The 2018 Legislature returned from break at a feverish pace as they rushed to complete the work the languid start of the session had left them. The biggest issue remaining was the budget, which had been put off all session, but more than a few additional items remained to be parsed over before sine die on Friday the 4th.
On April 20th the Consensus Revenue Estimating (CRE) Group increased their estimate from November by $217 million for this fiscal year and an additional $316 million for the following, which begins July 1. The increase was welcome news to the returning legislature as they had yet to finish the budget as well as work on the tax plan the Senate passed in the waning moments before they adjourned in early April.
The legislature returned with the need to correct an $80 million dollar error from the plan they passed shortly before adjourning. There had been some confusion about just what had happened but it was quickly explained that the money had been appropriated already, i.e. there was no need for the legislature to spend additional resources, but rather they had not authorized the Department of Education to spend that $80 million and so needed the legislature to do so. There was a bit of wrangling and attempts to \ increase the funding further but ultimately authorization was given to spend the money.
The legislature approved HB2028, which requires health insurers to cover telemedicine care although the bill does not set the rate of pay. This is believed to significantly expand care to sparsely populated areas and should be a boon to citizens of western Kansas. The only real controversy was over how telemedicine would deal with abortion procedures, i.e. the taking of abortive medication. Ultimately it was decided and passed that if a court ruled abortion or the abortion procedure unconstitutional the entire bill will be void. SB 348 (electronic insurance documents) was passed and sent to the Governor for approval. This bill also included S Sub for HB 2103 (Amino-acid formula test tracking). SB 296 (Seat Belt) was not worked and died in conference. The Kansas Insurance Department’s bill on Captive Insurance Companies (SB 410) was signed into law.
The only provision the legislature had to pass when they returned was finally passed on May 3rd with both chambers approving the budget bill and forwarding it to Governor Colyer for consideration. Highlights of the bill include:
- Restoring part of the 2017 cut to the regent universities worth about $15 million
- $15 million in raises for state employees
- Reducing the amount of money transferred out of KDOT by $62 million
- A provision to prevent the administration from making significant changes to KanCare, i.e. the so called KanCare 2.0 that was scrapped earlier in the session
- Significant increases in social service funding particularly in DCF where the care of children in state custody has been a significant issue all session.One important note on the budget is the Governor has the opportunity to line item any portion he wishes and the legislature, given the schedule they approved in their adjournment resolution, will have no opportunity to override his decisions.
The Tax Bill
The legislature failed to pass the much talked about tax bill as the House remained deadlocked at 59-59 and the session expired. The major provision of the bill was allowing Kansans who take the newly passed higher federal standard deduction to itemize their Kansas income tax returns.
The difficulty in passing the bill lay in the uncertainty of just how much revenue it would cost the state. The estimates swung wildly during the debate and a solid number was never reached. The Senate reluctantly, on a vote of 21-19, passed the measure on to the House where it ultimately died in the waning hours of the session.
The House on a 63-58 vote and the Senate on a 24-15 passed a bill allowing the state to continue to work with foster care and adoption providers from groups with “sincerely held religious beliefs.” The issue at stake was if state funds should go to providers who will not place children with LGBT or non-religious families or single parent homes. It was a contentious and sometimes heated debate but it was ultimately passed and the Governor has said he will sign the bill.
Candidate for Governor Bill
The Legislature passed a bill changing the requirement to run for governor beginning in 2022. Candidates will now have to be at least 25 years old and live in Kansas. This bill was in response to what many feel was a loophole in the law allowing basically anyone anywhere to run for governor.
Ban the Box
Governor Colyer on May 2nd issued an executive order that will “ban the box” asking if the applicant has been convicted of a felony or misdemeanor in the past on employment applications for agencies under his authority. That box has essentially eliminated the opportunity for future interviews for those checking it yes. Governor Colyer stated that employment is one of the keys to reducing recidivism.
Retirements from the House
Several House members have elected to retire/not seek reelection this year and it is possible that number will grow. So far those who have announced their intentions and said goodbye to colleagues are:
- Les Osterman, R-Wichita
- Scott Schwab (who is running for Secretary of State) R-Olathe
- Shellee Brim, R-Shawnee
- Susie Swanson, R-Clay CenterGamingTwo gaming provisions were considered during the wrap up session. The first was the successful passage of a bill allowing the Kansas Lottery to sell scratch tickets in vending machines. This was the same bill passed last year and ultimately vetoed by then Governor Brownback.The second bill was another attempt to allow slot machines at the racetracks in Kansas. This bill died in the Senate, as its supporters could not find enough support for passage. It has been a controversial proposal as opponents argue it will trigger a clause in the contract with the management companies of the state owned casinos and require a massive payout to them. It will almost certainly continue to be an issue going forward as neither side seems interested in giving up.
SB199: Amending bond requirements for appeals in the code of civil procedure.
SB 199 was debated by the Judiciary conference committee with a few changes
made to the language, specifically whether the use of the word “sole” before “purpose” would cause confusion before the House offering “primary” instead. That was acceptable and it was passed by overwhelming majorities in both chambers and moves on to the governor.
The conclusion of the 2018 Kansas Legislative Session means moving on to election season. With all statewide offices up and the Kansas House as well as the four House of Representative seats it should be a very exciting time. Campaigns will soon be in full swing and the make up and look of the state could be very different in 2019. Either way it should be an exciting time.