April 1, 2020
We are currently in the middle of one of the most disruptive and pivotal events many of us have ever lived through and we are worried about our families, our communities, our health and our jobs. March felt like the longest month ever…..but it’s April now and we are going to get through this. Please stay at home, practice social distancing when you need to shop for essentials, come back home quickly… and wash your hands! Stay positive, stay connected, be kind to one another, and stay well.
Legislative Up-date and COVID-19 Information
The House adjourned in March much sooner than was planned. The world was a much different place just a few short months ago. I’ll share some COVID-19 information and resources with you at the end of this Newsletter, although things are changing on a daily basis. First, I would like to briefly share what we accomplished prior to adjourning on March 19th.
At the Capitol
The House and Senate worked swiftly to pass what most are describing as a “basic” budget before we could leave and be “safer at home” under the ominous shadow of the swiftly spreading Coronovirus. We adjourned two weeks early and may not be able to return on April 27th, as scheduled. There were nearly 125 House members that were elbow to elbow until we left the Chamber on March 19th . Some Representatives chose to stay at home the last week because they either had underlying health conditions or had family members with autoimmune disorders. I mention this because the vote totals for the bills below will not add up to 125 and also to underscore why it was so very important we left the Capitol as soon as possible.
SB- 66 – This is the budget bill that is usually the last thing we do at the end of the session…..but this time, it was the one thing we HAD to do before first adjournment. Many legislators felt we might not be returning on April 27th and it was absolutely critical to finish a budget that funds basic government services. This bill passed the Senate 28-10 and the House 99-16. I voted YES. Below are some highlights of the $19.9 billion budget bill for 2021.
We reportedly left $724 million in requests on the table, and unfortunately, we were not able to consider pay raises for state workers before we left, nor the Highway Patrol’s request for new aircraft. As our Appropriations Chair said, “We are in uncertain times. We have no idea what we’re going to be looking at when the Consensus Revenue Estimate group meets in mid-April.” The Governor has recently noted that our revenues are going to take a huge hit as we absorb the repercussions of the Coronovirus. It’s fortunate we have a healthy ending balance in the state’s General Fund…$731 million….but we do not know how the fallout from the spread of COVID-19 will impact that balance. We are in the middle of a national health crisis that will get worse before it gets better….but it will get better. We just have to weather this storm.
- Set aside $50 million for unforeseen expenditures during the COVID-19 crisis.
- Appropriated $15 million for Emergency Preparedness Operations connected to the COVID-19 pandemic
HB 2168 - This bill allows Kansas Hospitals and Nursing Homes to draw down some federal dollars by allowing them to increase the provider assessment fee to 3%. They requested a fee increase because the state has not passed Medicaid Expansion and they could not access additional federal funding. They believe they can now better serve low-income Kansans with the additional dollars. It passed the Senate 33-6 and the House 91-24. I voted YES.
H Sub SB 173 – This is the transportation bill, titled the Eisenhower Legacy Transportation Plan. It passed the Senate 37-2 and the House 112-3. I voted YES.
- $10 billion over 10 years; at least $8 million must be spent in each county. Projects will be determined on a two-year rolling basis to provide for flexibility with changing conditions and demographics.
- Bonds issued for new projects are paid from sales tax money. This provides $80-100 million over the course of the plan that cannot be transferred back to the SGF.
- All existing TWORKS projects will be let to construction by July 1, 2022.
- Unfulfilled T-Works projects must have at least the first phase begun before any new expansion project is begun.
- Allows construction of three toll roads (likely to be expanded lanes of existing highways.)
- Provides matching funds for construction of a broadband network.
HCR 5025 - extends the Governor’s March 12, 2020, state of disaster emergency declaration for the state regarding novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) through May 1, 2020, subject to additional extensions by concurrent resolution of the Legislature. The resolution provides that, if the Legislature is not in session, the Governor could apply to the State Finance Council to extend the state of disaster emergency declaration, and the Council could authorize one additional extension of the declaration for a specified period not to exceed 30 days, by a majority vote of the legislative members of the Council. The HCR also says that the LCC (Legislative Coordinating Council) shall meet within 3 days to review any Executive Order of the Governor during this disaster declaration. The LCC does not have the authority to modify or change an Order of the Governor. They do have the power to revoke it if they deem it necessary to do so. The HCR passed both chambers unanimously.
There have been 16 Executive Orders issued by the Governor since March 17, 2020 and all have been supported by the LCC. This is a link to all Executive Orders in 2020:
Please complete the 2020 Census information! You should have received your 2020 Census documents in the mail in the last 2 weeks. Visit the 2020 Census web-site and input the code from the Census document you received. It only takes a couple of minutes. This is super important!
*If 1% of the Kansas population is uncounted in the 2020 Census, the state of Kansas could miss receiving approximately $603,990,400 in federal funding over a 10-year period. Ensure you count, ensure your community counts, and ensure Kansas Counts by participating in the 2020 Census!
If you want more information visit www.kansascounts.org
COVID-19 – Stay at Home Order – Resources
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Governor Kelly issued a state-wide “Stay at Home” Executive Order No. 20-16 to slow the spread of the Coronovirus in Kansas. The order is in effect until at least April 19th. At the time, Kansas was the 22nd state in the nation to institute a temporary, statewide stay-home order. It exists in conjunction with the Kansas Essential Function Framework for COVID-19 response efforts and took effect at 12:01 a.m. on Monday, March 30.
Governor Kelly said, “Our modeling continues to suggest that the number of confirmed positive coronavirus cases in Kansas could reach as high as 900 over the next week.”
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I would encourage you to listen to the daily Press Conferences held by the Governor at 2:00 p.m, Monday-Friday on WIBW.com, Facebook, or other local station’s web sites.
Dr. Lee Norman, Secretary of KDHE, will give COVID-19 up-dates at 2:00 p.m. with the Governor on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday.
Other resources you might find helpful:
- www.kdheks.gov Coronovirus Resources…..FAQ’s……
- www.KansasTogether.com website containing information on a wide range of issues including unemployment benefits, small business resources, education, and health care.
- KEFF@ks.gov which has information regarding your business or job and the Governor’s stay at home Executive Order.
Unemployment Benefits – Department of Labor
On March 31, the Governor signed Executive Order 20-17 - temporary relief from certain unemployment insurance requirements in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The number of unemployment filings in the state of Kansas has sharply risen over the past two weeks from an average of 1,800 claims a week to now over 60,000 as of Sunday. The Governor has said the number of phone calls to the Kansas Department of Labor has now risen to 230,000 per day.
Due to this unprecedented influx Governor Kelly issued Executive Order 20-17 which allows Kansans to draw down new federal resources for unemployment insurance programs. The Governor has temporarily waived "certain provisions of state statute that diverge from the federal requirements." This includes the waiting a week to file requirement and the requirement that Kansans receiving benefits actively seek work each week. Additionally, the Governor's order also requires all Kansas employers to notify separated employees if they qualify for unemployment insurance.
If you need to file for unemployment benefits the Governor asks folks to please do so online. Filing on-line is the quickest way to process claims right now. If you do not have access to the internet and must file by phone….. DO NOT HANG UP AND CALL BACK. STAY ON THE LINE.
Remember: The fastest way to file for unemployment is to go online at GetKansasbenefits.gov
Continuous Learning Plans – KSDE
Unprecedented circumstances that threatened the safety of our students and the professionals who work with them every day required swift, thoughtful and coordinated action. On Tuesday, March 17, Gov. Kelly announced that school buildings across the state must be closed for the duration of this school year for the purpose of general student and staff attendance. However, learning will continue for Kansas students.
School Districts were charged with creating continuous learning plans for the remainder of the school year, which is primarily “remote” learning….meaning they are not likely to be able to enter the school building and can either work with their teachers on-line and/or receive learning packets. Educators are having virtual meetings using Zoom links at specific times. Teachers are taking attendance and learning is happening. School districts are continuing to provide meals using the summer feeding model and “grab and go” breakfasts and lunches. Rural districts are delivering meals and you will see buses on the roads for this very reason. This is such an unusual situation we find ourselves in, but I am amazed at the creativity and passion for learning that is still happening all across our state.
Many teachers are using ZOOM to teach and connect with their students! These are pre-school students talking to their teacher on Zoom, who just happens to be the Kansas Teacher of the Year!
In my neighborhood, families are playing outside in their yards more, kids are riding their bicycles, the sidewalks and driveways have become colorful chalkboards with amazing designs …..and many more people are walking their dogs!!
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I know that some of you are suffering through unemployment issues or the stress of working at home with lots of distractions. If there is anything I can do to help you through this difficult time, please call me at home or email me. I am always available to try to connect you with resources and help you in any way I can.
It is an honor to serve you in the Kansas Legislature. Again, I am always available to talk to you personally, or answer your emails and phone calls. I am here to serve you and take that responsibility seriously. Stay home and stay well.
We are adjourned until at least April 27, 2020.
Please feel free to call me at home: 785-861-7065
Or email me at Brenda.Dietrich@house.ks.gov
Representative Brenda S. Dietrich
Room 165-W State Capitol Building
300 SW 10th St.
Topeka, KS 6612