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April 18th, 2021
L&T Opinions Page

shannon francis portraitGUEST COLUMN, Shannon Francis, State Representative

 

This week both Houses of the Legislature spent our days debating and voting on bills. Next week will be spent ironing out differences between the House and Senate versions of bills. This is done in conference committees. Conference committees are made up of members of both houses.  Then each legislative body will vote on the bill after the conference committee changes.  Those passed will be sent to the Governor for approval or veto. 

 

Protecting Local Control on Masks

On March 24, the Governor announced her intent to issue another statewide mask mandate by Executive Order despite a decline in new COVID cases. The House responded quickly with passage of HR 6015 on a vote of 84-39. The resolution urges the Legislative Coordinating Council (LCC) to revoke an Executive Order that mandates masks if the order is issued when the Legislature is adjourned. On April 1, less than a day after the Legislature adjourned for the Easter holiday, Governor Kelly issued EO 21-14, a new statewide mask mandate. The members of LCC voted 5-2 to revoke the order.

Revoking the order allows our local elected officials to continue to decide what’s best for our communities rather than forcing a one-size-fits-all approach across the state. In November, the Governor issued her last statewide mask mandate. At that time, Kansas had 5,217 new cases and a 7-day average of 2,430 new cases. Recent numbers showed Kansas with only 36 new cases and a seven-day average of 216 cases. 

Kansans have banded together for over a year to successfully reduce the spread of COVID – and they’ve done so during a time when most counties have opted out of the Governor’s mask mandate. 

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House advances full funding for schools, support for at-risk learners

This week the House debated HB 2119 regarding K-12 education. The bill contains full funding for our schools in compliance with the Kansas Supreme Court’s Gannon ruling. 

Additionally, HB 2119 creates more options for at-risk students and their families by creating Educational Savings Accounts and broadening the state’s existing Tax Credit Scholarship Program. These policy provisions are targeted at helping at-risk learners access added opportunities so they can bridge academic achievement gaps. 

 

Tax Bill – Internet sales tax, increased standard deductions and Itemization on State Tax Return

In 2017, the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed into law, which provided tax relief to American families and businesses. While this legislation brought American workers bigger paychecks, enhanced economic opportunity, and yielded historic job growth, Kansans experienced an unintended tax increase. Kansas is a “rolling conformity” state, so federal tax changes are adopted automatically. SB 50 provides Kansans with the tax relief that was intended by the federal Act. 

In addition to remedying the unintended tax increase, the bill also:

• Increases the standard deductions for all Kansans.

• Allows individuals and small businesses the option to itemize on their state tax returns regardless of whether they itemize on their federal tax return.

• Levels the playing field for Kansas brick-and-mortar businesses by requiring online retailers who are located out-of-state to remit sales tax to the state on purchases ordered for delivery to Kansas.

• Protects victims of identity theft from owing Kansas income tax on unemployment compensation that was fraudulently obtained by another individual.

Texas, North Carolina, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and Connecticut are among the states – like Kansas – that realized their laws needed to be changed so taxpayers would not be penalized because of federal changes in tax policy.

 

House advances budget

The House advanced its budget bill, HB 2397, this week. The bill includes:

• Reducing the size of government, with a 2 percent across-the-board cut.

• Rejecting the Governor’s policy recommendation for reamortizing KPERS. The Governor’s budget would create $4.6 billion in debt in exchange for $158 million to finance her budget.

• Restoring cuts to critical programs, including $42.2 million for the Evidence-Based Juvenile Programs. These programs help keep Kansas children out of incarceration and in the community receiving services from programs with proven results. 

• Restoring funding for a provider reimbursement rate increase for those who care for some of our most vulnerable citizens, those on the Medicaid Home and Community Based Services Intellectual/Developmental Disability (HCBS I/DD) waiver. The Governor cut this item.

• Increasing funding support to nursing home facilities, continuing the rate increase that was put in place due to the COVID pandemic.

• Helping keep Kansas courts open and funded by replacing lost fee fund revenue, which was not received during closures resulting from the COVID pandemic.

• Providing additional funds for the Board of Regents, including funding for deferred maintenance, refunding classes previously offered as in-person, and continuing support for technical education.

• Supporting Kansas seniors with increased funding for the Kansas Senior Care Act.

• Prioritizing mental health services, with additional funding for the Community Mental Health Center grants.

• Fully financing the funding needs of the Children’s Health Insurance Program. The Governor did not allocate the additional $19 million needed for the program.

The budget now goes to the Senate for its consideration and will likely be in Conference Committee next week to reconcile the House and Senate budget bills.

 

Additional Legislation passed by the House

HB 2022 Updating the state corporation commission's authority to regulate and determine responsibility for abandoned oil and gas wells and abolishing the well plugging assurance fund and transferring all assets and liabilities to the abandoned oil and gas well fund. 

HB 2072 Providing for the Kansas corporation commission to authorize the securitization of certain public utility generating facilities, qualified extraordinary costs, and issuance of securitized utility tariff bonds. 

HB 2316 Eliminating the prohibition of a surcharge when purchases are made with a credit or debit card.

HB 2363 Concerning the Board of Indigents Defense Services counsel, increasing the maximum paid to assigned counsel. 

HB 2380 Amending healthcare stabilization fund minimum professional liability insurance coverage requirements and the membership of the board of governors of such fund. 

HB 2408 Authorizing the state historical society to convey certain real property to the Iowa Tribe of Kansas and Nebraska.

HB 2412 creates the Kansas Fights Opioid Addiction Act. Any funds received by the Attorney General from opioid addiction litigation will be used for grants (75 percent to the state, 25 percent to localities) to prevent, reduce, treat, or mitigate the effects of substance abuse and addiction. 

HB 2417 Allowing clubs and drinking establishments to sell beer and cereal malt beverage for consumption off the licensed premises. 

HB 2448 Permitting the secretary for children and families to license certain family foster homes where a former foster care youth with juvenile adjudications resides. 

SB 60 Defining proximate result for purposes of determining when a crime is committed partly within this state. 

SB 78 Updating the national insurance commissioners credit for insurance reinsurance model law, codifying the national insurance commissioners credit for reinsurance model regulation and updating certain terms and definitions relating to the insurance holding company act, service contracts and surplus lines insurance. 

SB 106 Enacting the revised uniform law on notarial acts and repealing the uniform law on notarial acts. 

SB 122 Modifying certain rules of evidence in the code of civil procedure related to authentication of records and documents.

SB 124 Expanding STAR bonds by adding rural redevelopment projects and major business facilities, prohibiting public officials from employment with a developer, providing for public notice of hearings on city or county websites, posting of certain documents and links on websites, disclosure of names of developer, disclosure of state, federal and local tax incentives within a STAR bond district, changing certain project financing, investment and sales provisions, adding visitor tracking plan requirements and additional feasibility study requirements with oversight by the secretary, requiring approval by the secretary for real estate transfers, requiring district contiguity and extending the sunset date. 

SB 127 Modifying the eligibility requirements for restricted driving privileges, increasing the age for eligibility to renew drivers' licenses online to 65 and allowing drivers' license renewal notices to be sent electronically. 

SB 172 Creating the crimes of trespassing on a critical infrastructure facility and criminal damage to a critical infrastructure facility and eliminating the crime of tampering with a pipeline.

SB 273 Directing that tobacco product manufacturer remittances be credited to the Kansas endowment for youth fund rather than deposited into escrow upon certification by the attorney general. 

SB 283 Extending Telemedicine Practices, Business & Healthcare Liability Protections effectively extends the authority to practice via telemedicine by one year, expiring on March 31, 2022. The bill also extends immunity to liability related to COVID-19 for Kansas businesses and healthcare providers through March 31, 2022, if they take reasonable steps to prevent the spread of COVID. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, out-of-state physicians were authorized to help treat Kansans via telemedicine through the issuance of an emergency license to practice medicine. Had the Legislature not acted on this bill, these provisions would have expired on March 31.

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