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Legislative Update from Brenda Dietrich

Happy 158th Birthday Kansas!

The Kansas House of Representatives will celebrate Kansas Day on Tuesday, January 29th!  Kansas entered the Union as the 34th state on January 29, 1861. There are many activities planned for the day, including an event hosted by the Friends of Cedar Crest.

What’s Happening

I have been very busy since the first day of the Legislative Session on January 14, 2019.  We were sworn in at 2:00 p.m. by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Justice Lawton Nuss.  Members of the House of Representatives were called forward in blocks of ten, and took our oaths of office as follows:

“We and each of us, do solemnly swear or affirm, that we will support the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the State of Kansas, and faithfully discharge the duties of the office of Representative of the State of Kansas, so help me God.”

There is always an air of excitement on our first day back, and it was great to reconnect with colleagues after the long break. Committees held organizational meetings and have begun to hear status reports from state agencies and introduce bills.
 
We have been in session for 9 days and, as of Thursday, January 24th, the House has generated 85 Bills, while the Senate has generated 47 Bills.  I know this because we get a report each week that records all of the Senate and House actions including a listing of the Bills, which committee is working on that particular Bill, and a sentence summarizing the Bill’s purpose.

New Office and New Staff

Please stop by my office at any time if you are in the Capitol.  I have Committee meetings every day at 9:00 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m.  ….and the House gavels in at 11:00 a.m.   My office is 165-W and I have 2 office mates:
 

I have a new Office Assistant this year, Karla Billen, who is new to the Capitol environment and legislative procedures, but she has a wealth of experience working with people and managing lots of tasks at one time.  Karla’s background is nursing and she has already proven herself to be a fast learner and a great asset to all of us in 165-W!


We always need as much help as we can get during the session, especially on special projects and following bills through the committee process.  This year, I was fortunate to secure an intern from Washburn University who will be with me on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  If you should stop by on those days, I will introduce you to Shelby Bergeron from Hutchinson who is a junior at Washburn University.

State of the State

Governor Laura Kelly gave the annual State of the State address to the Legislature on January 16th.  She outlined her budget priorities for the year and they are listed below as presented to a
Joint Committee of House Appropriations and Senate Ways and Means.  The Governor’s Budget Recommendations can be found online at
https://budget.kansas.gov/
 
Highlights include:
  • A one-year budget for all state agencies, with the exception of K-12 and the biennial budgets (Fee Boards), which are budgeted for two years.
     
  • While K-12 is budgeted for 2 years, the Governor included a 5-year funding proposal.  “The Governor respectfully asks the Legislature to enact this plan by February 28th in order to satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court.”
     
  • The K-12 proposal includes inflation rate of 1.44 percent from FY 19 through FY 23.  “As a result, the Governor’s plan increases funding from the approved plan by the 2018 legislature by $363.6 million from FY 20 though FY 23”.
     
  • SGF balances are 9.5% for FY ’19 and 9.1% for FY ’20.
     
  • State Highway Fund (SHF) transfers are to be ended by FY ’23.  Of note, $238 million of transfers between SHF and State General Fund (SGF) are scheduled to occur in FY ’20
     
  • Includes $14.9 million SGF for Medicaid Expansion, along with $12.4 million SGF for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).  CHIP needs more funding because the federal government is reducing its participation in the program.
     
  • Pays off the Pooled Money Investment Board (PMIB) loan 5 years early, requiring a revenue transfer of $264.3 million SGF to fully pay off the $317.2 million loan in FY 19.
     
  • Budget is reported to be “structurally balanced—revenues exceed expenditures with no tax increase.”   Includes a 2.5% pay increase for Executive Branch employees (the Governor cannot propose increases for the Legislative and Judicial Branch).
     
  • Restores remaining FY 17 SGF allotment to the Board of Regents in FY 2020 at a cost of $8.9 million.
The GBR includes the Judicial Branch’s request without recommendation.  The Governor traditionally includes the Judicial Branch’s request in this manner.  The Judicial Branch’s FY 18 actual SGF expenditures were approximately $103 million.  The FY 19 request is @$107 million.  The request for FY 20 is $129 million.

Administration Transition

With Laura Kelly’s inauguration on January 14th, the Executive Branch transition shifts to getting the Governor’s Cabinet solidified.  The Governor’s Secretaries will face Confirmation hearings and if successfully recommended, are then subject to the full Senate’s approval.  These hearings will take place in Senate Committees during the 2019 Session.  The following individuals have been named to lead state agencies:
 
Named Agency Head Agency
Major General Lee Tafanelli Adjutant General
Duane Goossen (interim) Administration
Laura Howard (interim) Aging and Disability Services
Mike Beam Agriculture
Laura Howard (interim) Children and Families
David Toland Commerce
Roger Werholtz (interim) Corrections
Dr. Lee Norman (interim) Health and Environment
Colonel Mark Bruce Kansas Highway Patrol
Former Rep. Delia Garcia Labor
Mark Beeshers Revenue
Brad Loveless Wildlife, Parks and Tourism

In addition, Gov.Kelly is retaining the services of Larry Campbell, former Representative from Olathe as Budget Director, and Lee Allen as Chief Information Technology Officer. She has also named Stephen Durrell as the Interim Director of the Kansas Lottery.

On the Floor of the House


House Adopts Rules for the 2019-2020 Biennium
 
The new House rules, which were adopted with 104 votes, increase transparency and openness in three ways.
  1.  For the first time in Kansas history the House rules require transparency in bill introductions so the public can know who and, on whose behalf, proposed bills were introduced.
     
  2. The rules have been redesigned to eliminate confusion when a bill is amended to remove its content and is replaced with another bill.  These changes must be noted in the public record so anyone can see where, when, and how a bill was changed.  Leadership will continue the commitment to increase transparency by placing this information on the face of the bill itself and they have directed legislative staff to move swiftly to make this possible.
     
  3. The House made changes that require at least one day’s notice before we vote on any bill. This will reduce “gotcha” moments and ensure time for citizens to weigh in with their legislators before the House takes up debate on an issue.
On Friday, January 25, 2019, the House passed the Joint Rules for the 2019-2020 biennium, SCR 1603, with a vote of 109-6.

In Committees

House Education Committee

Mental Health Issues in Schools:  On Thursday, the Kansas State Board of Education Report on Mental Health Issues in Schools and similar information on children’s mental health were presented to the House Education Committee.  The board’s report identifies that 20% of children and youth have an identified need for mental health services, but only one-third of those children have received services.  In addition, for those children who did receive services, more than 70% received services from their school.  The presentation also stressed the need to prevent suicide, and the board’s prime recommendation included suicide awareness and prevention training.  Specifically, the board recommended required staff training on signs of abuse, neglect, and sexual abuse, and would also like to see school districts revisit or revise policies related to mandating reporting of signs of abuse. 
 
Tax Committee
 
Itemized Deduction Briefing:  On Thursday, the committee heard from The Department of Revenue, the Kansas Society of CPAs, and the Kansas Realtors Association.  Due to recent changes in federal law, Kansas taxpayers must take the standard deduction on their state income tax return if they take the standard deduction on their federal return.  In the same token, Kansans cannot itemize on their state returns if they do not itemize on their federal return.  The federal standard deduction was nearly doubled, increasing from:
  • Federal Standard Deduction
    • Tax Year 2017: $6,350 for single filers, $12,700 married filing jointly
    • Tax Year 2018: $12,000 for single filers, $24,000 married filing jointly
  • Kansas Standard Deduction
    • $3,000 for single filers, $7,500 or married filing jointly
This eliminates the opportunity for Kansans with itemized deductions below the federal standard deduction, to itemize on their state return.  Amending the state tax code, or decoupling from the federal tax code, would allow taxpayers the ability to itemize or take the standard deduction on their state returns regardless of which route they take when filing their federal return.  This is an issue that will heavily debated in the Senate and the House because we have yet to receive definitive numbers from the various state agencies who prepare fiscal information for us regarding the fiscal impact of decoupling.  This is important because the bills we have seen in the past included many more issues than just itemized deductions and we want to make prudent and wise decisions.

Visitors

It was my pleasure to visit with a delegation from the Kansas Association of Nurse Anesthetists this past week.  Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA’s) have been providing safe and cost effective care for more than 100 years.  CRNA’s are currently the sole providers of anesthesia at 80% of hospitals in Kansas!  Thank you for your dedication!


The Kansas Coalition for Citizen Participation visited my office on Thursday to talk about the Free State Elections Act.  This group is interested in enacting election day voter registration, expanding and standardizing early voting, creating a permanent advance voter option, and defunding “crosscheck”.   There are several bills making their way through the House and the Senate on these topics.  Thanks for taking the time to share your information with me!

This Week’s Highlights


Monday, January 28:
  • 1:30 p.m. – Informational briefing on the overview of Kansas economic development initiatives and programs. 
Tuesday, January 29:
  • 9:00 a.m. – Informational briefing on property tax impacts, Rural Revitalization.
     
  • 9:00 a.m. – Briefing on Westar/KCP&L Rate Study, Utilities.
     
  • 1:30 a.m. – 2019 Teacher of the Year, Joint Education (Room 346-S)
Wednesday, January 30:
  • 9:00 a.m. – Hearing on HB 2032, Requiring that sports gaming be operated and managed solely by racetrack gaming facilities, Fed and State.
Thursday, January 31:
  • 1:30 p.m. – Hearing on HB 2006—requiring the department of commerce to create a database of economic development incentive program information, Commerce

Contact Me

Throughout session, I will provide regular updates to highlight Capitol happenings, including what is occurring in my committees and important topics being debated on the floor. If you have any questions about the activities in my committees or want to share your views on any of the issues before the legislature, please feel free to email me or call my office.
 

Representative Brenda S. Dietrich
Room 165-W State Capitol Building
300 SW 10th St.
Topeka, KS     6612
785-296-7648

Contact Brenda

Room 165-W
300 SW 10th Street
Topeka, Kansas 66610
Phone: 785 296-7648
Email Brenda


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