Medicaid Battle Not Over, K-12 Budget Working Late

Mar 30, 2017 by

VETO OVER-RIDE TABLED IN THE HOUSE

Today Governor Brownback ignored the majority of those in the legislature who were elected to represent the good citizens of Kansas and instead made good on a promise to veto medicaid expansion.  Many advocacy groups have urged Kansans to pressure legislators to vote to override the Governor’s veto.  Governor Brownback’s continued insistence to place partisan ideology ahead of what’s best for the neediest citizens of our state is certainly disappointing.  Kansas Action for Children President and CEO, Annie McKay offered a strong rebuke of the Governor’s veto while calling him to account for backtracking on his own words:

“In 2014, Governor Brownback gladly signed legislation relinquishing authority for expanding KanCare over to the Kansas Legislature. He refused to take any further action on the issue because he said it was the legislature’s responsibility. A bipartisan majority of both legislative chambers have now endorsed the expansion of KanCare. It is deeply disappointing to see Governor Brownback obstruct the will of the people on such an important issue for the second time this session.

Kancare expansion – much like comprehensive tax reform – is widely supported across this state. It will improve the health and well-being of thousands of Kansas children and families and will strengthen our economy as a whole. We encourage lawmakers to stand strong for their communities and give thousands of our citizens the health care they deserve by voting to override the Brownback veto of House Bill 2044.”

After contentious debate in the Kansas House of Representatives, a motion to over-ride the Governor’s veto has been tabled to give citizens an opportunity to weigh in on the issue.  We strongly encourage you to take this opportunity to contact your representatives in both the House and Senate and urge them to vote to OVER-RIDE the Governor’s veto on medicaid expansion.  You can find your representatives and contact them by CLICKING HERE.


K-12 Budget Working Late

Rep. Brenda Landwehr

After Chairman Campbell’s promise to work today until a new school finance formula has been created, the K-12 Budget Committee has been doing just that.  At this hour, there has been much debate around a slew of amendments.  Notably, Rep. Brenda Landwehr suggested in a stern tone that the Supreme Court of Kansas hasn’t suggested that more money is needed to solve adequacy.  Instead, she suggested that a more efficient distribution of funding was in order and would satisfy the court order.  Landwehr went on to state that Catholic schools do better than public schools with less money spent and that “how you teach and approach students is more important than money.”  Few would argue that teaching and learning successes come from dedicated professional educators and engaged students, but as the Supreme Court has noted time and again, the state (most recently with Brownback’s CLASS Act) has not been supporting public education equitably or adequately.

Among the important amendments already adopted are:

  • Replacing the three local tax levies with the prior formula’s LOB formula,
  • Full funding of all-day Kindergarten beginning next year,
  • Additional funding for preschool at-risk,
  • Re-establishing the career and tech ed weighting,
  • Removing the 5 year limit on bilingual funding, and
  • Returning to the prior formula on high density at-risk.

As we write this, amendments are still being offered and the debate continues.  We expect this committee to be working late into the night.  We will post a full report in tomorrow’s edition of Under the Dome.

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War on Teachers is Not Over Yet

Mar 28, 2017 by

More Disrespect for Kansas Teachers

Senators Susan Wagle and Jim Denning

Once again the anti-teacher conservative extremists have abused their power to punish Kansas teachers.

Today leadership in the Senate – Jim Denning, specifically and with the support of Susan Wagle – abruptly withdrew a bill from the debate calendar when they realized an amendment that would restore due process was going to be offered and would almost certainly pass.  We’ve seen this before, this session (click here).  Remember it was Denning and Wagle who sided with Governor Brownback choosing to vote against a veto override on badly needed tax reform, and only after assuring others that they wouldn’t.  Today it was crystal clear that Denning and Wagle are perfectly happy to continue their war on teachers.

Wagle led the effort to repeal due process at 4:00 am back in 2014 through a series of floor amendments on a school funding bill. Wagle and Denning, who have worked for years to diminish the teaching profession took it upon themselves today to once again demonstrate their disrespect for the men and women who teach our children.

Wagle and Denning are the primary advocates of the anti-teacher agenda in Topeka and have personally been leading a war on teachers for years. It is thanks to actions like pulling a bill that was almost certain to pass, just to spite teachers, that the teacher shortage in Kansas has become worse with each passing year.  We know that teachers are retiring in droves while enrollment in teacher preparation programs is in sharp decline.  Education Commissioner Randy Watson has told the education committees that teachers in Kansas feel under attack and disrespected by legislators and that teacher morale is at an all-time low. Wagle, Denning, and their allies are the reason why.

Subverting the democratic process, is subverting due process.  There is no darker irony than purposely muting due process by withholding a bill meant to restore due process for teachers.

You can weigh in on this abuse of the democratic process. Jim Denning serves as the majority leader in the Kansas Senate. He knows that the amendment was coming; he also knows the amendment was likely to pass. Rather than letting there be a vote, he chose to shut down the process. You can let Senator Denning know that you are watching this behavior and that you expect better. Email or call Senator Denning. Tell him to bring HB 2126 back up for debate and amendment.

Email is  Jim.denning@senate.ks.gov. His office phone number is 785-296-2497. As always, be respectful but remember that Denning, like all elected officials, works for you.

Read more about Jim Denning’s attacks on public education here:  http://www.standupbluevalley.org/kansas-senate-district-8


K-12 Budget Committee Cancelled for Today

We had expected the K-12 Education Budget Committee to begin working HB 2410, a school finance bill, this afternoon but the committee meeting was cancelled. Why? We can only speculate.

Support for the bill seems rather weak and it may be that leadership is trying to come up with a strategy to pursue in getting it – or something very like it – passed. It might also be that the Chairman is simply allowing his committee members and the revisor, Jason Long, more time to write amendments. We expect there will be a lot of amendments.

This is when you should all keep people like Jason in your thoughts! He will be at work writing amendments almost 24/7! Lobbyists and legislators alike are very appreciative of the efforts of the hardworking legislative research staff and the office of the Revisor of Statutes.


Senate Approves Medicaid Expansion; Now It’s Up to the Governor

The Senate today gave final action approval to HB 2044, the bill which expands Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. It was approved on a vote of 25-14. Yesterday, five amendments offered by Mary Pilcher-Cook and Dennis Pyle that would have done everything from prohibiting Medicaid expenditures for family planning to denying Medicaid to anyone living in a town that has adopted a “sanctuary city” were all defeated.

The bill then was approved by the Senate in the same form in which it passed the House. That means the bill will not be subject to a conference committee and instead go directly to the Governor.

A statement issued by the Governor’s office indicates his opposition to Medicaid expansion but stopped short of saying he would veto the bill. We’ll see.

 

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Schools, Medicaid, and Grinding Toward the End

Mar 27, 2017 by

School Finance Hearing Finishes; No Work Yet

The House K-12 Education Budget Committee met today and concluded three days of hearings on HB 2410, the Chairman’s bill on school finance. We have been there all three days and don’t believe we heard any proponents for the bill with the exception of a virtual school organization that rose to express support for only that portion of the bill and had no position on anything else.

Based on Chairman Larry Campbell’s (R-Olathe) previous comments, we had assumed that the committee might begin working the bill after the hearing ended but instead Campbell adjourned the committee after announcing that tomorrow’s meeting would be “on the call of the chair.” So tomorrow we will be waiting for an announcement from the floor of the House as to whether or not the committee will meet.


KanCare and Medicaid Expansion

Rep. Cindy Holscher (D-Overland Park) offered an amendment to HB 2047 to add an independent ombudsman for KanCare. Currently, if denied services, one can appeal only to the very board that denied the service. This was one of the issues raised in the highly critical federal review of KanCare that found serious problems with the Kansas system. The amendment failed 49-73. In other words, the Kansas House voted once again to deny a due process appeal, this time by persons with serious medical issues being denied services by the Colyer/Brownback health care system.

Also this afternoon, Medicaid expansion is being debated on the Senate floor. It has already passed the House with 81 votes and chances are good that it will pass the Senate after what is expected to be a lengthy debate. One of arguments most used by the opponents of expansion – the move by congressional Republicans and Donald Trump to repeal the Affordable Care Act – has been neutered by the failure of “Trumpcare” in Congress last week and the statement by House Speaker Paul Ryan that “Obamacare is the law of the land for the foreseeable future.”

UPDATE: Medicaid expansion passes the Senate 25-13 but still two votes shy of a veto-proof margin.  Here’s how your Senator voted courtesy of Topeka Capital-Journal Reporter, Celia Llopis-Jepsen (interactive map):  CLICK HERE

 


Mostly Floor Action This Week; Conference Committees Next Week

This week has very few committee meetings scheduled. Instead, both chambers will convene earlier in the day to debate bills that have come out of committee with the intention of finishing such work by Thursday, Friday at the latest. This will reserve next week for conference committees to work out the differences between House and Senate versions of the same bill and then adopting or rejecting those conference committee reports.

The last day for the regular session is April 7. Legislators will then go home for three weeks, reconvening for the veto session on May 1.

 

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New Finance Bill? Not Yet.

Mar 20, 2017 by

No New School Finance Bill Today

We suppose the “Chairman’s Bill” on school finance, which we expected to be unveiled in committee today is not yet ready. Today’s meeting of the K-12 Education Budget Committee was canceled.

There are meetings scheduled for Tuesday through Friday, so hopefully, we’ll get our first look tomorrow.


Senate Committee Hears Proponents of Medicaid Expansion

The Senate Health and Welfare Committee today held the first part of a two-part hearing on HB 2044, the bill expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Earlier this session, Medicaid expansion was blocked by the House Committee chairman but Rep. Susan Concannon (R-Beloit) brought an amendment on the House floor that put it in another related bill. Concannon’s amendment was adopted on a voice vote and the amended bill was passed with a strong majority (81-44).

Opponents of expansion will have their day before the Senate committee tomorrow.

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Half Time at the Kansas Legislature

Feb 23, 2017 by

What happens to all those Bills?

The Kansas Legislature wrapped up its first half today and won’t resume their work until Monday, March 6.

Under the rules, any bill that has not passed its chamber of origin is now dead and cannot be considered as a stand-alone bill again this year. The exception to this is any bill that was introduced in a time-line exempt committee The House and Senate Federal and State Affairs, Senate Ways and Means, Senate Assessment and Taxation, House committees on Calendar and Printing, Appropriations, Taxation are all exempt committees. An exempt bill is defined as “those sponsored by, referred to or acted upon by an exempt committee.”

When a bill from a non-exempt committee is referred to an exempt committee, it is then a time-line exempt bill. While the K-12 Education Budget Committee is not an exempt committee, the four school finance bills were referred to exempt Appropriations Committee. This is referred to as “blessing” the bill.

We will be reviewing all bills of interest to see which are still viable.

Of course, no idea is ever dead and bills that are not in exempt committees or blessed can certainly re-emerge as amendments to other bills.


Issues this Week Demonstrate a Strong Coalition of Democrats and Moderate Republicans Willing to Stand up for Good Policy

For all the social media rants about whether Moderate Republicans will put Kansas ahead of party or whether Democrats will cooperate with Moderates to advance good policy; what has been clearly demonstrated this week is that both Moderates and Democrats are honoring their commitments to work with each other to advance policies beneficial to Kansas.

The best examples of this were the votes on the tax bill (HB 2178), the motion to override the veto of the tax bill, and the successful effort to pass Medicaid expansion.

HB 2178 passed the House on a vote of 76 – 48 and Senate on a vote of 22 – 18. The override vote passed the House 85 – 40. While the override failed in the Senate, Moderates and Democrats delivered 24 votes in favor of the override to 16 opposed.

The Medicaid expansion effort in the House found similar margins passing with 81 votes. And more importantly, five amendments offered by Conservative Republicans as poison pills went down to defeat; one by 68 votes, three by 74 votes, and the fifth by 72 votes. These were what we might call “postcard votes” – those expected to lose but likely to end up on campaign postcards later.

These votes demonstrate, beyond a shadow of doubt, that Democrats and Moderate Republicans are working from a position of mutual respect and remarkable cooperation. They are united in their determination to put Kansas back on a path to stability and prosperity.

We applaud them!


Why Not Visit Them When They Are Back Home?

With the legislature on the turnaround break until March 6, they will undoubtedly be attending forums and town hall meetings. We urge all who are interested in the actions of this legislature to take the time to attend an event and use the time to thank those who stood up for Kansas and take to task those who have maintained their allegiance to Governor Brownback’s failed policies.

 

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