March 15, 2020
The month of March is usually very busy at the Capitol and always interesting, but this year is a little different with the issues associated with COVID-19. The Capitol building is now on restricted access which means no events, no field trips, no visitors are allowed in…only those who have business in the Capitol.
We have had a few bills move through committees and some committees are busier than others. As a reminder, last year the House introduced 419 bills and the Senate introduced 241 bills. At the end of the session, only 67 bills were passed by both chambers and became law.
Before we get to the action at the Capitol and the impact of COVID-19…..….I wanted to share some things that I have been involved in this month.
Hotcakes for Hope
On March 3th, I helped with the 2nd annual fundraiser for Grace Med at Countryside Methodist Church. We served breakfast for dinner and had a great time! You might recognize some of the folks with me on the serving line…..Barry Feaker (Topeka Rescue Mission), Aaron Mays (County Commissioner), Jessica Lehnherr (United Way CEO), and Retired Sheriff’s County Deputy, Martha Lutz. I hope we do this again next year!
Parents as Teachers Resolution
March 4th was Parents As Teachers Day at the Capitol. It was my honor to speak to the Kansas PAT group at the Capitol that morning and to honor the 30th Anniversary of Parents as Teachers in Kansas with a Resolution on the floor of the House. Parents as Teachers is a phenomenal program working with families from birth to 3. Kids do not come with an instruction manual! The PAT educators help with developmental screenings and can connect parents to local resources. I am a strong supporter of this program!
Pages at the Capitol
I had two groups of pages this month! On March 5th I hosted my niece, Hope, and her friends from the Smoky Valley School District in Lindsborg. Pictured with me and the Governor are Hope Duncan, Mackenzie Heline, and Jordyn Elseth.
On March 10th, I had 4 pages from the Auburn-Washburn School District. The students are from Indian Hills Elementary, Auburn Elementary, and WRMS. Pictured with me and the Governor are Brecken Dunford, Eli Replogle, Aarya Anjankar, and Brody Tenbrink. We had a great time learning about government and touring the Capitol!
Small Business Awards
The 2nd floor of the Rotunda was packed with the winners of the KS Small Business Development Centers Business of the Year awards. In Topeka, Anneal Initiative, Inc. won the Emerging Business of the Year. The owners are Jeremy Jackson, Amy Billinger, and Jenny Jackson pictured below with me. Congratulations!
At the Capitol
COVID-19 Concerns….Emergency Preparedness + Budget
The Kansas House moved quickly on Friday to prioritize a basic budget and implement emergency plans as a preventive measure amid Coronavirus concerns. The 8th Kansas case of COVID-19 was confirmed on Friday (including 1 death), prompting many school districts and public entities to implement temporary closures to reduce exposure.
- The House approved a Resolution to extend the Governor’s State of Emergency Declaration to allow health officials sufficient time to mitigate the spread of Coronavirus. The Declaration puts in place a backstop so the Governor, in case of emergency, would have the ability to move resources from one government agency to another should additional resources be needed in certain areas, such as more support for the Kansas Department of Health and Environment to increase testing or expedite information to the public. The resolution also requires Senate approval.
- The House Appropriations Committee sent a basic budget to the full House with the expectation lawmakers could negotiate with the Senate on Friday and be ready for lawmakers to vote on the budget as early as Saturday morning. Those plans were delayed when the Senate adjourned on Friday morning without allowing for budget negotiations to begin.
At this point, the Legislature will continue to meet and our work won’t stop. But, as with any public health and safety concern, we have a responsibility to make sure the state is positioned to provide essential services even if the Legislature were to become unable to meet. That’s what a basic budget would do. We shouldn’t delay getting this done.
Coronavirus Disease 2019
(COVID-19) in Kansas
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) and local health partners are closely monitoring the novel coronavirus.
The governor has issued an Emergency Declaration for the State of Kansas in response to COVID-19. This Declaration authorizes the use of state resources and personnel to assist with response and recovery operations in affected counties.
Labs throughout the state are testing for COVID-19. KDHE will continue to report and announce results from labs for Kansas cases. Please note that the impact of COVID-19 is evolving, and it is encouraged that you visit KDHE’s and the CDC’s websites for the most accurate and up-to-date information:
KDHE Fact Sheet :http://www.kdhe.ks.gov/coronavirus/download/COVID-19_One_Pager.pdf
KDHE COVID-19 Resource Center: http://www.kdhe.ks.gov/coronavirus/index.htm
KDHE Hotline Number: 866-534-3463 (Monday-Friday 8:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.)
CDC COVID-19 Resource Center: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
CDC COVID-19 Cases in the U.S.: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-in-us.html
Local Health Departments have closed some school districts in Kansas. The Kansas Department of Education (KSDE) has not issued any directives to close all Kansas schools, yet, although the Governor and Commissioner of Education are highly recommending that all schools close from March 16-20th if they are not on spring break. The Governor made that request at a 6:00 pm press conference on Sunday night. Should local health departments, in cooperation with KDHE, the president of the United States or the governor of Kansas, require a closure of a school because of COVID-19, schools have three options:
- Make up the missed school days by June 30, 2020
- Submit a proposal to KSDE for the delivery of e-learning to be counted as seat time
- Submit a petition to the Kansas State Board of Education to waive the legally minimum number of hours and days schools must be open
As of Sunday afternoon, March 15th school districts in Riley, Dickinson, Geary, Shawnee, Leavenworth, Wabaunsee, Jefferson, and Douglas counties have reported closures for 1-2 weeks, with some closures possible up to three weeks. These closures are being reviewed with coordination between the Superintendents, Department of Education, and KDHE. USD 204 - Piper, in Wyandotte County has received approval through KDHE to close for two weeks.
Displaced and Laid Off Workers
For workers who are displaced or laid off as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a full list of benefits offered by the Kansas Department of Labor can be found here: https://www.getkansasbenefits.gov/
Additional resources for affected workers may be found here: https://www.dol.ks.gov/
Extension of Legal and Court Deadlines
The House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on HB 2743, which will allow the Chief Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court to extend or suspend deadlines to secure the health and safety of users of the court system, staff, and judicial officers, given current events surrounding COVID-19. Such an order will apply to municipal courts, district courts, the Kansas Court of Appeals, and the Kansas Supreme Court.
There are fears over whether litigants would be deprived the opportunity of a speedy trial, should court proceedings be delayed or suspended in the midst of this health crisis. To remedy this, the bill will extend all legal deadlines including but not limited to trial deadlines, deadlines to file an appeal, statutes of limitations and other legal deadlines. In addition, the chief justice would also be allowed to issue an order authorizing teleconferencing in any court proceeding in the event a threat to public health.
With this bill, the judicial branch will ensure that litigants will not be constrained by necessary measures to secure the health and safety of those attending court proceedings. Affording the chief justice this opportunity to extend judicial deadlines and authorize teleconferencing will allow the court system in Kansas to continue to function in a time of crisis. The bill was amended to include a sunset date on March 31st.
This bill passed out of committee and it is anticipated that it will be approved by the Legislature next week.
Eisenhower Legacy Transportation Plan
On Thursday, the House Appropriations Committee improved on HB 2588, the governor’s transportation plan. Transportation Chairman, Richard Proehl (R-Parsons) offered a balloon amendment to make a good plan better. The amendment included the following changes:
The bill passed out of committee and awaits action by the House.
- Changed the name from the FORWARD transportation program to the Eisenhower Legacy transportation program. This name change honors the legacy of the father of the interstate system, President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
- 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. Bonds are still subject to the 18 percent cap.
- Alternative Delivery is allowed when federal grants require it.
- Work will be spread across all 6 KDOT districts
- All existing T-WORKS projects will be let to construction by July 1, 2022, one year ahead of FORWARD
- Expanded reporting on: anticipated payouts for construction projects under contract; proposed projects to be let; three-year projection effects on remaining agency debt service, programs, and operations; comparison of annual revenue expected into the State Highway Fund.
- Focus on short-line rail will help keep large trucks off highways.
The Legislature has one job that must be done each year……the passage of a budget. We will make sure a basic budget is passed so that the state is ready and able to serve Kansans throughout this rapidly changing situation with COVID-19.
Appropriations Wrapped Up Budget Work
This week the House Appropriations Committee received and acted on the remaining reports from House Budget Committees. House Budget Committees made recommendations on every state agency and board and then those recommendations went to the Appropriations Committee for consideration. All of these recommendations are drafted in with existing appropriations language from the Governor’s Budget Report. The Committee further amended the budget on Friday, March 13 and passed out HB 2597.
The bill awaits further action by the House.
Lastly….I know you have seen this list all over Facebook, but please follow basic good health practices and…….
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands. (It’s hard to do!)
- Wash your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
- Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid close contact with people who are obviously sick!
- To keep from spreading respiratory illness to others, you should:
- Stay home when YOU are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.
- Please practice social distancing……you may not be ill, but we all know folks who are in the high-risk category and we need to limit group exposure and not compromise their health.
It is an honor to represent the citizens of the 52nd
District. I know this is a trying time for everyone and I will do my very best to keep you informed and help you in any way I can. Please let me know how I can be of service to you and stay well!
Representative Brenda S. Dietrich
Room 165-W State Capitol Building
300 SW 10th St.
Topeka, KS 6612