This Week in Topeka
March 21-25, 2022
Business, Economic Development & Local Government News from the Legislative Session
A planned short week has come to a close in Topeka. Lawmakers spent their time on their respective chamber floors churning through bills and amendments in advance of Wednesday’s deadline to consider all bills. Lawmakers will return to Topeka Monday to begin a week of conference committees before first adjournment which is scheduled for Friday, April 1.
The House adopted Substitute for HB 2737 on a strong bi-partisan 112-10 vote. The legislation is the legal description of the new House map known as Freestate 3F which can be viewed here.
Johnson County gains two additional representatives under the House proposal adopted Wednesday.
On the Senate side, SB 563 was adopted giving approval to the map known as Liberty 3. The bill had previously passed the Senate 28-8 and was adopted by the House on Wednesday 112-9. To view, click here.
The Senate map adds two seats to the county’s Senate delegation.
HB 2703 was adopted by the Senate this week, 39-0, after having received a 121-0 vote in the house earlier this session. The bill is a technical cleanup of last session’s major overhaul of the state’s unemployment system. The legislation makes changes to rate tables that were approved last year, adjusts language to comply with federal law and tweaks the “My Reemployment Plan” program put in place to assist job seekers in finding suitable employment.
The combined impact of this legislation and last year’s HB 2196 will save businesses across Kansas millions of dollars in unemployment compensation costs while improving data security and the customer service experience for Kansans interacting with the unemployment system.
Lawmakers on the House and Senate education committees have been working most of the session to craft legislation allowing students residing in a district to freely transfer to other districts within the state. Proponents have argued the freedom to change districts allows students opportunities to pursue their education in districts where they believe they have a better opportunity to excel.
Opponents have argued that the open transfer policy is unnecessary and will lead to higher taxes as students leave their home districts and attend another district in the state. Opponents also have noted that the ability to transfer to different schools and districts is already occurring, making the legislation unnecessary.
The House adopted its version of the legislation, HB 2615 on a 63-59 vote. The Senate approved its version, SB 455, 23-16. Negotiators from both chambers will seek to reconcile differences during next week’s conference committee action.
Under the legislation, districts will have to establish capacity limits with the Senate version being more prescriptive in how those capacity limits are set.
Education/Parents Bill of Rights/Academic Transparency
The Senate gave approval to SB 496, a bill being referred to as the Parents’ Bill of Rights. According to the bill brief, the legislation, approved Tuesday on a 24-15 vote, would spell out the rights parents would have to “direct the upbringing, education, care, and mental health of their child."
Among the provisions of the bill, parents would have the right to request, access and inspect all written and electronic records maintained by the school relating to their child and the right to inspect the curriculum, instructional material and any other materials made available or taught in the child’s school.
The legislation spells out how districts are to adopt policies to enforce the rights guaranteed by the legislation. Proponents said the rights and procedures in the legislation are necessary to ensure parents have access to materials used in the education of their children. Concerns over the teaching of Critical Race Theory and other controversial topics also were expressed.
Opponents and those weighing in as neutral said parents already have access to classroom materials and that many of the provisions of the bill are already a matter of law or district procedure, thus making the bill unnecessary.
A similar bill, HB 2662, has passed out of the House Committee on K-12 Education Budget, but has not seen action on the House floor.
On Wednesday, the Senate acted on HB 2239, a package of tax breaks discussed throughout the session. The bill was adopted 36-2. Among provisions of the bill:
- Golden Years Homestead Property Tax Freeze Program – establishes a new property tax refund program offering refunds on property taxes for qualified applicants. To qualify, a taxpayer would have to have a household income of less than $75,000 and be 65 years of age or older or be a disabled veteran. Other qualifying factors are spelled out in the legislation.
- Increased Standard Deduction – the bill would increase the individual income tax standard deduction, beginning in tax year 2023, to $3,850 for single filers; $8,800 for married filers, and $6,600 for head of household filers.
- SALT Parity Act – the State and Local Tax Parity Act would allow certain pass-through entities the option of paying state income taxes at the entity level rather than being paid at the level associated with the individual pass-through entity. The change is precipitated by federal tax code changes in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017.
- Carried Back Net Operating Loss Carryforward – allows taxpayers who carried back federal net operating losses in tax years 2018, 2019 and 2020 to subtract the losses from their Kansas adjusted gross income.
- Tax Credits – the bill adds income tax exemptions related to the federal Work Opportunity Tax Credit and the federal Employee Retention Credit. The bill also establishes a tax credit for certain donations made to Kansas technical and community colleges.
The House previously acted on an earlier version of the legislation giving 123-0 approval at the time. The bill will return to the House so changes made by the Senate can be considered.
Resolutions and Constitutional Amendments
HCR 5030 passed the Senate this week, 38-0, following a 121-0 vote in the House in late February. The measure expresses the Kansas Legislature’s support for adopting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism.
Supreme Court Nominations
SCR 1621, a resolution that would have given voters the opportunity to revamp the state’s procedure for selecting Kansas Supreme Court justices, failed to capture the needed 27 votes in the Senate Wednesday. The resolution would have created a nomination and oversight process mirroring the federal process for appointments to the United States Supreme Court. The resolution ended with a 26-13 vote – one short of the required 2/3 majority to advance.
Supermajority For Tax Increases
SCR 1620 failed to receive the required 27 votes needed to advance the question to voters this fall. The resolution, if it had been approved by a 2/3 majority in the House and Senate, would have allowed voters to decide if future tax increases would need a supermajority vote in both chambers to become law. The measure fell two votes short of the minimum 27 votes needed, failing to be adopted on the 25-14 vote.
Election of Sheriff
HCR 5022, if approved by voters in August of 2022, would amend the Kansas Constitution and require that county sheriffs be elected. The amendment also clarifies the conditions under which a sitting sheriff could be removed from office. The resolution cleared the required 2/3 hurdle in the House and Senate, passing 97-24 and 36-2 respectively.
Rules and Regulation Oversight
HCR 5014 squeaked by in both chambers with the Senate this week, voting to send the issue to voters on a 27-12 vote. Previously the House approved the measure, 85-39. The resolution is slated for the November General Election. If approved by voters, the resolution will give lawmakers the authority to oversee and revoke state-agency implemented rules and regulations. Proponents argued that many agency rules and regulations exceed the scope granted to them by the legislature, making additional oversight by the legislature necessary.
Lawmakers gave their approval to legislation prohibiting cities and counties from enacting taxes or restrictions on auxiliary containers. Auxiliary containers are defined as plastic straws, bags, cups, packages, containers, bottles, devices and other containers. Proponents argued that a patchwork of varying restrictions throughout the state could negatively impact businesses and how they operate. Opponents argued the legislation usurps local control and would lead to negative environmental consequences. The legislation, SB 493, passed the Senate 27-13 and the House 74-48.
HB 2416 cleared the Senate on Wednesday with 26-11 approval. According to the official supplemental note, the bill “would create law regarding compensation for the use, restriction of use, loss, or destruction of property as a result of governmental actions related to the prevention or response to contagious or infectious disease.” The bill is one of several considered by the legislature in response to actions taken during the height of the COVID pandemic.
The bill provides for the reimbursement of property taxes in situations where a business is shut down or restricted by the state, county, city, or other political subdivision. HB 2416 was introduced in 2021 on related subjects but was substantially different from the Senate-approved version. The House gave 81-40 approval of its earlier version of the bill and will need to reevaluate the changes made by the Senate.
SB 489 is another response to the recent COVID pandemic that was approved during Senate action on Wednesday with a 24-15 vote. The bill limits the powers of the Secretary of Health and Environment and local health officers by restricting the actions they can take when responding to infectious or contagious diseases. The House has not yet acted on this bill.
In the same vein as the previous bills, SB 541 would place limits on cities enacting ordinances restricting public gatherings due to health or emergency situations; prohibit the State Board of Education, local school boards, schools and other public officials from requiring proof of COVID-19 vaccination status; and prohibit governmental entities from initiating mask requirements or placing any type of restriction on worship services and related activities. The bill passed the Senate, 24-14, but has not yet been discussed in the House.
The Senate also adopted HB 2280 addressing the writing of medical prescriptions for off-label use of FDA-approved drugs including hydroxychloroquine sulfate and ivermectin. The bill also would prohibit pharmacists from refusing to fill or refill prescriptions related to COVID 19 treatments. Lastly, the bill would exempt children enrolling in childcare facilities and schools from state-required immunizations if the immunization would violate a sincerely held religious belief. The bill was adopted by the Senate, 21-16. A much different version of the bill was approved in the House earlier in the session.
Senators gave approval to HB 2056, a piece of legislation amending aspects of how and when voters can cast their ballots. The legislation would limit remote ballot boxes to one per every 30,000 residents of a county, require that the boxes be constantly monitored, and extend by three days the number of days before an election that advance voting could begin.
The bill makes 7:00 p.m. on election day the new cutoff for mail ballots to be received and counted by election officials. Current law allows ballots to be received and counted up to three days after election day. The legislation received 97-24 approval in the House earlier in March. The Senate voted 22-17 to adopt an amended version of the bill so the House will have to revisit this bill to either concur with the changes or request a conference committee.
Automated Delivery Vehicles
You may soon see beach cooler-sized robots on city sidewalks as lawmakers gave approval to differing versions of a bill authorizing the new delivery method. SB 161 authorizes “personal delivery devices” to operate on sidewalks and other limited areas with restrictions enumerated in the bill. The Senate adopted its version of the bill in February with a 24-15 vote. The House adopted its version on Wednesday with a 75-47 vote. The chambers will need to reconcile their differing versions before the bill can advance to the governor’s desk.
The robotic delivery devices, championed by companies like Amazon, are restricted in size and must adhere to an array of safety regulations before they can operate in Kansas. The bill allows cities and counties to prohibit the delivery devices if they believe a public safety threat would exist.
Lawmakers return to Topeka to reconcile differences in legislation their respective chambers have passed. They can do this through conference committees or by agreeing to the legislation as adopted by the other chamber. The week will be spent vacillating between conference committees and floor action.
The legislature will reach first adjournment next Friday before taking most of April off. This break allows legislative staff to reconcile all the late changes agreed to by lawmakers and also allows the state’s revenue estimators, the Consensus Revenue Estimating Group, to make the latest revenue projections on which the final budget bill will be based.
Upcoming Policy Events
Legislative Update Luncheon - April 14
If you haven’t yet made your reservation, it’s not too late to claim your seat for the Johnson County Public Policy Legislative Update Luncheon on Thursday, April 14. Lunch will be served at noon with the hour-long program beginning at 12:30.
The legislative panel will include Senate Minority Leader Dinah Sykes; Senator Kellie Warren; and Representatives Stephanie Clayton, Chris Croft, Jerry Stogsdill and Carl Turner. Hear directly from the lawmakers about the major issues being addressed by the Kansas Legislature with Q and A to follow.
Additional details and reservation information can be found on the Chamber’s website. Register here
Mayor Skoog’s State of the City Address - April 12
Join Mayor Curt Skoog for his inaugural State of the City address, 4:00-5:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 12 at Johnson County Community College. You won’t want to miss this update on what’s happening in our community.
After this address, enjoy beverages and hors d’oeuvres at the mayor’s reception. We thank our Presenting Sponsor: Saint Luke's Health System.
For additional details and reservation information, click here.
Kevin Walker, IOM
Senior Vice President of Public Policy
(913) 766-7602 | (913) 526-6855