April 16, 2021
Debates and Votes
The legislature reached first adjournment April 9 and will return May 3-11 for the veto session. This year, sine die (the last official day of this legislative session) is set for May 26.
Here is a recap of some of the bills that the House debated and passed before first adjournment.
- HB 2007 is the budget bill. I voted in favor of the bill, which:
This budget did not include K-12 funding, which was in a school choice bill that failed in the Senate. However, you can be assured that when we return in May we will fund K-12 in line with our commitment to the Kansas Supreme Court four years ago. Along with K-12 funding, the legislature will tweak the final budget in May in response to receiving information about actual April revenues and Consensus Revenue Estimates for the next six months.
- Funds essential services for the most vulnerable in our state, including services for the disabled, those in long-term care facilities, the elderly and those in mental-health crisis. Those services are part of the House plan to help Kansans in need.
- Provides funding for the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS) and reduces the system’s unfunded liability.
- Fully funds the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to ensure all Kansas children have access to health care. Gov. Kelly did not include CHIP funding in her budget recommendations; those of us in legislature added it.
- Provides funding to help keep our courts open and administering justice, recognizing that COVID-19 reduced fees on which courts usually rely.
- Restores funding for our state universities so they can complete deferred maintenance to keep existing assets in good working order and save money in the future. However, the university system still sustained a 2.5 percent funding cut, which we will need to address. If we want to keep our high school graduates here in the state, let’s educate them here in our excellent universities. Excellence is not free. Just as we maintain our good roads and expand broadband across the state, continued investment is needed for our universities.
- Increases funding for the Home and Community Based Services program (HCBS), which helps those with intellectual and developmental disabilities.
- Requires E-Verify for state employees and state contractors, thus ensuring that those workers are in the United States legally.
- Adds legislative oversight for federal COVID relief funds so the governor does not unilaterally decide how that money can be best spent.
As you might have read, our tax revenues have exceeded estimates in all but one month during the past 12 months. At the start of the pandemic, everyone was unsure about the economic impact on state revenues. So far, the impact has been less than projected, and I hope we will pass a final budget with a decent ending balance.
- HB 2196 reforms the Kansas unemployment insurance system. During the past year, most of the contacts my colleagues and I have received from constituents are related to the Kansas Department of Labor, and residents’ inability to get phone calls or emails answered promptly regarding their unemployment insurance claims. The situation has been and continues to be highly frustrating. I think this bill will help fix the problem, but not soon enough for many Kansans. Some of the components of the bill include creation of an Unemployment Compensation Modernization and Improvement Council, and rate table adjustments for employers. I was glad to support this legislation.
- HB 2064 is the Kansas Promise Scholarship Act. This legislation creates scholarships for any Kansas high school graduate who attends a Kansas trade school, technical school or community college to study in one of several high-need areas, including technology, cyber-security, building trades, manufacturing and health care. Students must commit to working in Kansas for two years after graduation. If they do not complete the terms of the agreement, their scholarships become loans that must be repaid.
I supported this bill because it has potential to increase our Kansas workforce in trades that are needed now and in the future.
- HB 2183 changed some of our election laws. The bill states that the legislature is the only body that can change election laws, and it strengthens some penalties for impersonating an election official. It also limits ballot harvesting, which is a process by which a person can collect ballots from individuals and deliver them (or not) to the county clerk’s office.
After carefully reading the bill, I voted no. Although the bill is not as onerous as some other states’ election legislation, I concluded that the changes it mandates are not necessary. Elections in Lyon County and Kansas have been fair and transparent. There has been no fraud. The bill is now with the Governor.
- HB 2058 changes concealed-carry laws in Kansas. It grants reciprocity, thus allowing Kansas concealed-carry permit holders to legally carry in other states using their Kansas permits. It also reduces the age for Kansas residents to carry concealed weapons from 21 to 18 if they attend training and get a permit.
I voted no on this bill. I don’t believe 18-year-olds should be carrying concealed weapons on college campuses or elsewhere. To be clear, I have owned guns to hunt with as long as I have been able to do so legally. But this legislation goes too far for me.
- SB 55 is the Fairness in Women’s Sports Act. The legislation requires interscholastic, intercollegiate, intramural, or club athletic teams or sports that are sponsored by public educational institutions to be designated based on biological sex. In the event of a violation of the act, the bill would allow the following individuals and organizations to file civil suit and seek relief in the form of monetary damages, reasonable attorney fees and other appropriate relief:
- Any student deprived of an athletic opportunity or who suffers direct or indirect harm by a violation of the act.
- Any student subjected to retaliation or other adverse action by a public educational institution or athletic association for reporting a violation of the act.
- Any public educational institution that suffers direct or indirect harm as a result of a violation of the act.
The bill requires all civil actions to be initiated no later than two years after the harm occurs.
I voted no because this bill is discriminatory. It purports to be about fairness, but it is designed to isolate a group of human beings so they can be more easily targeted in future legislation.
There is no documented problem with transgender females playing on female sports teams in Kansas. The Kansas State High School Athletics Association, the NCAA and the International Olympic Committee already have guidelines for transgender athletes participating in sports.
The problem is not a lack of fairness. The problem is a lack of understanding about transgender human beings, which often subjects them to even more bullying and isolation.
The debate was emotional from both sides. Notably, the bill passed both chambers without veto-proof majorities and currently is on Gov. Kelly’s desk.
If you have not done so yet, I encourage you to make an appointment to get vaccinated for the COVID-19 virus. Our community health providers, including local pharmacies, are doing a great job scheduling and providing vaccinations. As I write this, almost 35% of Kansans have received at least one vaccination shot. I hope everyone consults with their physician and makes the decision to get vaccinated. It is important to you and our community. Stay well and enjoy this beautiful spring weather.
Thank you to all who contacted me either in person, by email or phone this legislative session. Whether or not we agree, I welcome and appreciate your feedback. It is an honor to represent you.