Supposedly halfway through Legislative Session. We’ll see if our many challenges can be accomplished in the time remaining or we extend our days in Chamber to come to consensus. The uncharacteristically fast-paced days thus far have brought forth evidence of the new makeup of the House of Representatives. More than a third of the House are new this year, clear evidence of the voters wanting change. The 46 new members include six who have served in previous years.
Around the District
Save The Date
I heard from teachers and workers that were unable to attend forums/coffees this week as they work weekdays. Thank you for contacting me! I will move around the District on returning weekends with similar schedules. To accommodate I have thus far scheduled:
“Meet and Greet with Anita “
Saturday, March 18th, 9:30-11 a.m.
Sirloin Stockade, Arkansas City, KS
Under the Dome
I have been impressed with House leadership and their committee chair appointments. The sense of openness for discussion, inquiry, and consensus on my committee assignments has given me great hope for Kansas’ future. Frustration comes from the enormity of information that must be digested quickly before deadlines to vote on issues and budgets. I serve on the following committees:
Children and Seniors Committee: Task with reviewing programs, policies, and mandated responsibilities for state agencies affecting some of our most vulnerable citizens. The agency perhaps most recognized is the Department of Children and Families (DCF). This has been a very emotional experience as I hear testimony from foster care, adoptive services, eldercare, juvenile officers, judges, and law enforcement. A few years ago Kansas became the first state in the nation to privatize children’s services, creating many new challenges.
Social Services Budget Committee: Responsible for reviewing the budgets of DCF, Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS), Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), Osawatomie Hospital and many more are examined and reviewed. Each department, agency, or hospital must present their proposed budget. Our committee is also provided the Governor’s recommended budget, the revisor’s information providing state law requirements for the agency, as well as the research department’s information for what dollars will be required to comply with statutes of the law. Testimony and explanation has been rapid as all budget committees must come to consensus and determine final recommendations for each budget to pass to the Appropriations Budget committee.
General Government Budget Committee: Review of state agencies and departments as well as fee funded agencies. These include 27 budgets, with many sub-budgets, on everything from the Department of Revenue, the Governor’s budget, Attorney General, Secretary of State, Office of Information Technology Services, Department of Cosmetology, Department of Insurance, and many more. I have been pleased to serve on this committee as it is providing a great opportunity to learn how our state government functions and the laws that govern their many tasks for our citizens.
Appropriations Committee receives all recommendations from every House Budget Committee, overlays estimated revenue provided by Taxation and Revenue Committees, and makes adjustments for a balanced state budget. This is where my mother’s adage of “need and want are never the same” comes into action.
In the News
1) HB 2178 tax plan passed the House and the Senate. The Governor vetoed the plan and the House overrode his veto by 85/40 within hours. The following day three Senators changed sides on the issue and the veto override failed in the Senate. This bill would have taken an important step toward restoring fiscal responsibility while stabilizing state revenues, eliminated the income tax exemptions for approximately 330,000 LLC Kansas businesses, made adjustments to individual income tax rates only for those who made $30,000 or more, returned the 3rd bracket for the highest income earners, and returned the medical deductions to assist vulnerable families. It is important to note that even with those adjustments Kansans would still have paid a lower rate of income tax then 2009-2012.
The most spoken reason for failure in the Senate was the dislike of the “burden of retro-active tax inclusion to Jan 1st.” I did the math and determined that a worker making $15/hour X 40 hours would have had an additional tax liability of $3.90 per week = $31.20 by March 1st, and payment was not due until April 2018. I voted to restore what I felt was an equitable and reasonable tax plan. With failure to override the veto the House and the Senate tax committees return to the drawing board. I look forward to review of a new plan that brings our state back to fiscally responsible revenue.
2) HB 2044 Medicaid expansion passed in the House but has yet to be brought for debate or vote in the Senate. This issue has been much debated for several years. Having spent the last 9 months visiting with hundreds of District 80 constituents, the CEOs and financial officers of our District’s three hospitals, the rural clinics, doctors, pharmacies, and nursing homes, I have learned of the crucial need for expansion. For every dollar billed from our hospitals, between 5-6% are currently uninsured because our hospitals are legally bound to serve everyone regardless of the ability to pay. These citizens make too little to afford even the reduced rates offered by the Affordable Care Act (ACA/Obamacare) insurance companies offerings and most often are part-time workers who do not quality for employer insurance. There is a waiting list of over 1500 disabled persons yet to receive assistance. The elderly who have outlived their life’s savings comprise approximately 8-10%, yet the nursing homes, doctors and hospitals are required to continue services.
The argument for expansion has been that our new President and Congress are going to change the rules so this is not the time. I disagree. The need to expand is even more critical. Any new plan of “block grant” pay to our states will assuredly be based on current usage. I want our states usage based on the true number of Kansans in need, not the denied number in need thus far served by our state.
Rather than make this newsletter way too long for anyone to absorb, I will continue with an additional offering in a few days. I want to share the survey results that have become my bible on how to vote on issues. I have many pictures to share and stories to tell of the many, many constituents who have visited me in Topeka. I have additional pictures and stories of this past Pro Forma week back in the District for gatherings, school and hospital visits, and several forums. I need to hear and update you on the new buzz that will be in the Capitol about the Supreme Court decision on education funding inadequacy that happened while I have been home.
Thank you for your support. Thank you for your interest in the process of government and your willingness to engage. Please share this newsletter with others you may know who have yet to provide their emails for me.
Rep. Anita Judd-Jenkins
Kansas House of Representatives District 80
Serving Cowley and Sumner Counties