Where the Kansas Legislature Goes after the 2023 Turnaround Deadline
Jessica Herrera Russell | March 1, 2023
The Kansas Legislature ended the first half of the 2023 legislation session with two full days of floor action on Wednesday and Thursday. Lawmakers debated a range of topics including taxes, gender issues, food assistance program restrictions, and public dollars for private schools.
With the Turnaround deadline behind us, any bills that will 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 even if it was non-exempt.
Here is where the Legislature is on policies impacting kids and families going into the next few months of Statehouse action.
(*Exempt committees include budget, tax, and federal and state affairs; all others are non-exempt.)
WHAT PASSED DURING TURNAROUND WEEK
What We Opposed
HB 2141, requiring non-custodial parents to cooperate with child support to be eligible for food assistance, passed 76-46. Some argued that the bill will help children receive the monetary support they need through child support, but we know that making it harder for parents to afford groceries will only worsen financial instability for their families. The Legislature should do everything it can to help parents make ends meet – not make it more difficult.
SB 169, a “flat tax” policy giving the wealthiest Kansans more than 70% of the proposed $500+ million tax break, passed 22-17. We are disappointed the Senate was in favor of such a short-sighted proposal when thousands of Kansans continue to struggle with meeting their basic needs. We are hopeful, however, that the House will stop this bill in its tracks.
SB 6, which would take away the ability of public health officials to quickly respond to the spread of dangerous infectious diseases, passed 22-18. This bill would set Kansas’ public health policy back decades and lead to increased community spread of harmful or deadly diseases, like measles, Ebola, avian flu, and more.
SB 83, expanding tax credits for private school scholarships, passed 22-16 after it was amended by the full Senate to include scholarship qualification for children in families up to 400% of the federal poverty level – that’s a household income of nearly $100,000 a year for a family of three! Despite this change, the chamber refused to remove “low-income” from the title of the scholarship. The taxpayer contribution limit was lowered, and the proposed 100% tax credit was reduced to 75%.
What We Supported
Several bills strengthening public health in Kansas passed almost unanimously in the House. HB 2260, HB 2263, HB 2034, HB 2390, and HB 2023 all are good policies that will help Kansans and their families benefit from a robust health system.
If non-exempt bills were on the potential debate schedule in a chamber but did not end up being debated and voted on, the bill would “die,” and cannot move forward at all.
Two bills impacting youth involved in the justice system can no longer be considered:
- HB 2073, eliminating fines and fees on youth in the justice system; and
- HB 2113, prohibiting denial of petition for expungement due to the juvenile’s inability to pay outstanding costs, fees, or fines.
Even strong bipartisan support could not sway House legislative leadership to let these bills be considered by all representatives. We know reforms like these are crucial to help low-income youth still have a bright future after they have been held accountable for their actions. We will work alongside other advocates to get another bill introduced and through the legislative process in 2024.
NOTABLE “BLESSED” AND EXEMPT BILLS GOING FORWARD
What We Oppose
(Blessed) HB 2140 would require Kansans in their 50s to work 30 hours a week or participate in an employment and training program. This bill being “blessed” demonstrates legislative leadership could have plans for taking action on it yet this session.
(Blessed) HB 2218 is a large privatization of education funding in Kansas. The House’s attempt at diverting more state funding to private education would lead to less funding for K-12 public schools.
(Exempt) HB 2061, which is a similar flat tax proposal to SB 169, would cost the state about $1.5 billion per year, jeopardizing funding for items like education, family support programs, child care, and more.
What We Support
(Blessed) SB 139 would increase the budget cap for the Newborn Screening Program. The budget cap is currently at $2.5 million, but the bill would permanently double that amount, allowing the program to add recommended tests to the list of diseases and disorders newborns are tested for in the first week after birth.
Besides the issues laid out above, two other priorities for lawmakers will be the state budget bills and efforts to deregulate child care.
Agency budgets will be reviewed and deliberated in committee before both chambers reconcile their differences through the conference committee process. As we said last week in our pre-turnaround blog, there has been recurring talk of better pay for state employees to mitigate staff shortages across several agencies, as well as the increasing need to upgrade the state’s IT infrastructure for the sake of both function and security. Read more about the budget process here.
As lawmakers look to find solutions to improve the child care crisis in Kansas, they will likely plan to increase child-to-staff ratios (more kids per child care worker) rather than invest state dollars into programs so that child care providers can make a living wage and parents can access and afford quality care for their kids. Once a bill is introduced, we’ll be sure to provide analysis of the proposal and any next steps for taking action.< Back to the news list