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Legislative Update from Brenda Dietrich

In Our Community


I have been on the Board of the Jayhawk Area Council of Boy Scouts for many years, and I was honored to be asked to help them craft their Strategic Plan. We began the process this past summer and through the efforts of many local volunteers we now have a long-range plan that will carry our Council forward in the spirit of continuous improvement for the next three years. We unveiled the Strategic Plan at the Council’s Annual Dinner on Feb. 11 at Washburn University with Zach Ahrens (Publisher of the Capital-Journal) and Darren Haddock (VP at Payless ShoeSource) who are both active Scout leaders and on the Jayhawk BSA Board.

At the Capitol

On Feb. 13, we celebrated Kansas Career and Technical Education at the Capitol and look who I ran into!! Brian McFall from WRHS and four of his students.
 

 
Washburn Rural High School has had a coffee shop in the school common’s area for many years. It is run by students and is self-sustaining. They have won a number of awards from DECA and FBLA for their business and marketing plans. The group exhibited their Common Ground Blend 437 coffee, which is sold at HyVee (29th and Wanamaker). Students developed the blend, logo, packaging, inventory and everything else associated with the product. Common Grounds is a program that develops 21st Century skills and has been replicated in other schools that see the value of real-world learning experiences. Very cool!
 
On Feb. 15, I had a very large group come to visit for Credit Union Advocacy Day. I have been a member of Azura Credit Union (I joined when it was Educational Credit Union) for 16 years. The Heartland Credit Union Association organizes many credit union members and volunteers to come to the Capitol and meet with legislators. Credit Unions are not-for-profit financial cooperatives and Kansas is home to 80+ credit unions with more than $6 billion in assets.

Pages

I had two Washburn Rural Middle School students join me as pages on Feb. 22. Thank you Cale Marsh and Samantha Burton!
 

 
We were on the House floor all day and I could not leave to join them for pictures with the Governor, but they got along just fine! We kept them pretty busy running errands for legislators and they were on the floor of the House for quite some time. They also took a tour of the Capitol and pages can tour the dome if they wish. I always enjoy having students from the district with me watching government in action.


 

The Kansas House has passed 91 bills
this session. 53 bills were passed
by the House this past week.

 

Tax Reform

House passes plan to reverse 2012 tax law, Governor vetoes.

The House passed a plan last week to reverse several provisions in Governor Brownback’s 2012 tax law. The House plan (House Bill 2178) – which I voted for - passed on a bipartisan vote of 83-39. It would do the following:
  • Fix the LLC loophole, which has exempted certain businesses in the state – about 330,000 entities that are organized as Limited Liability Corporations - from paying income taxes;
  • Reinstate the medical expense deduction so that seniors and those with major medical expenses can return to deducting those expenses from their income taxes;
  • Restore the ability for business owners to deduct their losses rather than having to pay income taxes on those losses;
  • Prevent cuts to our K-12 schools this budget year, and help get the state budget back on track rather than perpetuating the borrowing tactics and one-time fixes that have plagued Kansas finances over the past several years;
  • Transition Kansas back to a three-bracket income tax system. Governor Brownback’s 2012 changes collapsed those brackets into two, giving wealthy Kansans a bigger break than middle- and low-income Kansans. Under the House plan, income tax brackets and rates would be as detailed in the chart below.
 
Income Level
Married filing jointly
Pre-2012
Tax Rate
2016-2017
Tax Rate
Proposed
New Rate
Net Rate
Change
from 2012
Married under $30,000 3.5% 2.7% 2.7% -.8%
Married  $30,000- $60,000 6.25% 4.60% 5.25% -1%
Married $60,000+ 6.45% 4.60% 5.45% -1%

The Senate voted last week to approve the House plan, sending the bill to the Governor’s desk for final consideration. On Tuesday night, the Governor announced that he would veto HB 2178. The House attempted a veto override on Wednesday morning, securing enough votes to override the Governor’s decision. I voted yes to override the Governor. However, the Senate fell three votes short of overriding the Governor. When the Legislature returns March 6, the tax and budget committees will go back to the drawing board.

Though this plan wasn’t perfect, it offered several options for moving the discussion forward and getting us closer to real revenue reform. I am disappointed that the Governor, in his veto, did not offer any viable solutions in place of the one presented by the Legislature.
 

Health and Human Services

House approves health care plan drafted by local hospitals, doctors

This past week, the House held several hours of floor debate on a plan designed to protect health care services in our state. The plan, contained in House Bill 2044, was put together by Kansas hospitals and medical providers as a way to reduce uncompensated care in our emergency rooms and increase access to preventive care for low-income working Kansans. Hospital and adult care home budgets across the state are being strained by the costs of treating those who fall between the cracks – in this case those who are currently not eligible for Medicaid and those who are working but unable to afford health insurance premiums. Ultimately, the tab for uncompensated care falls on our hospitals and on higher health insurance premiums for all of us.

The hospitals’ plan is intended to mitigate part of this problem. It passed the House as part of House Bill 2044 on a vote of 83-40. I voted yes.  This plan will leverage federal dollars – that are currently going to hospitals in other states instead of our own – to develop a premium assistance program for working Kansans who earn less than 133% of the federal income poverty level or who are eligible for employer health insurance coverage but cannot afford the premiums.

The hospitals designed the plan to be budget neutral so that, instead of requiring additional state taxpayer dollars, the hospitals have indicated it will be funded by using existing dollars more effectively and leveraging federal dollars through the Drug Rebate Program and a program privilege fee. The additional revenues coming into our state will directly benefit our local hospitals, adult care homes and mental health clinics – all of whom supported this bill. The legislation also drew support from the Topeka Chamber of Commerce and local chambers of commerce in communities across the state. During committee hearings, testimony indicated that 31 hospitals in the state are considered on the brink as our population continues to age and the cost of health insurance continues to rise. Though our district is not in a predominantly rural area, we are still impacted. When smaller surrounding hospitals close, that puts an increased burden on our local health care facilities and on our medical providers  – specifically Stormont-Vail, St. Francis and Valeo - as they attempt to serve more and more people.

During the floor debate, a number of “postcard” amendments were offered up. I’ve found that postcard amendments – those offered up by politicians who are more focused on creating campaign rhetoric than solving real problems - are common in the Legislature. Though these amendments touched on policy issues the Legislature can and should debate, I voted against tacking them onto this bill because they were intended to derail passage of the underlying policy and had not received thoughtful vetting in the committee process. House Bill 2044 will next go to the Senate for consideration.

Turnaround Day and a short break

Thursday, Feb. 23rd was "turnaround" day, the first major legislative deadline of the session and signifies the movement of bills from their originating chamber to the opposite body. Non-exempt bills which have not been worked out of committee, debated and passed on the floor of the chamber from which they originated will not move forward in the legislative process after turnaround day. Both the House and Senate spent two full days hearing and debating bills before concluding on Thursday evening in advance of the turnaround deadline.
 
The House convenes again on March 6 and will be in session every day until March 31.
 

Contact Me

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 166-W State Capitol Building
300 SW 10th St., Topeka, KS 66612
Phone: 785-296-7648
Email:  Brenda.Dietrich@House.ks.gov

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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