Under the Dome Review: March 31, 2023

The Kansas Legislature debated and voted on more than 80 bills the past three days before adjourning for a short break this week. They return on Monday, April 3, and more work will be done in conference committees. This is the time of year when we see even more bundling of bills. Then, the action taken on the floor is primarily on the committee reports that come out of those negotiations. These are strict yes/no votes with no opportunity to amend on the floor. A “yes” vote accepts the changes made through negotiations. A “no” vote rejects them.

As you read through the vote counts on the bills below, keep in mind it takes 63 votes in the House and 21 votes in the Senate for a bill to pass. However, it takes 84 votes in the House and 27 votes in the Senate to override the Governor’s veto.

First, the good news…

Gender-Affirming Care Ban Stalls: SB 233 prohibits gender-affirming care and creates a civil penalty for physicians who provide such care regardless of consent from parents. The bill initially passed the Senate 26-11. The House never acted on it. So, the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee bundled into House Bill 2263, a noncontroversial bill allowing pharmacy technicians to administer vaccinations that passed the House 119-3. The Senate passed it this week on a vote of 26-10. The bill went back to the House, and in a procedural move, it was referred back to the committee, essentially killing it for the session. It sent a strong message to the Senate that the House is not interested in passing this kind of policy. That said, nothing is ever truly dead until they adjourn sine die.

Voucher Scheme Negotiations Gridlock: The conference committee on the mega voucher bill met Wednesday morning. The Senate made an offer to strip out all of the remaining contents and replace them with the original contents of SB 83 as it previously passed the Senate – an expansion of a voucher scheme to provide wealthy families with public dollars to attend private schools. The House rejected the offer almost immediately. The committee then agreed to schedule a meeting for 9 a.m. on Monday, April 3.

Additionally, no action was taken on SB 128, the latest voucher scheme that provides tax credits in the amount of base state aid to individuals with children attending nonpublic schools.

No movement yet on K-12 Budget: As reported last week, the bill containing the K-12 budget bundled with bad education policy went to the Senate. The Senate took no action on it, so H Sub for SB 113 remains on the calendar waiting for a motion to send it to the conference committee.

Increase Tobacco Age to 21 Passes: HB 2269 would increase the age to purchase cigarettes and tobacco products to 21 years old. The bill passed the House last week 68-53. The Senate passed the bill 28-11. The bill now goes to the Governor.

Educators Apprenticeship Program Passes: HB 2292 includes a provision that creates a paid apprenticeship program for paraprofessionals or other school staff pursuing a teaching career. The bill passed the House 115-7. It passed the Senate 30-7. The bill went back to the House where they voted to non-concur with the amendments made by the Senate. They appointed a conference committee. No meeting has been set yet.

Family Food Assistance Restrictions Fails: HB 2141 created barriers to food assistance for families not complying with child support enforcement programs. The bill had broad sweeping regulations that would have ultimately caused children to go hungry. Although we want parents to comply with their child support obligations, those arrangements are not always black and white and children should never have to go hungry. The bill passed the House 76-46 but failed in the Senate this week 20-20.

And now for the bad news…

Parents’ Rights: HB 2236 passed the Senate on a vote of 23-17. The bill previously passed the House 75-47. Since it was amended by the Senate, it returned to the House. They voted to non-concur with the amendments and appointed a conference committee. No meeting has been set yet.

Prohibiting COVID-19 Vaccines: SB 314 prohibits the Kansas Department of Health and Environment from imposing requirements of the COVID-19 vaccination as part of the required immunizations to attend childcare facilities or school. This bill is a simple amendment away from eliminating the Secretary’s authority to require any childhood immunizations. The bill passed the Senate 24-16. It now goes to the House.

Expanding Vaccine Exemptions: SB 315 allows the expansion of exemptions from required immunizations on the basis of sincerely held beliefs without additional scrutiny. The bill also eliminates the requirement of the meningitis vaccination to live in campus student housing. The bill initially failed in committee on a vote of 3-4, but was reconsidered Friday morning and advanced to the full Senate.

20-mill continuation: The Senate had its standalone bill, SB 295, on the calendar for Tuesday. However, it was passed over and remains on the calendar. The House bundled the continuation of the 20-mill statewide property tax levy for schools into H Sub for SB 113. According to the bill’s fiscal note, revenues from the 20-mill property tax, including authorized exemptions, that would assist in financing State Foundation Aid payments in the school finance formula are estimated to be $799.1 million in FY 2023, $811.5 million in FY 2024, and $812.3 million in FY 2025.

Trans Athlete Ban: Gov. Laura Kelly vetoed HB 2238, a bill banning transgender girls from participating in club, intramural, or school athletics. No attempt to override the veto was made this week. They will have to act next week, or the window of time that they have will expire while they’re adjourned for April break.

So-Called Women’s Bill of Rights: SB 180 alleges to establish a so-called “Women’s Bill of Rights” by oversimplifying definitions of male and female humans. It passed the Senate 26-11. The House passed the bill 83-41. The House amended it so it has to go back to the Senate for a vote on whether to accept the changes.

Infectious Disease Control Stifled: SB 6 restricts the duties and authority of the Secretary of Health and Environment and would make it more difficult to act in cases of public health concern. It would also prohibit schools from sending home students with infectious diseases. The bill passed the Senate before turnaround on a vote of 22 to 18. The House did not act on it so the Senate Public Health & Welfare Committee bundled it in House Bill 2390, which originally would have decriminalized fentanyl test strips. However, the committee stripped that portion of the bill. It passed the Senate 23-16. It now goes back to the House.

Advance Ballot Grace Period Elimination: The Senate’s version of this bill, SB 209, which eliminates the 3-day grace period for returning advance ballots by mail passed the House 76-48. It previously passed the Senate 23-17. The bill was amended by the House, so it now goes back to the Senate. We anticipate seeing this in the conference committee.

In other news…

School Trip Overnight Accommodations Bills: Despite the fact that our children and educators are being murdered by the thousands in our public and private schools with NO ACTION BEING TAKEN, one transgender child slept in the same bed as a cisgender child on a school-affiliated trip from Kansas so apparently it is time to create a new law. Please forgive the bitterness and snark but this fast-moving set of bills is moving right along in the Kansas Legislature and gee, the advocates are proud to “stand up for children” when a transgender child is involved. SB 255, which was converted into S Sub for HB2138, passed the Senate by a vote of 29-11. Since it is a House bill it is situated for the House to concur with the Senate’s amendments to the bill and send it straight to the governor or the House may non-concur with the Senate changes and send it to a conference committee.  

KPERS: The Culture War-inspired, anti-ESG family of bills that were drafted in a way that poisoned the KPERS trust fund and made collateral damage to the many public servants who have/are working/working hard to build healthy retirement plans have passed both chambers. HB 2436, now billed as the “compromise ESG bill”, passed the House on Thursday, March 23. The vote was 85-38. The good news about that bill was that it was mostly fixed to prevent blowing a $3.6 billion dollar hole in the KPERS trust fund. The Senate’s version of the bill, SB 291, passed on Wednesday, March 29. The vote was 29-11. It was fixed as well in the committee process only to see an amendment attached during the Senate floor debate that may be very detrimental to the KPERS trust fund. It’s not clear whether a conference committee will emerge.

Flat Tax Bills: SB 169 is a mega revenue reduction bill that we’ve discussed many times in Under the Dome. It was debated and passed the House by a vote of 94-30. Since it is in a Senate Bill (SB), it is eligible for a couple of simple motions by the Senate next week. The Senate may concur with the House version of the bill and send it straight to the governor or the Senate may non-concur with the House changes and send it to a conference committee. We testified in opposition to this whole family of flat tax bills that also give wealthy corporations and financial institutions tax breaks. Our opposition was out of fairness and feasibility.

Teacher Mobility Compact: SB 66, the bill enacting the interstate teacher mobility compact to recognize equivalent teacher licenses across member states, passed the Senate on a vote of 35-4. Next, it went through the respective House process where it passed on a vote of 103-20. It is now in conference, but no committee meetings have been scheduled to move the process forward.