KanCare Expansion in the Senate

Apr 15, 2019 by

On May 1, when the Legislature returns for their wrap-up session, the Senate will consider a motion by Senator Anthony Hensley (D-Topeka) to bring HB 2066 out of committee and on to the Senate floor for debate and action.

HB 2066 came to the House floor in a different form than what the Senate will consider but on a motion by Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore (D-Kansas City), the bill was amended to be a Medicaid expansion bill (Medicaid in Kansas is called “KanCare”). The amendment was adopted on a vote of 69 to 53 but only after House leadership tried to stop it by ruling the amendment not germane to the topic in the bill. The House voted to overrule leadership – a very rare action which indicated a strong desire by the majority to act on KanCare/Medicaid expansion.

HB 2066 passed the House on March 21 on a vote of 69 to 54. But since then, leadership in the Senate has done everything in their power to make sure the bill does not get a vote in the Senate.

Polls consistently show that between 70 and 80% of Kansans want the state to adopt expansion. Why? Well, there are several good reasons.

  • All Kansans pay federal income tax and some of that tax money is sent back to states to pay 90% of the cost of Medicaid expansion. The states that don’t expand are leaving those dollars in Washington. Kansas has already forfeited over $3 billion that could be brought back to Kansas in the form of health care for working Kansans.
  • Rural hospitals in Kansas are closing. Five have already closed while others are on the brink of closing. Medicaid expansion would bring health care dollars back into Kansas communities and in-turn support the fiscal health of rural hospitals and the communities they serve.
  • If you have health insurance, your premiums are impacted by those who don’t. People who lack health insurance rely on expensive emergency rooms for care. Covering the cost of that care is part of the reason hospital bills are so high – the cost of the uninsured is passed on to the insured through higher medical bills and insurance premiums. The simple fact is, the more people who have health insurance, the better costs can be contained.

Kansas NEA supports KanCare expansion. It’s good for school employees. Some of the people that our students depend on – bus drivers, cafeteria workers, part time ESP staff – would benefit from expansion. It’s good for children – our students – because learning is very challenging when students must deal with the distress of a sick parent who could be treated with proper coverage.

It’s hard to understand why some legislators are opposed to health care for working Kansans.

The Hensley motion to bring the bill out of committee will take more than the minimum 21 votes – it takes 24 just to get the bill to the floor; it then takes 27 to bring the bill up for action.

In 2017, both the House and Senate voted to expand KanCare only to have it vetoed by Governor Brownback. The House successfully voted to override that veto but the Senate vote to override came up one vote short. This is the same Senate that voted in 2017 with three changes (Eric Rucker for Vicki Schmidt, Kevin Braun for Steve Fitzgerald, and Vic Miller for Laura Kelly). This year, Kansas has a Governor who will sign KanCare expansion into law. The last hurdle is the Kansas Senate.

We urge all Kansans to contact their Senator and urge them to support the Hensley motions to bring HB 2066 to a vote on the Senate floor and then to support HB 2066 for passage. The time for KanCare expansion is NOW. The time to help our rural hospitals, to provide for our working neighbors, to keep our communities strong is NOW.

Take action through the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas (KNEA is a member of the Alliance). Click here.

Want to know more about Medicaid Expansion in Kansas?

To learn more about Medicaid expansion and to watch a short video explaining the “coverage gap,” click here.

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And in conclusion…School Finance!

Apr 4, 2019 by

Rep. Kristey Williams pulled no punches in her criticism of Senators who worked in a bipartisan effort to finally secure constitutional funding for Kansas public schools.

Wednesday; 1:30 PM conference committee meeting

This meeting started with a review by staff on what items had been agreed to and which were still unresolved.

The House then made a counter-offer to the Senate offer on finance made last evening. Here are the House points:

  • Accept the Senate position on bilingual education with advancing the LPA audit by two years,
  • Accept the Senate position not requiring a study of graduation requirements (financial literacy and computer science),
  • Accept the original Senate position on special education funding, keeping the 92% in place as in current law,
  • Maintain the House position on the artificial base for LOB calculation,
  • Maintain the House position on certification of instructional costs,
  • Accept the Senate position on bullying – no new provisions,
  • Maintain the House position on tuition tax credits, changing to the 100 lowest performing elementary schools,
  • Accept the Senate position on bond approval limits (stay with current law),
  • Accept the Senate position on transportation (stay with current law),
  • Reject the Senate’s finance package (same as the KSDE and the Governor),
  • Maintain the current House position on accountability reports,
  • Bring mental health program into the discussion.

Williams used the bulk of the meeting time to chastise the Senate for not accepting the House positions, accusing Senators of not caring about kids who are bullied and who commit suicide while she also attacked their support for the 92% reimbursement standard for special education.

In closing the meeting, Williams announced that the House would have a new offer on out-of-state students at their next meeting. And that next meeting will take place at 4:30 Wednesday afternoon!

Wednesday; 4:30 PM conference committee meeting

The final conference committee meeting had plenty of memorable moments.

Many folks were wondering what the impact of the new finance plan that Speaker Ron Ryckman (R-Olathe) had presented to the Republican caucus in the morning would have on proceedings. Everyone knew that Ryckman and some of his allies had been courting members of the House all day looking for support. If strong support for his “Kids First (but not really) Plan” was there, what would happen to this conference committee.

The Senate, as we’ve reported, was sticking to their position in SB 142 – the finance plan recommended by the State Board of Education, supported by the Governor, and approved on a vote of 32 to 8 in the Senate. SB 142 provided $90 million in new school aid in the coming year. The Ryckman plan would have give $9 million to schools and banked $81 million to be used some time in the future.

Kristey Williams (R-Augusta) came to the conference committee meeting and announced she was retracting the last House offer and that, after a 15 minute recess, she would return with what would be the last House offer, including money.

When she came back she made an offer that was the House position on most of the unresolved policy position but they would grant the Senate position on funding if the Senate would agree to repeal the CPI adjustments in the out years. It was clear that the votes in the House were not there for the so-called “Kids First Plan.”

Senators Molly Baumgardner and Jim Denning who- along with Senator Anthony Hensley- led a bipartisan effort to move forward on full constitutional funding for public schools.

The Senate did not yield. After several rounds back and forth, it was clear that the Senate was not going to budge on school finance and on certain pieces of policy. The three members of the Senate team – Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisburg), Jim Denning (R-Overland Park), and Anthony Hensley (D-Topeka) – showed a united front and supported each other in the arguments back and forth.

Williams grew angrier with each back and forth eventually accusing Denning and Baumgardner of not being Republican enough for opposing her demand to repeal the CPI and demanding that superintendents sign letters saying they had sufficient resources to help every child meet the Rose standards.

Baumgardner, who maintained a calm, professional demeanor throughout the process, finally let Williams know that she did not appreciate the ad hominem attacks on the Senators and accusations leveled at them. She then urged the House to take a caucus to come up with a final response to the Senate’s positions.

The House members left and after a long break returned to the table. Williams read from a prepared script that called the bill the “Senate/Governor Kelly plan”- perhaps in an effort to humiliate her Republican colleagues- and berated the Senators for working with the Governor and sticking to what she (Williams) deemed to be an irresponsible plan. But with that, she announced the House would take what the Senate offered and run it on the floor. Baumgardner adjourned the meeting.

With a determined, bipartisan approach, the Senate negotiators had managed to get SB 142 accepted as the Gannon finance response and the House backed off nearly all of their policy proposals.

Gone was the limit on bilingual education. The 92% special education reimbursement still stands. Superintendent certification of spending was abandoned along with limits on at-risk funds, an unworkable transportation policy, and much of the most expansive reporting requirements.

The result is a bill that might very well resolve the Gannon lawsuit and put the state back in constitutional compliance on school funding.

You can read the brief explaining the conference committee report by clicking here.

Thursday on the floor…

The House took up the conference committee first and adopted it on a vote of 76 to 47. Click here to see how your Representative voted.

The Senate took it up later that same day and adopted it on a vote of 31 to 8 (vote record here). The bill now goes to the Governor who is expected to sign it into law.

What happens next?

The Attorney General’s office is now tasked with writing a brief for the Supreme Court in defense of the actions taken. That brief is due on April 15 with oral arguments to follow in May.

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SUPPORT SCHOOL FINANCE AGREEMENT!

Apr 4, 2019 by

Email or phone your Representative ASAP!

Last night Senate and House negotiators agreed to a school finance plan. This plan is the recommendation of the State Board of Education, Governor Kelly, and the Senate Select Committee on School Finance.

This plan is almost certain to satisfy the Supreme Court ruling in Gannon.

The House will vote on this plan TODAY!

Call or email your Representative and urge them to VOTE YES ON THE CONFERENCE COMMITTEE REPORT ON SENATE BILL 16!

Representative emails follow this format: firstname.lastname@house.ks.gov

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Education Conference Committee meeting

Apr 1, 2019 by

11:00 AM meeting

The Conference Committee on House Sub for SB 16 started meeting this morning at 11:00. Conferees represent the Senate Select Committee on School Finance and the House K-12 Budget Committee. Members of the Conference Committee are Senators Molly Baumgardner (R-Louisburg), Jim Denning (R-Overland Park), and Anthony Hensley (D-Topeka) and Representatives Kristey Williams (R-Augusta), Kyle Hoffman (R-Coldwater), and Valdenia Winn (D-Kansas City).

The first meeting was devoted to reviewing the Senate position on school finance – essentially, the Governor’s package to address Gannon increasing the current school finance formula by $90 million per year and making no policy changes to the formula (SB 142) and the House position on education policy contained in House Sub for SB 16 and having no funding for schools at all.

Interestingly, they are also discussion House Sub for HB 2395, the Williams/Landwehr school finance bill that repeals the last two years of the current school finance plan as well as the requirement to fund a CPI adjustment into the future. Williams continues to refer to this as the “House position” even though it is not. The House has not passed this bill as they can’t get 63 votes for it on the floor. Under pressure, Williams admitted that it was the House Committee’s position.

For your information, according to the joint rules of the House and Senate, “Only subject matters which are or have been included in the bill or concurrent resolution in conference or in bills or concurrent resolutions which have been passed or adopted in either one or both houses during the current biennium of the legislature may be included in the report of the conference committee on any bill or concurrent resolution.”


Essentially, that means that items in HB 2395 that are not in SB 16 or SB 142 may not be included in the conference committee report because those items have not “been passed or adopted in either one or both houses.”

After a presentation on the issues by staff, questions from Senators were answered. Baumgardner asked about the House positions on out-of-state students (taking them back to full funding), bilingual education (cutting off students who need additional time to master English), the required study of graduation requirements with an eye toward allowing financial literacy and computer science to count as math and science credits, and the formation of an IT commission.

Hensley asked why the House wanted to repeal the provision calling for reimbursement of 92% of the excess costs of special education. Other questions focused on changes to transportation, the proposed bullying hotline, and bond caps.

1:00 PM meeting

The Committee reconvened at 1:00 when the Senate made an initial offer to the House. The Senate offer is to:

  • Accept the House position in SB 16 on ACT and ACT workkeys requiring the KSBOE to provide ACT exams and 3 workkeys assessments for students in grades 11 and 12, and pre-ACT exams for students in grade 9 for school year 19-20 and beyond.
  • Accept the House position in SB 16 to replace the LPA audit on the cost of providing educational opportunities in FY 21 with an LPA audit on the unencumbered cash balances held by school districts.
  • Accept the House position in SB 16 on transfers from the state general fund to the capital improvement fund for fiscal years 20, 21, and 22.

The Senate asked the House to give consideration to the Senate position on evidence-based at-risk programs. The Senate is holding all their other positions including the funding response to the Gannon decision.

3:30 PM meeting

In a quick meeting, the House agreed to take the Senate positions on the ACT, the LPA audit, and the capital improvement transfers (which were the actual House positions originally).

The meeting then devolved into a debate over funding and approaches to funding with Sen. Baumgardner explaining that the Senate position was that of the State Board of Education and the Governor and would likely satisfy the Court’s Gannon ruling and Williams arguing that the legislature should be targeting funds and controlling how they can be spent because, according to her, schools are getting worse, not better.

The meeting had to end by 4:00 since the Appropriations/Ways & Means conference committee had the room reserved for their meeting.

They will meet again tomorrow morning at 9:00.

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Senate: Fund Schools; House: Micromanage Schools

Mar 27, 2019 by

The first week of April is the time reserved to reconcile the differences between House and Senate versions of bills and to pass conference committee reports with the final compromise bills.

Of greatest interest to educators, naturally, is what the Legislature plans to pass as a response to the Gannon school finance decision. With the actions of both chambers over the last few days, it appears they will go into a conference committee with two bills. Senate Bill 142 – passed by the Senate and not even considered by the House – provides an additional $90 million per year to the school finance plan passed over the 2017 and 2018 sessions. House Substitute for Senate Bill 16 – passed by the House and non-concurred in by the Senate – contains the conservative wish list of legislative micro-management policies crafted primarily by Representatives Kristey Williams (R-Augusta) and Brenda Landwehr (R-Wichita). Somehow the final school finance plan must be crafted out of these two bills.

Just to be clear, here is what the the two bills do:

Senate Bill 142 provides $90 million new dollars to public education and continues that $90 million over four years to reach the level that would have been in place if the Montoy promises had been kept and then adjusted for inflation. All the funding is added to BASE aid to benefit all students. After the phase-in, SB 142 continues the annual CPI adjustments into the future.

House Sub for SB 16 provides no new money to schools. Instead, it puts a number of new accountability regulations in place requiring new reports of student performance and school finances of schools and the Kansas State Department of Education. Also mandated are a study of graduation requirements with the intention of allowing financial literacy and computer science courses to count as math and science credits, the creation of a new IT Commission to study technology in the schools, and a Legislative Post Audit study of unencumbered balances in school districts. This bill puts limits on the number of years a bilingual student can receive funding and removes the requirement that the Legislature reimburse schools for 92% of the excess costs of special education.

KNEA supports Senate Bill 142.

KNEA – and the entire public education community – opposes House Sub for SB 16. Passage of this bill was only achieved by enacting a call of the House and using the time to badger Republican representatives until a 63rd vote could be secured. It was passed on a vote of 63 to 61 – the bare minimum for passage. Click here to see how your Representative voted.

With your Legislators back home for four days, there will be opportunities to communicate with them about the importance of meeting the Gannon school finance decision and getting our school funding system settled and constitutional.

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ACTION ALERT: BAD SCHOOL FINANCE!

Mar 26, 2019 by

This morning the Kansas House gave final action approval to Sub for Senate Bill 16, the bill packed chock full of terrible school policies. The bill passed 63 to 61 but only after a call of the House which enabled Speaker Ron Ryckman (R-Olathe) to strongarm folks into changing votes. The deciding vote was cast by Ronald Ellis (R-Meriden) giving the bill the one vote needed for passage.

  • SB 16 removes the requirement to fund 92% of the excess costs of special education, allowing future legislatures to reduce funding;
  • Limits bilingual weighting, cutting off children who don’t become fluent English speakers on schedule;
  • Requires a study of graduation requirements with the intention of allowing financial literacy and computer science to count as math or science credits;
  • Creates an IT Commission to advise on technology issues in schools with no educators serving on it;
  • Establishes but does not fund a bullying hotline;
  • Layers multiple new reporting requirements on schools; and
  • Provides no funding to meet the Gannon school finance decision.

A motion to amend the bill to reinstate due process for teachers failed last night on a vote of 55 to 68. All Democrats were joined by 14 Republicans in supporting teachers.

Debate on the House school funding bill, Sub for HB 2395, is expected to take place later today.

  • HB 2395 eliminates two years from the current school finance plan;
  • Eliminates a requirement to fund a CPI adjustment annually into the future;
  • Cuts in half the dollars going to BASE state aid (from the Senate position); and
  • Creates a new behavioral mental health weighting that will not be available to all schools.

This bill will not meet the Gannon decision and should be voted down.

TAKE ACTION NOW!


Sub for HB 2395 is irresponsible and should be defeated. We urge all supporters of our public schools to contact their state representatives now. CLICK Here to contact your Representative. Ask him/her to vote NO on Sub for HB 2395 and to pass SB 142 instead. It is time to move a responsible bill to the Kansas Supreme Court – that bill is SB 142.

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