Week 10 | March 14-18, 2022
March 18th was the last day for non-exempt committees to meet. This means that all committees - with the exception of House Appropriations, Federal & State Affairs, and Taxation (along with their Senate counterparts) - have wrapped up meetings for the 2022 session.
House redistricting map passed out of committee
The House Redistricting Committee passed an amended map for reapportioning the House’s 125 seats based on population shifts in our state. This map is the result of a bipartisan compromise. The map makes a number of tweaks from the original map introduced in committee this week. Highlights of the Freestate 3 map include:
- Priority was given to keeping rural counties whole, especially in Western Kansas. This helps county election officers be efficient with local elections by avoiding creation of unnecessary new voting districts in lower populated areas. It also makes it easier for citizens to know who their Representatives are when needing assistance or voicing concerns to their legislators.
- The two existing House Districts, 108 and 117 will be new districts in Johnson County.
- Keeps new districts close to the ideal population for each district, with the deviation varying by just over 3 percent.
Standing with Ukraine
The House overwhelmingly passed, with my support, House Concurrent Resolution 5032, a resolution honoring the commitment and resilience of the Ukrainian people fighting against the Russian invasion. The resolution condemns not only the Russian invasion, but all attempts to establish tyranny over other sovereign nations. The House urges support by the United States, the members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and all freedom-loving countries to provide aid and support to the Ukrainian people during this aggression. Copies of the resolution will be sent to the Ukrainian and Russian ambassadors to the United States and to each member of the Kansas Congressional delegation.
The House adopted House Resolution 6024, which honors the 2020 and 2022 Kansas Master Teachers. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the program was suspended during 2021, and instead all Kansas teachers were recognized for their efforts in that year. Though the 2020 ceremony was canceled, the winners will be honored this spring.
Under the Master Teachers program, seven teachers are selected each year for this special recognition and each receives a $1,000 stipend to be used for professional learning. The Master Teachers were also commended by the House Education Committee. Members of the committee were introduced to the winners and had the opportunity to learn about the program.
Week 11 | March 21-25, 2022
March 23rd marked an important deadline in the 2022 Legislative Session. That is the date by which all non-exempt bills, from committees other than Appropriations, Federal and State Affairs, and Taxation, had to be considered in either chamber. This week the House debated and approved 55 bills. Senate bills that were not amended by the House will be advanced to the Governor for her consideration.
Over the coming week, Conference Committees will be meeting to hammer out differences between House and Senate versions of bills that have passed at least one chamber. The Legislature will then vote on Conference Committee Reports, which reflect the bill language agreed upon by members of each conference committee. These reports will be voted on prior to the Legislature’s First Adjournment deadline, which was for April 1.
I voted in favor of the following pieces of legislation that passed this week:
- Implementation of the 988 Sucicide prevention and mental health crisi hotlines in Kansas. Federal law has created 988 as an alternative to using the 911 system. The 988 system will connect people in cirisi to immediate care and assistance. (SB 19)
- Honoring the Gold Star Families of Kansas with a memorial to be placed on the Statehouse grounds(SB 330)
- Providing accountability with performance-based contracts within the foster care system and ensuring that children and families in need are receiving satisfactory care (SB 12)
- Protecting Kansas ranchers with passage of the Fake Meat labeling bill (SB 261)
House Redistricting Maps head to the Senate
The House adopted a map (HB 2737) for reapportioning the House’s 125 seats based on population shifts in our state. This map is the result of a bipartisan compromise. No amendments were presented during floor debate, keeping the map identical to what passed out of committee.
HB 2737 passed with a vote of 112-10. The bill heads to the Senate for its consideration. The House also passed the Senate’s reapportionment map, SB 563, following amending the Senate Bill.
SB 563 now contains both the House and Senate maps and goes to the Senate for a vote to consider the House’s amendment. The Senate has introduced the State Board of Education maps. Reapportioning the State Board of Education districts will be the final redistricting measure of the Session.
House Budget Bill Reflects Republican Priorities
The House passed SB 267, the state budget minus K-12 expenditures, with a vote of 73-49. The K-12 budget can be found in HB 2512. Priorities in the budget include:
- Setting aside $500 million in the Rainy Day Fund, so that our families will not be on the hook for higher taxes as the economy ebbs and flows.
- Caring for our most vulnerable citizens with additional dollars for social service programs.
- Removing the Governor’s one-time tax handout, recommending meaningful tax cuts.
- Addressing rural housing needs with a $50 million appropriation. House Republicans continue to work on legislation to best address how to keep rural Kansas thriving.
- Crafting reasonable recommendations on state employee pay by funding essential retention pay, while providing a flat increase for all other employees. In addition, the bill requests an interim study to look at pay issues across all agencies.
The budget bill now goes to a conference committee to work out differences between the House and Senate budgets.
Fully Funded Education Bill Advances
The House advanced HB 2512, an education bill containing constitutional school finance appropriations and adjustments to K-12 policy. HB 2512 also adds $5 million to fund the Safe and Secure grants, which were left unfunded by both the Governor and the State Board of Education. The policy changes promote transparency, ensure accountability, and improve achievement. Key provisions include:
- Helps students recover credits and obtain a diploma through the “Virtual School Dropout Student State Aid”
- Prioritizes 3rd grade literacy, an agreed upon goal between the Legislature and the Kansas State Board of Education. Addresses the lack of proficiency with 3rd grade readers by providing the Every Child Can Read Act.
- Provides additional accountability with requirement for two types of needs assessments, giving local boards more information on challenges faced by the children in their district.
- Increases number of mandatory reporters for child abuse by expanding the list to include KSHSAA employees to the list.
- Creates flexibility for students by allowing for part-time enrollment and the opportunity to earn course credit through alternative education sources.
- Addresses the concern for lack of proficiency in math, by encouraging districts to utilize virtual math programs to increase students’ math competency.
HB 2512 passed 76-46 and goes to the Senate for its consideration.
Week 11 | March 21-25, 2022
The Legislature concluded the majority of its work for the session, though a few key items remain to wrap up during the Veto Session. All bills passed up to this point will be presented to the Governor for her consideration. Should the Governor veto any bills during the April break, the Legislature will have the opportunity to consider veto overrides when we return to Topeka on April 25.
Redistricting Maps Advanced to the Governor
The House passed, with my support, the SB 563 conference committee report, 83-40. The report contained the Senate maps and House maps, which the House had previously approved. The report also added the State Board of Education (SBOE) map, reapportioning the 10 SBOE districts. SB 563 awaits consideration by the Governor.
With passage of SB 563, the Legislature has completed its work on reapportioning State House, State Senate, State Board of Education, and Congressional Districts, meeting the requirement of adjusting districts to reflect population changes resulting from the 2020 Census.
Monumental KPERS Legislation Approved
The Republican response to the Governor’s State of the State laid out several priorities, including stabilizing the KPERS retirement fund, so that it will be there for our teachers, our firefighters, and other public employees when they need it. SB 421 transfers up to $1.125 billion directly to the KPERS Trust Fund. The first $253.9 million pays off the 2017 layering payment. The bill then appropriates two more payments totaling $600 million. This brings the FY 2022 appropriation to $853.9 million. In FY 2023, another payment of $146.1 million will be made on August 1 and $125 million on December 1, subject to approval by the State Finance Council. At Omnibus, the resulting savings by reducing the state’s share of employer contributions, will be reviewed. Preliminary figures estimate savings of $463.5 million over the first five years. By investing a portion of the budget surplus into the KPERS Trust Fund, the funded ratio for KPERS will rise above the 80 percent threshold this Fiscal Year, a significantly stable level for a pensions system. The Legislature has worked for several years to clean up unfunded liabilities in the KPERS system, and I’m pleased that we’ve been able to accomplish that.
SB 421 passed the House with overwhelming, with my support, 106-10. SB 421 was not acted upon by the Senate prior to First Adjournment.
Responsible Budget Passes, Maintains Key Republican Priorities
The House passed SB 267, the appropriations bill, with a vote of 104-12. The Senate also passed the bill, sending it to the Governor for her consideration. Any line-item vetoes in the budget can be considered by the Legislature when it returns for the Veto Session. The priorities include:
- Securing the Rainy Day Fund, so that our families will not be on the hook for higher taxes as the economy ebbs and flows. $500 million was appropriated directly to the Fund.
- Taking a “save more” instead of “spend more” approach, resisting the urge to overspend one-time federal stimulus dollars. Federal SPARK dollars were allocated to true one-time expenditures, not creating future years of expenditure growth.
- Continuing to invest in mental health, so our children, our veterans, and our families can access services when and where they need them. Additional funds were put in to increase reimbursement rates for those caring for our most vulnerable citizens (the Intellectual and Developmentally Disabled Frail Elderly waivers, behavioral health services).
- Making smart economic decisions that do not drive up debt by utilizing federal ARPA funds to spur economic development and critical infrastructure at the state’s universities and independent colleges, community colleges and technical colleges, and Washburn.
- Keeping businesses and good-paying jobs in our communities, at a time when many are still trying to rebound from the Governor’s closures. Included in the budget is $50 million set aside for business closure rebates, providing claims from small businesses shut down during the pandemic. There is also a total of $40 million provided for the Moderate Income Housing program and the Rural Housing Revolving Loan Program.
Veto Session Priorities
When the House returns later this month, consideration may be given to legislation that was agreed upon in conference, but not yet acted upon by the House. That legislation includes:
- Creating comprehensive tax legislation, including responsibly addressing a lowering of the food sales tax rate (HB 2106)
- Building upon on the safety and integrity of our Kansas elections system by addressing ballot boxes (HB 2056), elections, voting and audits (HB 2138), and preventing the Governor from modifying elections laws or procedures without Legislative consent (HB 2252)
- Fully funding K-12 education and directing policy, including: strengthening the Promise Act; addressing school safety and security; increasing proficiency, especially in reading (Every Child Can Read Act); providing greater educational opportunities through open enrollment; honoring spouses and dependents of public safety officers and military personnel through the Kansas Heroes Scholarship (HB 2567)
- Extending the KanCare contracts for Managed Care Organizations (MCOs), allowing the next Governor to consider how best to serve Kansans being served by MCOs while providing Kansans on Medicaid with continuity leading up to the bidding process. Additionally, the bill continues limits on the Governor’s power regarding firearms or ammunition, and prohibits the Governor from closing places of worship. (HB 2387)