We have completed week five of the legislature are now just two weeks away from “Turnaround”, which is essentially the halfway point of the session. The pace of legislation we are working will most definitely pick up as we get closer to March 1.
Included in this update are information on the Dodd-Frank lawsuit, Medicaid expansion, and the Vote Tracker that I have begun including. Some votes are easier to understand than others and some require a bit more detail. If you ever have a question, please don't hesitate to ask. Also, remember that you can always look up information about any bill on the Legislature's website.
Before I get into those items, however, I do want to mention that this week I had the honor of chairing the “Committee of the Whole”, which is basically when the full House debates and amends legislation to determine what it will look like when we vote on the bill. During these periods, the Speaker appoints a member of the House to chair the committee. That appointed member then takes the gavel and “referees” the debate. I had the honor this week and am glad to say I made it through! I've included two photos from that day's session.
I want to take those of you who took time to let me know your thoughts on my newsletter last week and appreciate my “on guard” stance in regards to liberty and being careful not be sucked into groupthink.
As for this week’s items, here are a couple major items of note:
Kansas Joins Dodd-Frank Lawsuit
On Wednesday, Attorney General Derek Schmidt announced that the state has signed onto a multi-state lawsuit challenging a key provision of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Kansas joined 10 other states on the lawsuit pending before the U.S. District Court of the District of Columbia.
The Dodd-Frank bill gives the secretary of the Treasury the ability to order the liquidation of financial institutions deemed “too big to fail.” In filing the lawsuit, the attorney general noted that such authority undermines the property rights of shareholders of any such institutions, including holdings of the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS). This is not to mention the fact that such action by the Treasury would leave the Kansas taxpayer responsible for the tab.
Attorney General Schmidt also observed that the new power granted to the Treasury allows the federal government to pick winners and losers among investors in large institutions. This is done while circumventing state bankruptcy laws and, consequently, without any meaningful court supervision. Not to mention, the fact that such action by the Treasury would leave the Kansas taxpayer responsible for the tab.
I applaud Attorney General Schmidt for joining with the lawsuit. This is the kind of action the states must take if we are to fight the ever encroaching arm of the federal government.
On Friday, February 8, the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) released the results of an independent analysis, done by Aon Hewitt, on the potential enrollment and budget impact of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) implementation to the state Medicaid/Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Assuming that moderate statewide population growth will continue and using CY2010 Medicaid/CHIP enrollment as a base, the study estimates that if the state chooses not to expand Medicaid, the Medicaid/CHIP enrollment will increase by 20,563 in CY2014, ramping up to 41,538 (23,740 for Medicaid and 17,798 for CHIP) by CY2016, when the ACA is expected to be fully implemented. The anticipated 10-year (CY2014-CY2023) state general fund (SGF) increase for no expansion will be $513 million.
If the state chooses to expand Medicaid, Medicaid/CHIP enrollment will increase by 111,880 in CY2014, ramping up to 226,003 (25,416 from currently eligible Medicaid, 49,384 from currently eligible CHIP, and 151,203 from those newly eligible for Medicaid in CY2016, once the ACA is fully implemented. The anticipated 10-year (CY2014-CY2023) SGF increase with expansion compared to no ACA will be $1.1 billion.
Governor Brownback has not yet announced a decision on whether or not the state will expand Medicaid. Undoubtedly, an increase of $1.1 billion over ten years to state expenditures is a very significant increase that would have an impact on the state’s ability to fund its other core responsibilities, such as education. If the state expands Medicaid, the ACA does state that the federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost of the expansion for the first 3 years and then 90 percent after that. However, if the federal government, which is currently running trillion dollar deficits, is not able to make good on its offer, then the impact on the state budget would be even greater.
I am opposed to the expansion of Medicaid in Kansas. With the Supreme Court ruling last summer, each state is allowed to decide to participate in the expansion. Not only can Kansas not afford the expansion, we can not count on the federal dollars to be there as their "share" of the matching costs. We should choose not to dive further into the abyss of an expanding federal program and expanding federal debt.
When appropriate, I’m going to start a new section in my newsletter called “Vote Tracker” which will highlight my votes on bills the Legislature passes. It will include short explanations with more expansive explantions at times, particularly where my vote might go against the majority.
This week the House took final votes on several bills, all of which were passed and will now be received by the Senate for consideration. Below are the bills with a brief description of each.
HB 2067: This bill added language in statute to authorize the Attorney General to hire more than one assistant attorney general to defend the Board of Nursing. The expense of the attorney will be paid for with user fees from the board.
On February 11th, the House passed HB 2067 by a vote of 123 to 1. I voted YES.
HB 2059: Last year the legislature passed a large tax reform bill. However, there were some technical changes required to make the bill more workable and fix errors in the original draft.
On February 11th, the House passed HB 2059 by a vote of 122 to 2. I voted YES.
HB 2015: Regarding marriage, this bill would clarify the definition of gifts one spouse gives another with regard to creditors. If a gift is given legally and not to avoid creditors it would not be subject to collections.
On February 12th, the House passed HB 2015 by a vote of 116 to 8. I voted YES.
HB 2081: This bill would change the crimes which allow the state to seize property used in the commission of a crime to also include the crimes of sexual exploitation of a child. This would allow the state to seize the computer equipment used in the crime.
On February 12th, the House passed HB 2081 by a vote of 124 to 0. I voted YES.
HB 2034: Currently law enforcement is allowed to seek a search warrant to place a GPS tracker on an subjects car. This bill would make technical changes to the law, specifically the amount of time law enforcement has to place a tracker after a warrant has been issued.
On February 12th, the House passed HB 2034 by a vote of 124 to 0. I voted YES.
HB 2114: In cases when a debtor owes money to the state, the fees for the collection of the debt will now be paid for by the debtor.
On February 13th, the House passed HB 2114 by a vote of 90 to 32. I voted NO. Currently, there is a 17% debt collection fee that the state collects – this bill would require that be an additional cost rather than a deduction from the debt owed to a court. I believe this bill amounted to a hidden fee increase and I didn’t feel comfortable voting for it. Those owing money to the state are already have difficulty paying the debt without an increase in the amount.
HB 2041: This bill concerns municipal court records and requires such records for certain misdemeanors to be submitted to the Kansas Bureau of Investigation.
On February 13th, the House passed HB 2041 by a vote of 119 to 3. I voted YES.
HB 2065: At the request of the Johnson County District Attorney, the House took up a bill looking at the crime of home improvement fraud and classifying such fraud when above $1,000 as a felony.
On February 13th, the House passed HB 2065 by a vote of 106 to 16. I voted NO. While no one is in favor of “home improvement fraud”, there is concern by those voting no about the wording in the bill and poor bill construction. Aspects of this legislation could currently be covered by civil suit, and I felt it was too broadly defined.
HB 2141: Certain election laws related to school districts are still on the books in Kansas but not active law. This bill removes this unused law from statute.
On February 14th, the House passed HB 2141 by a vote of 123 to 0. I voted YES.
HB 2096: This bill would change the restrictions local units of government have when investing public money to allow demand deposit accounts which are currently prohibited.
On February 14th, the House passed HB 2096 by a vote of 123 to 0. I voted YES.
HB 2011: Kansas Universities are currently allowed to setup license plates with their school’s logo on them. This bill would also extend this to motorcycles as well.
On February 14th, the House passed HB 2011 by a vote of 109 to 14 I voted YES.
HB 2213: This trailer bill was a follow on to last year’s KPERS bill. This fix it bill would make technical and cleanup changes to the legislation passed last year.
On February 15th, the House passed HB 2213 115-0. I voted YES.
HB 2228: Currently the death and disability fund in KPERS has more money than it needs. Because of this the state will decrease employer payments to group insurance reserve fund for KPERS plan of death and long-term disability benefits during fiscal years 2014 and 2015 until FY 2016 when the surplus will be gone.
On February 15, the House passed HB 2228 115-0. I voted YES.
HB 2066: This bill relates to physical therapists and the referral process. This bill would allow individuals to self-refer themselves to a physical therapist for treatment without receiving a doctors referral first.
On February 15, the House passed HB 2066 98-16. I voted YES.
HB 2030: For veterans with 30% disability, this bill would distribute a limited number of wounded warrior deer hunting permits for non-resident hunters.
On February 15, the House passed HB 2030 115-0. I voted YES.