It Really is Sunrise in Kansas!

Jun 7, 2017 by

Good happens!

House and Senate majorities on Monday night passed comprehensive tax reform (SB 30). They restored the three income tax brackets and repealed both the glide path to zero and the LLC income tax loophole. They also began the restoration of income tax deductions that help middle and low income families, including medical expenses, child and dependent care expenses, and property taxes paid.

The debate and bill passage were not easy. Some legislators are dug firmly into the position that all taxes and all government services are bad – one Senator even suggested that if you need a service like education, then you should pay for it yourself. But in the end, a majority in both the House and Senate voted to support tax reform. Unfortunately, those majorities were not strong enough to support an effort to override a veto. They fell one vote short in the Senate and 15 in the House.

Governor Brownback did not take long to announce that he would veto the plan because, in his world, his tax experiment is working. Despite all evidence to the contrary, he truly believe his experiment is working.

He vetoed the bill on Tuesday and that night, the Senate took up a motion by Senate Vice President Jeff Longbine (R-Emporia) to override the veto and pass the bill. A roll call vote in the Senate is conducted by calling each Senator’s name and they respond Aye or No. It was the last Senator called who put the bill over the top on the override. Senator Rick Wilborn (R-McPherson), who had voted No on Monday night, voted Yes on the override assuring that it passed.

Those voting NO on the override were Republicans Alley (Winfield), Baumgardner (Louisburg), Fitzgerald (Leavenworth), Hilderbrand (Galena), Lynn (Olathe), Masterson (Andover), Olson (Olathe), Petersen (Wichita), Pilcher-Cook (Shawnee), Pyle (Hiawatha), Suellentrop (Wichita), Tyson (Parker), and Wagle (Wichita).

The veto message then went to the House, where Tax Committee Chairman Steven Johnson (R-Assaria) made the motion to override the veto.

Again, the debate focused mostly around the idea that Kansas “has a spending problem, not a revenue problem,” despite the fact that revenues continue to decline and we have had multiple rounds of budget cuts since 2012.

Moving the House to override was a much bigger task than in the Senate since we had to find 15 members willing to override in addition to the 69 who voted for the bill initially. In the House, roll call votes are done when legislators press a red (for no) or green (for yes) button on their desks. Their names light up in red or green on the vote board. The initial vote came up with 84 Yes votes – just enough to override. Some legislators explained their votes and then four more moved to the Yes column. The final House vote was 88 yes to 31 no.

One legislator, Joe Seiwert (R-Pretty Prairie), voted “present.” Rep. Shannon Francis (R-Liberal) did not vote. Four others – John Barker (R-Abilene), Trevor Jacobs (R-Fort Scott), Les Mason (R-McPherson), and Jack Thimesch (R-Spivey) – were on excused absences.

Those voting NO on the override were Republicans Arnberger (Great Bend), Awerkamp (St. Mary’s), Blex (Independence), Burris (Mulvane), Carpenter (Derby), Claeys (Salina), Corbet (Topeka), Delperdang (Wichita), Dove (Bonner Springs), Ellis (Meriden), Esau (Olathe), Garber (Sabetha), Highland (Wamego), Hoffman (Coldwater), Houser (Columbus), Huebert (Valley Center), Humphries (Wichita), Jones (Wellsville), Landwehr (Wichita), Osterman (Wichita), Powell (Olathe), Rahjes (Agra), Resman (Olathe), Schwab (Olathe), Eric Smith (Burlington), Sutton (Gardner), Vickrey (Louisburg), Weber (Wichita), Whitmer (Wichita), and Williams (Augusta). Also voting NO was Democrat Henderson (Kansas City).

This action puts tax reform to rest for the session. But there is still more to be accomplished.

School Finance Passed But Will It Be Vetoed?

The school finance plan has passed, as we reported yesterday, and is sitting on the Governor’s desk awaiting his decision. So far, Brownback has not given any indication as to whether or not he will sign the bill and let it be sent on to the Supreme Court for review.

While KNEA does not believe the bill will meet constitutional muster, it is important that action be taken on it as quickly as possible. If he intends to veto it, he needs to do it now so the legislature can either override the veto or get to work immediately on an alternative. If he intends to sign it, it should be done now to give the Supreme Court time to review the bill and hear arguments on its pros and cons.

Hopefully a decision will be made soon. Perhaps even before you read this!

What makes us think this bill (SB 19) will not satisfy the Court? Primarily, we believe it will not meet adequacy of overall funding. While most of the policy forms a solid finance formula, the funding amount is far below what the State Board has indicated is needed and will certainly not be adequate in the eyes of the plaintiffs.

Additionally, there are legitimate concerns about how some provisions will impact required equalization. Last year, the Court sent the legislature back to fix equalization issues. This year, some are questioning new provisions regarding the false base for LOB which, under the bill, grows with the CPI-U and a provision on expanded spending authority under capital outlay. The Court may agree that these provisions are disequalizing and reject them. It is unclear whether the Court could separate them from the whole bill or not.

Longest Session Ever?

Well, not yet. The longest Kansas Legislative Session ever was the 2015 session, which lasted 114 days. Today is day 110 for the 2017 session so we’re pushing it now.

We believe it will be over before breaking the record, but it really depends on how the Governor deals with that school finance bill. If it’s vetoed, we could very well move beyond 114.

 

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Ed Budget Committee Cancelled; Medicaid Override Fails

Apr 3, 2017 by

The House K-12 Education Budget Committee meeting for today was cancelled and we are not quite certain about why. We had expected the committee to meet – on Friday night Chairman Campbell had said they would likely meet to finish the transportation weighting and consider a few additional amendments. Frankly, we thought they might finish up today and send the bill out.

But the meeting was cancelled early today amid rumors of a desire to have the new legislative counsel on hand before voting the bill out (reports are that the legislature may hire former Senator Jeff King as their adviser on school finance). Another rumor is that a cost run came in unusually high and needed to be further reviewed. It’s also possible that leadership may not be fully supportive the measure being crafted in the committee.

But whatever the reason, the committee will not meet today. We will watch for an announcement about tomorrow.


House Fails to Override Brownback’s Medicaid Veto

On a vote of 81 – 44, the House failed to pass a motion to override the Governor’s veto of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. It takes an 84 vote majority to override.

This action means that there are now and will be into the foreseeable future, 150,000 low-incomed working Kansans who have no real access to health insurance. These are people whose income is too high for ACA credits but too low to pay for private insurance.

The 44 who voted NO on the override are Republican Representatives Arnberger, Aurand, Awerkamp, Barker, Blex, Carpenter, Claeys, Corbet, Davis, DeGraaf, Delperdang, Dove, Ellis, Esau, Finch, Francis, Garber, Hawkins, Highland, Hoffman, House, Huebert, Humphries, Jacob, Jones, Lakin, Landwehr, Mason, Osterman, Powell, Rafie, Rahjes, Resman, Ryckman, Schwab, Seiwert, Eric Smith, Tarwater, Thimesch, Vickrey, Weber, Whitmer, and Williams.

All 40 Democrats and 41 other Republicans voted to override.

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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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House Fights for Kansans; Senate Bows to Brownback

Feb 22, 2017 by

House Stands Up for Kansas, Overrides Tax Veto

The excitement under the dome this morning was a motion to override the Governor’s veto of HB 2178, the tax reform bill that ends Brownback’s disastrous tax policies first enacted in 2012. The bill represents the first effort to reverse course and restore stability and prosperity to Kansas.

We are exceedingly proud of the strong bipartisan majority who worked to first create the bill and then to override the veto.

Voting to override the veto were Alcala, Alford, Aurand, Baker, Ballard, Becker, Bishop, Brim, Burroughs, Campbell, Carlin, Carmichael, Clark, Clayton, Concannon, Cox, Crum, Curtis, Deere, Dierks, Dietrich, Elliott, Eplee, Finch, Finney, Francis, Frownfelter, Gallagher, Gartner, Good, Helgerson, Henderson, Hibbard, Highberger, Hineman, Hodge, Holscher, Jennings, Johnson, Judd-Jenkins, Karleskint, Kelly Kessinger, Koesten, Kuether, Lewis, Lusk, Lusker, Markley, Mastroni, Miller, Murnan, Neighbor, Ohaebosim, Orr, Ousley, Parker, Patton, Phelps, Phillips, Pittman, Proehl, Rahjes, Ralph, Rooker, Ruiz, Sawyer, Schreiber, Schroeder, Sloan, Stogsdill, Swanson, Tarwater, Terrell, Thompson, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Waymaster, Weigel, Wheeler, Whipple, Wilson, Winn, and Wolfe Moore. (Republicans in bold italic.)

Voting NO on the override were (all Republicans) Representatives Arnberger, Awerkamp, Barker, Blex, Carpenter, Claeys, Corbet, Davis, DeGraaf, Delperdang, Dove, Ellis, Esau, Garber, Hawkins, Highland, Hoffman, Houser, Huebert, Humphries, Jacobs, Jones, Lakin, Landwehr, Mason, Osterman, Powell, Rafie, Resman, Ryckman, Schwab, Seiwert, A. Smith, E. Smith, Sutton, Thimesch, Vickrey, Weber, Whitmer, and Williams.


16 Senators Fail Kansans

Sadly, the Senate had other ideas. Senate leadership (President Susan Wagle and Majority Leader Jim Denning) joined the Brownback allies in blocking the override of the Governor’s veto of HB 2178. Their refusal to join their House colleagues in overriding the veto means that we are back to square one where the majority of legislators try to pass responsible tax reform, the Governor vetoes it while clinging to his delusional confidence in a plan that has done nothing but bankrupt the state.

Brownback will veto any bill that challenges his delusion. His plan is to rob KPERS and Highways and early childhood education programs; his plan is to do nothing and continue in the belief that some magic will occur to save him. And sadly his allies continue to give him anything he wants.

Until the Senate stands up to Brownback, there is little hope that Kansas can get back on the track to stability and prosperity.

The motion to override the veto failed on a vote of 24-16. Those 16 who voted to support the Governor’s program (all Republicans) dismantling Kansas services were: Alley, Baumgardner, Denning, Estes, Fitzgerald, LaTurner, Lynn, Masterson, Olson, Petersen, Pilcher-Cook, Pyle, Suellentrop, Tyson, Wagle, and Wilborn.


House Passes Due Process Restoration; Sends it to the Senate

The House this morning to approve HB 2186, the arbitration bill that includes the Stogsdill amendment restoring due process for Kansas teachers. The amendment inserted the contents of HB 2179 into HB 2186. The bill passed on a vote of 72-53. The vote is as follows:

Voting AYE were Representatives Alcala, Baker, Ballard, Becker, Bishop, Brim, Burroughs, Campbell, Carlin, Carmichael, Clark, Clayton, Concannon, Cox, Crum, Curtis, Deere, Dierks, Dietrich, Elliott, Ellis, Finney, Frownfelter, Gallagher, Gartner, Good, Helgerson, Henderson, Hibbard, Highberger, Hodge, Holscher, Jennings, Judd-Jenkins, Karleskint, Kessinger, Koesten, Kuether, Lewis, Lusk, Lusker, Markley, Mastroni, Miller, Murnan, Neighbor, Ohaebosim, Ousley, Parker, Phelps, Pittman, Proehl, Rooker, Ruiz, Sawyer, Schreiber, Sloan, Stogsdill, Swanson, Tarwater, Terrell, Thompson, Trimmer, Victors, Ward, Weigel, Wheeler, Whipple, Wilson, Winn, and Wolfe Moore. (Republicans are in bold ilatics.)

All other Representatives voted NO. There were no absences.

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