and action steps when these proposals are available in the coming weeks.< Back to the news list