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Legislative Update from Brenda Dietrich

Veto Session Update: April 26 to May 4, 2018

The legislature adjourned on Friday, May 4th , which was also Sine Die, with more than a little bit of drama as we had some very tough votes, including finalizing the budget for next year.  The good news is we are on the right path to a sustainable state budget and economic stability.  We have restored Kansas’s credit rating from “negative” to “stable” as noted in the S & P Global ratings.  This is excellent news for our businesses and for our state’s fiscal health. I’ll give you more information on the budget in a later section.
 

In our Community

On Wednesday, April 25th, several members of the House “Freshman” class participated in a community service activity for the Topeka Rescue Mission on the day before the Veto Session was to begin on Thursday, April 26th.  We spent quite a bit of time dusting, mopping, vacuuming, washing windows, un-stuffing envelopes, and doing yard work in the pouring rain outside the TRM’s “Boutique on the Boulevard”.  We hope to be able to do a community service event each year.  It’s our way to give back to the community in some small way.



Ongoing Activities

  • I was selected to attend the National Security Seminar at the United States Army War College June 4th – June 7th.  It is an opportunity for Army War College students and invited guests (like me) to examine current national security issues, hear from distinguished speakers, and participate in discussions covering such topics as the role of domestic politics in national security, the challenges of civil-military relations, globalization, foreign policy and international security issues. There will be several legislators and business leaders from across the country attending this prestigious seminar.
  • The House Majority Leader appointed me to the Governor’s Education Council, which was established under Executive Order 18-10 to advise on educational initiatives and policies to improve the overall success of education (P-20/22) and workforce development in Kansas.  We have had one meeting of the large Council on April 16th where we were divided into workgroups.  My workgroup will meet again on May 21st  and our goal is to explore methods for integrating college and workforce preparedness into K-12 learning programs that align with and compliment the work of the Kansas Can initiative of KSDE.  The next meeting of the Council will be on June 26th.  We will make reports to the Governor in December.
  • It is my honor to have been selected to participate in the Bowhay Institute training program for Legislative Leadership Development through the Council of State Governments. There are 38  lawmakers in the early stages of their careers, chosen to participate through a competitive, nonpartisan selection process.  The Bowhay Institute is one of the premier leadership training programs in the nation. BILLD was founded in 1995 to help new legislators meet the demands of increased policy responsibility being shifted to the states. The 2018 BILLD program will be held in partnership with the Center for the Study of Governance and Politics at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs in August. The program analyzes a variety of public policy issues, including the economy, trade and transportation policy.

At the Capitol

This is the end of the Biennium….which is the 2-year period for which we are elected and serve in the House.  All of the House members are up for re-election, if they choose to run again.  We will be saying farewell to the following retiring colleagues who have indicated their intentions to retire at the end of their Legislative term of service:
 
They are Representatives Shelee Brim, Erin Davis, Roger Elliott, Les Osterman, Scott Schwab, Tom Sloan, and Susie Swanson.  Representatives Brim and Elliott served one term in the House as part of my Freshman Class.  These folks will definitely be missed and they are all Republicans.
 

Fun Facts About the Biennium

  • 799 bills were introduced in the House
  • 243 House bills passed and were sent to the Senate
  • 131 of those House bills were passed by the Senate
  • 105 House bills were signed by the Governor at the time of this Newsletter
  • 73 Senate bills were signed by the Governor and only 1 was vetoed
  • 3 House bills were vetoed by the Governor
  • 1 House bill became law without the Governor’s signature.

Education Trailer Bill

The House moved quickly to pass a trailer bill to the School Finance Bill (SB 423), passed during the Regular Session when we returned on April 26th.  After an $80 million error was discovered that prevented the distribution of a portion of the appropriated funds which negatively and deeply impacted many, many districts across the state, the House Appropriations Committee worked on a solution.  The Committee worked one of the four bills that were introduced during the veto session, HB 2796.  It's contents were placed into Sub. for SB 61,  The House debated and voted on the measure on Saturday, April 28.  The bill advanced with no amendments, 92-27.  The Senate considered the bill on Monday, April 30, with a vote of 31-8. I voted YES.

One key provision in the Trailer Bill included requiring a public policy statement asking the Courts to consider the Local Option Budget (LOB) in determining adequacy and then also requiring  districts to have at least a 15% Local Option Budget. No district has an LOB less than 17%, so this provision will do no harm.

As a reminder, the 2017 School Finance bill provided nearly $300 million over two years and the 2018 plan adds another $535 million over the next five years, with total new funding between 2018-2023 of $823 million. This can be accomplished without a tax increase and everyone is very aware that this is a significant amount of new money for our schools; but, it is also important to remember that had the legislature continued funding the 2005 Montoy lawsuit, funding levels would be higher now than the final year of this year’s bill.  The 2005 Montoy plan was deemed constitutional.

Other important “adds” included a focus on increasing Special Education funding.
  • $44 million was added in FY19 (already added $12 million more for FY18)
  • $7.5 million was added each year thereafter for 2020-2023
Other important provisions in the School Finance bill:
  • Increased funding for teacher mentoring programs
  • State funding for annual ACT/Work Keys tests for all students
  • Enhanced transparency and accountability through additional data collection and reporting
  • Audits will be implemented to analyze the effect of our investment on student outcomes, and provide the data necessary to make evidence-based decisions about the school finance formula in the future
If you want to see what this new money looks like for your district, check out Kansas State Department of Education runs: http://www.ksde.org/Agency/Fiscal-and-Administrative-Services/School-Finance/Whats-New

Budget

Last year, the first year of the Biennium, we passed the two-year Budget Plan.  Just as our own expenses at home change over time, so does the state budget.  The Governor usually comes to us with supplemental budget recommendations, and then some agencies also make requests to either lower or increase their budgets based on changes in needs.  This year’s supplemental budget had the benefit of last year’s tax plan, which allowed us to begin restoring funding to basic government services that have been subjected to chronic underfunding. This year, we were able to use our dollars to restore funding to higher education, services for the elderly and disabled, KPERS, foster care, corrections, and state employee compensation.  We were also able to invest proactively in the state Water Plan and Early Childhood Education   House Substitute for Senate Bill 109 passed the Senate 26-14 and the House 98-23.  I voted YES.

Listed below are the key components of the bill:
  • 5% raise for state employees not included in last year’s raise and 2.5% for those who were. Non-judicial employees will see a 5% increase in salary and the judges will receive a 2% increase.
  • $15 million for higher education to begin to restore the cuts made in 2014 and 2015.
  • Early Childhood: $1 million for Tiny-K, known as Infant-Toddler Services, $4.2 million for a Pre-K Pilot project, and $1 million for Parents As Teachers
  • $22 million to increase nursing home Medicaid reimbursement rates.
  • $5.5 million for the foster care “kinship” program, which would increase payments to family members serving as foster care providers from $3 per day to $10 per day.
  • $82 Million to KPERS, continue to make layered payments, and we have a provision to make an additional $56 million payment this year and next if the CRE shows growth that will accommodate the additional payments.
  • Completely funded Human Services Caseloads, ensuring funding is provided for the needs of some of the most vulnerable Kansans.

Telemedicine Bill

On Monday, April 30th, the House approved the conference committee report of HB 2028, with a vote count of 107-13.  The conference committee report also passed the Senate and has been sent to the Governor’s desk.

Under the provisions of the bill, telemedicine must meet the same standard of care as an in-person interaction, and would increase access to healthcare services for patients in both rural and urban areas.

Not only would patients have increased access to services that aren’t readily available to them in their community, it also affords them greater convenient access, which may reduce long term health care costs associated with treatment due to a lack of services.  Under the bill, healthcare services provided cannot not be denied for reimbursement solely on the basis of having been delivered via telemedicine or based on the lack of a physical location.  Physicians, physician assistants, advanced practice registered nurses, and licensed mental health professionals alike would be able to dispense their services via telemedicine to patients in a more convenient manner, thereby improving the health and lifestyle of many who have difficulty accessing immediate healthcare. This was a much needed piece of legislation. I voted YES.

Tax Bill

On the last day of the session, Friday, May 4th in the middle of the afternoon, the House turned to the Mega tax bill to debate.  The Conference Committee Report on HB 2228 passed by a slim margin in the Senate well after midnight on Friday morning.  This bill made several changes regarding the following:
  • itemized deduction options for taxpayers, provisions related to expensing,
  • the acceleration of certain itemized deductions and language regarding the tax treatment of repatriation,
  • global intangible low-taxed income (GILTI),
  • the Eisenhower Foundation tax credit,
  • income tax exemptions under the Rural Opportunity Zone program in certain counties,
  • selected sales tax exemptions, and exemptions for all sales of gold and silver coins and palladium, platinum, gold and silver bullion.
There were several provisions in this bill that I supported, but a conference committee report is an "up or down" vote with no opportunity for changes by any Representative once it is in the conference committee report. There were three provisions of the bill that were never considered by any committee in the Senate or House, therefore no public comment was ever heard.  We still do not know the full impact of the 2017 tax plan, let alone the impact of the federal tax plan which has only been in force for a few months.  Even the IRS has not got their own federal tax code changes totally figured out yet. This was a perfect storm and it seemed irresponsible to legislate in the middle of the storm.

I believe we need to look at these complicated changes and the provisions of HB 2228 in a thoughtful and meaningful way.  I, along with several of my colleagues in the House and the Senate, suggested it would be wise to have an interim study committee to dissect the federal plan, analyze the impact on our state, learn as much as possible about those federal changes, and then come back in January with solid numbers and recommendations.  In the end, a prudent and cautious House voted 59-59, which killed the bill for lack of the required 63 votes.  I voted NO.
 
To view a complete list and status of all  legislation for the 2018 session, visit this site:
 http://kslegislature.org/li/b2017_18/measures/bills/house/

I Have Filed for Re-Election

If you would like to support my campaign for re-election to the Kansas House, any donation would be greatly appreciated.  During my last campaign, I had to raise close to $50,000 and spent $41,000 defeating an opponent whose campaign was funded by special interest groups with deep pockets.  I am your voice, not theirs, and as you can see by this newsletter I will always be honest and tell you how I voted and I will always respond to your phone calls and emails.  I work for you and I would welcome your support.  Donations can be sent to Kansans for Brenda at 6110 SW 38th Terrace, Topeka, KS  66610 or online at https://www.kansansforbrenda.com/donate/.

Volunteer

I will soon be walking all of the precincts in the 52nd House District, knocking on doors and meeting as many of you as I can.  If you would like to walk with me, deliver signs, pass out flags and candy in the 4th of July Parade….. or help in any way with my campaign, just email or call!  I had a great team working with me during the last campaign and any help would be much appreciated!

Contact Me

If you have any questions about legislative activities or want to share your views on any issues, please feel free to email me or call me at home.  The Legislature is not in session and no one is answering the phone in my Capitol office.   

You can email me at: Brenda.Dietrich@House.ks.gov or call me at 785-861-7065 (H) or 785-221-3853 (C).

If you or your friends would like to receive my Legislative up-dates, you can click here or visit my website at http://kansansforbrenda.com, and enter your email address in the space provided on the right side.

Contact Brenda

Room 166-W
300 SW 10th Street
Topeka, Kansas 66610
Phone: 785 296-7648
Email Brenda


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