Legislative Newsletter: March 24th, 2014

It's a very busy time at the Capitol as we get closer to first Adjournment. Numerous bills were debated on the House floor and continued to work bills in committee. This week I sat in as a member of the House Education Committee and the House Federal and State Affairs Committee. 

In the Education Committee we voted SCR 1619 out favorably to support implementation of information technology education in Kansas Schools.

The House Federal and State Affairs Committee passed favorable SB 346, that will allow microbreweries to increase production from 15,000 to 30,000 barrels a year.  The committee also approved Sub. for SCR 1618, a state constitutional amendment for consideration at the next general election, in November 2014. The amendment, if approved by voters, would allow charitable raffles by certain nonprofits organizations.

Friday was the last day for bill introductions in non-exempt committees. This week we will be on the House floor all day, Monday through Wednesday.

In this issue:

  • Full House amends and advances Financial Literacy bill
  • “Gotcha” amendment proposed on the House floor
  • House Democratic Caucus receives update on status of Early Childhood policy
  • House debates Health Care Compact
  • Keep in Touch

Full House amends and advances Financial Literacy bill

On Tuesday, the House debated HB 2475. This bill started as a requirement for all high school students to take a one semester class on financial literacy during the junior or senior year in order to graduate.

The bill had been amended in committee to infuse financial literacy standards throughout the curriculum in all grades and to test financial literacy standards on the state assessments. The State Department would report on progress to the legislature. The curriculum would be taught in math classes or other appropriate courses such as family and consumer science or economics. Proponents say students need to know more about managing money. Topics to be covered in the instruction include saving and investing, credit and debt and the importance of setting a budget.

Rep. Pete DeGraaf proposed an amendment that would take the bill back to its original form requiring a financial literacy class for graduation. Education Committee Chair Kasha Kelley supported the amendment even though her committee had amended the bill. This amendment failed on a vote of 31 to 86. The bill as it came out of committee plus the handshaking amendment was then advanced on a voice vote. On Wednesday, the House passed the bill on final action 110-12 sending the measure to the Senate.

Proponents say students need to know more about managing money. Topics to be covered in the instruction include saving and investing, credit and debt and the importance of setting a budget.

The bill also requires the State Board of Education to give lawmakers a report on student scores on financial literacy tests before the start of the 2015 legislative session.

“Gotcha” amendment proposed on the House floor

On Wednesday, Representative Scott Schwab offered an amendment on a bill creating an income tax deduction on the sale of certain livestock during floor debate that was characterized as "political gamesmanship." His amendment would have restored the income tax back to the rates used before the Brownback cuts were enacted in 2012.

Schwab announced that he would vote against his own amendment but merely wanted to show Kansans who complained about the tax cuts that there was not the "political will" to repeal them.

Representatives from both sides of the aisle came to the well to speak against the amendment which they said was an inappropriate tactic designed merely to embarrass those who think the cuts were reckless by making them vote for full repeal - a vote which would be characterized as a vote for a massive tax increase.

No one took the bait and the amendment failed 0 to 120.


House Democratic Caucus receives update on status of Early Childhood policy

On Thursday, our caucus met for our weekly luncheon that we call “Thursday Summit” where we receive updates and invaluable information from various organizations and advocates from around the state. This week, we heard from April Holman with Kansas Action for Children. April gave us a presentation on the status of early childhood policy in the state and Kansas Action for Children’s top priorities.

One of the top priorities for KAC this year has been HB 2767, which would allow researchers and public health officials to access data from the State Child Death Review Board in order to identify risk factors which contribute to child death. This would be a huge step forward in child death prevention. The bill preserves confidentiality of child death cases through the use of de-identified data, and the data is released only when approved by the State Child Death Review Board.  April provided some staggering numbers that reinforce the need to release this data – Kansas’ infant mortality rate for 2011 was 6.23 deaths per 1,000 live births, which is more than the national average at 6.05 deaths per 1,000 births. Since its inception, the State Child Death Review Board has reviewed nearly 8,700 child deaths.  I support releasing this data, as it would shed light on the risk factors facing Kansas children.

We also received some background on the Children’s Initiative Fund (or CIF) which is funded by payments made to the state from the master tobacco settlement. The CIF is administered by the Children’s Cabinet and Trust Fund, and serves nearly 200,000, roughly one-third of Kansas children.

April explained that Kansas recently entered into a settlement with tobacco companies, providing the state with $46 million that the state did not receive during arbitration with tobacco companies.  In 2014, Kansas is to receive $17.2 million


House debates Health Care Compact

On Friday, the House debated at length HB 2553, which would allow Kansas to join the Interstate Health Care Compact. Under the Compact, member states would be able to regulate health care within their boundaries, and to secure federal funding. More precisely, federal funding for all health care services and health plans would be placed under the control of the state legislature and governor.

This bill is potentially harmful to Kansas’ most vulnerable. Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger has pointed out that this legislation would include but is not limited to Medicare, Medicaid, the children’s health insurance program (HealthWave), rural hospitals, Hospice and federally qualified health centers. The funding would be received in a block grant to the state, and the state legislature would decide how to spend those health care dollars.

In response to the potential harm that would be caused by this bill to Kansas’ most vulnerable, several legislators proposed amendments. Rep. Wilson first proposed essentially transforming the bill into legislation which would carve out all managed care for individuals with an intellectual or developmental disability from KanCare, as favored by the I/DD community.  The amendment was ruled not germane. As we continued to debate the bill, Rep. Ward proposed an amendment which would exempt Medicare from the Health Care Compact. Under this bill, Medicare would essentially become privatized, yet again harming Kansas seniors.

The original Health Care Compact bill passed in its original form on a voice vote and will be voted on Final Action on Monday.

Keep in Touch

It is a special honor to serve as your state representative.  I value and need your input on the various issues facing state government.  Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions.  My office address is Room 173-W, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612.  You can reach me at (785) 296-7371 or call the legislative hotline at 1-800-432-3924 to leave a message for me.  Additionally, you can e-mail me at pam.curtis@house.ks.gov.  You can also follow the legislative session online at www.kslegislature.org