21 February 2024 | Economic Security Tax and Budget Education Health Early Learning

Turnaround 2024: Bills We're Watching

Jessica Herrera Russell | February 21, 2024

We’re now in week 7 of the 2024 legislative session, with Friday marking an important deadline before lawmakers move into the second half of their work for the year. Known as Turnaround, the Legislature must consider and vote on bills classified as “non-exempt” in their originating chamber (House or Senate).  

If a non-exempt bill is not considered by the chamber, it must have leadership’s approval to continue in the legislative process. If the bill is not “blessed,” then it has died for the year.  

The next three days (Feb. 21-23) are scheduled to include all-day floor action as each chamber considers a long list of bills. Here’s where we stand on bills affecting kids and families as lawmakers enter days of voting frenzy. 

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

Bills We Support

HB 2536, the SOUL Family Legal Permanency Option. This bill passed out of committee unanimously after a coalition of other organizations and young people testified in support of this innovative approach. The policy would allow young people who exit foster care to have permanent, legal relationships with trusted and supportive adults, while still allowing them to maintain close relationships with birth family members. Update: The House passed the bill 112-8 on February 22, 2024.

HB 2547, allowing school nurses to stock supplies of albuterol and epinephrine. These two life-saving medications are critical to ensuring both students and the adults caring for them can get the time-sensitive help they need until medical help arrives. Update: The House passed the bill 116-4 on February 22, 2024.

HB 2750, permitting the use of expedited partner therapy to treat a sexually transmitted disease. STDs transmitted to mothers-to-be can cause severe complications or even death to a newborn. Allowing physicians to prescribe medication to a patient’s partner will potentially limit the number of diseases in the community. 

HB 2581, eliminating child support be paid to the state by the parents of a child entering foster care. Economic insecurity is often a contributing factor to why a child may enter foster care. Worsening their families’ financial stability would continue the cycle of children entering foster care and parents being unable to fulfill requirements to reunify their family. 

Bills We Oppose

SB 391, eliminating quarantine laws and restricting proactive collaboration among health officials. Legislation that limits our ability to respond to infectious disease outbreaks is dangerous for young children, the immunocompromised, and Kansas communities. Disallowing health officials from protecting the health of our state will lead to more threats of outbreaks, like measles. Update: The Senate passed the bill 23-17 on February 22, 2024.

Sub. for SB 377, a large tax package that includes a flat tax. The bill’s original contents held the Governor’s tax plan, including speeding up of the state sales tax elimination on groceries (and adding in diapers and feminine hygiene products), Social Security changes, and more. But the Senate Tax Committee stripped those contents and placed in a tax package that looks almost identical to HB 2284, the flat tax bill on which the House had earlier failed to override the Governor’s veto. There are plenty of other tax relief plans that we can – and should – consider. This substitute bill is just another ploy to funnel large amounts of taxpayer dollars to the highest-income Kansans. 

HB 2673, directing the state to request a waiver from the USDA to ban SNAP recipients from purchasing “soft drinks” and “candy” with benefits. Despite the federal government rejecting such waivers during both Republican and Democratic administrations, some lawmakers want to waste the state’s time to attempt to unnecessarily control what food SNAP recipients can purchase with their benefits. Additionally, due to the broad definitions of what’s considered a soft drink or candy, granola, protein bars, and juice would likely be unable to be purchased with SNAP dollars. Regular people know what their families need nutritionally and should not have to jump through further hoops to get what they need.

Bills We are Neutral on... For Now

HB 2627, which would reorganize the Kansas statute dealing with family support program eligibility requirements. Currently, the bill is just a technical reorganization to better structure the HOPE Act statute and make it more easily readable. However, because the statute touches eligibility requirements, a single amendment could change the entire purpose of the bill. We’re watching closely if anything happens on this front. 

The Work Ahead

There are many bills that could be “blessed” by leadership, allowing lawmakers the opportunity to make progress on them in the coming weeks. This includes bills related to early learning/child care and Medicaid expansion. We’ll also see more work on policy issues deemed “exempt,” such as taxes, the state’s budget for all agencies, and K-12 education (which again will be separated from the main budget bill).  

We are hopeful lawmakers will keep kids and families at top of mind when they make their decisions this week and throughout the rest of the 2024 legislative session. Regardless of the rhetoric and political divisiveness, the Kansas Legislature has real opportunities to work together for the good of all Kansans. We’ll be there every step of the way to lend a voice reminding them of that goal. 

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