CONFERENCE COMMITTEE REPORT BRIEF HOUSE BILL NO. 2510
This report contained the education provisions passed on May 21.
ACT Exam Expansion: The first provisions expands the availability of free ACT, ACT WorkKeys, and Pre-ACT tests to students in accredited private schools. Under current law, these exams are available to all students in the public schools. The expansion comes at no cost to the state thanks to the contract with ACT that does not cap the number of students. The bill also requires the Kansas State Board of Education to report the aggregate exam and assessment data for all students who were provided the examinations and assessments by the state board to the Kansas House and Senate Education Committees.
Dual and Concurrent Enrollment: This provision was requested during the regular session by the Wichita USD 259 and amends the law related to concurrent and dual enrollment of high school students at postsecondary educational institutions. The bill would allow school districts – at the discretion of the local board of education – to pay tuition, fees, books, materials, and equipment for any high school student who is concurrently or dually enrolled at a postsecondary educational institution. The local school board could pay all or a portion of the costs and the student’s family would pay any difference. It includes a tuition waiver for foster children while allowing the local board to pay for fees, books, materials, and equipment.
Additionally, it would require school districts to grant high school credit to concurrently or dually enrolled students who satisfactorily complete course work and prohibit school districts from paying for technical education courses that are part of the Excel in Career Technical Education program administered by the Kansas Board of Regents (KBOR).
There is a requirement that each postsecondary institution with such students enrolled must submit a report to the KBOR and the Regents in turn will submit a summary report to the House and Senate Education Committees. This report would include, but not be limited to the following:
- The number of students from each school district enrolled and the number of students in foster care;
- The number of students who successfully complete the courses;
- The tuition rate charged for concurrently or dually enrolled students compared to the tuition rate charged regularly enrolled students; and
- The amount and portion of costs for concurrent and dual enrollment being paid by each school district.
Finally, the bill would amend the definition of “student” as follows:
- Enrolled in grades 10, 11, or 12 in a school district, or a gifted student enrolled in grades 9, 10, 11, or 12;
- Who has demonstrated the ability to benefit from participation in the regular curricula of a postsecondary institution;
- With an individualized plan of study or an individualized education program;
- Who has been authorized by the principal of the school attended to apply for enrollment at an eligible postsecondary institution; and
- Is accepted for enrollment at an eligible postsecondary institution.
The Kansas Promise Scholarship Act: The bill established a new program called the “Kansas Promise Scholarship Act.” It creates scholarships for students attending community colleges, technical colleges, Washburn Tech, or any private two-year associate degree program or technical certificate program that has its primary location in Kansas.
While the bill specifies many details in the plan from student eligibility to employment or community service requirements, it is limited to programs for high need jobs and requires KBOR to collaborate annually with the Kansas Department of Commerce and Kansas business and industry. Those entities will collaborate to identify up to ten job fields that have the highest need for skilled employees. They will also designate scholarship-eligible career and technical programs and transfer education programs that correspond with the job fields and pathways.
SECOND CONFERENCE COMMITTEE REPORT BRIEF SENATE SUBSTITUTE FOR HOUSE BILL NO. 2054 – VETOED ON 5/26
This massive report (78 pages) is Wagle/Denning/Ryckman/Hawkins effort to strip Kansas Governor Laura Kelly of her ability to respond to the COVID-19 disaster and protect corporations and businesses from liability should their employees or customers become infected with the virus. No time was provided to the legislators to actually read the report before the vote was taken.
Coronavirus Relief Funds: Stimulus funds were sent by Congress to the governors of the states to be used for COVID-19 related purposes. This bill strips the money away from the Governor’s office and gives it to the Legislative Coordinating Council (LCC) which is made up of the leadership of both chambers. It then requires requests for funds to be submitted to the Director of the Budget (Larry Campbell) who then submits them to the Legislative Budget Committee (another small group of legislative leaders) who then submits recommendations to the LCC. The LLC then must approve each one with a five member affirmative vote. So, it establishes a more cumbersome process and leaves the Governor essentially out of the decision making. She is a member of the Legislative Coordinating Council but her vote is not allowed to count toward the voting on decisions.
State of Disaster Emergencies, Kansas Emergency Management Act, and Authority of Local Officials: There are many changes to the Kansas Emegency Management Act (KEMA) designed specifically to limit the Governor’s authority during this emergency.
It first extends the current state of emergency to May 31 (it was set to expire on May 26) and prohibits the Governor from proclaiming any new COVID-19-related state of disaster emergency during 2020. If the Governor believes conditions warrant such a proclamation, she must apply to State Finance Council (a small group of legislative leaders) and it would take a supermajority vote of that body to enact the proclamation. Additionally, should there be a need to close business and commercial activity again, it would take a supermajority to allow that. Any closure would be limited to no more than 15 days although it could be renewed by the Finance Council for another 30 days.
There are a number of additional amendments to KEMA intended to limit the Governor for taking action. One such amendment includes the NRA’s demand that under no circumstances can there be any limits on the sale, purchase, transport, or holding of firearms or ammunition. Another amendment is a broad permission for counties to vote to ignore emergency procedures and put their own less stringent requirements in place.
COVID-19 Response and Reopening for Business Liability Protection Act (Act): This section of the bill gives broad liability immunity to health care providers, businesses, and products. It makes one wonder: If it’s safe to reopen, why do people need immunity from liability?
For health care providers, the bill says, “a healthcare provider is immune from civil liability for damages, administrative fines, or penalties for acts, omissions, healthcare decisions, or the rendering of or the failure to render healthcare services, including services that are altered, delayed, or withheld, as a direct response to any COVID-19 state of disaster emergency.”
For businesses, this broad immunity reads “a person (or agent of such person) conducting business in Kansas shall not be held liable for a COVID-19 claim if the act or omission alleged to violate a duty of care was mandated or specifically and affirmatively permitted by a federal or state statute, regulation, or executive order passed or issued in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and applicable to the activity at issue at the time of the alleged exposure.” It also makes this retroactive to March 12, 2020.
Immunity for products covers “a person who designs, manufactures, sells, distributes, provides, or donates a qualified product in response to the COVID-19 public health emergency shall not be liable in a civil action alleging a product liability claim involving the product if any of the above actions were taken at the specific request of or in response to a written order or other directive finding a public need for a qualified product, issued by the Governor, Adjutant General, or Division of Emergency Management” and would appear to be somewhat more limiting than the other two since it requires a “written order of directive” from a governmental agency.
First Responder Notifications: This section of the bill allows county health officers to notify first responders (police, fire, EMT) of a person in quarantine or diagnosed with COVID-19. This information includes the address of the person and how long the quarantine will last or when the person is expected to recover. This information may be used ONLY for the purpose of ensuring first responders have the appropriate personal protective equipment. The 911 system would hold this information and provide it to first responders being dispatched.
Adult Care Homes: The Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) must within 30 days implement infection control inspections and provide the necessary personal protective equipment, sanitizing supplies, and testing kits appropriate to the needs of each facility on an ongoing basis. What is needed will be based on a variety of factors including the number of residents and the ability of the facility to separate those with COVID-19 from those without the virus.
Health Care: Telemedicine would be expanded during the crisis to allow out-of-state physicians to practice in Kansas, allow prescriptions including controlled substances to be given without an in-person visit, and allows physicians in quarantine or with the virus to practice telemedicine. These provisions would sunset on Jan. 26, 2021.
In order treat COVID-19 patients or to separate them from non-COVID-19 patients, hospitals are authorized to admit patients over their capacity and to provide care and testing for COVID-19 at “off-campus” facilities. Additionally, medical providers not on the hospital staff would be allowed to practice at that hospital. These provisions sunset 120 days after the disaster emergency declaration expires.
There are temporary emergency licensing provisions that will allow physicians assistants, advanced practice registered nurses, and licensed practical nurses would be allowed to provide healthcare services appropriate to such provider’s education, training, and experience within a designated healthcare facility. Pharmacists would be allowed to provide care for routine health maintenance, chronic disease states, or similar conditions appropriate to such pharmacist’s education, training, and experience within a designated healthcare facility. An RN or LPN who holds a license that is exempt, inactive, or has lapsed within the past five years from the effective date of the bill would be allowed to provide healthcare services. Students in health care programs (medicine, nursing, physical therapy, etc.) would be allowed to volunteer in designated health care facilities. All these provisions also sunset on Jan. 26, 2021.
Court Videoconferencing: This allows the Chief Justice of the Kansas Supreme Court to issue an order authorizing the use of two-way electronic audio-visual communication (videoconferencing) in any court proceeding, when such action is necessary to secure the health and safety of court users, staff, and judicial officers.
Sale of Alcoholic Liquor: The rules allowing bars and restaurants to sell liquor for carry-out are extended and will expire when the federal major disaster declaration expires.
Unemployment Compensation: This bill suspends a requirement that a person must be seeking work to be eligible for unemployment compensation. The waiting week for new claims is also waived.
SECOND CONFERENCE COMMITTEE REPORT BRIEF HOUSE BILL NO. 2702
The last of these “big three” conference committee reports dealt with tax issues.
Notice and Public Hearing Requirements: This requires that county clerks submit a “revenue neutral rate” in budget preparations based on property tax collections that would not raise additional revenue for the next year. Subdivisions of the county are prohibited from levying rates that exceed the revenue-neutral rates unless they have published notice on their websites of the proposed intent to exceed such rates. They would also have to announce a public hearing on such action. After the hearing, the appropriate board would vote on the proposal. This does not apply to school districts. It also repeals the local tax caps.
Prohibited Valuation Increases: The valuation of a property could not be increased due to normal repair, replacement, or maintenance of existing improvements on the property.
Property Tax Payment Delay: This section is intended to help those out of work due to the COVID-19 crisis by prohibiting interest from accruing on unpaid property tax for tax year 2019 from May 10, 2020, through August 10, 2020. It also delays the preparation of a list of real estate subject to sale due to delinquent taxes until after August 10, 2020.
Taxpayer Protection Act: This requires paid tax preparers to sign any tax return they prepared or substantially prepared and allows the Kansas Secretary of Revenue to enjoin anyone from working as a paid tax preparer from engaging in certain behaviors related to the preparation of tax returns.
Filing and Payment Extension: This section extends the deadline for filing income taxes from April 15 to July 15 and prohibits the imposition of penalties or interest if taxes are paid by July 15.
Property Tax Payment Plans and Partial Payments: This section allows county treasurers to accept partial payments and establish payment plans for property taxes.
County Discretion Concerning De Minimis Property Tax Penalty Charges: This section gives counties the discretion in refunding, crediting, or retaining any penalties and interest charged to taxpayers between May 11, 2020, and the effective date of the bill that are rendered void by this act up to the amount of $25.