2017 Bi-Weekly Legislative Update February 12, 2017
Republicans Propose Education Cuts, Democrats Propose Revenue Solutions
Due to the disastrous tax policies put in place by extremist Republican legislators in 2012 and 2013, our state is in a chronic state of financial crises. As a result, our budget for this fiscal year is still short approximately $300 million dollars, which must be immediately addressed. Rather than approach the shortfall with proactive measures that could avoid cutting vital government services, an extremist Republican Senate Panel put forth a rescission bill this week, proposing further cuts to the education budget. The proposal laid out a 5% cut to K-12 Education, and a 3% cut to the Higher Education Budget. These add up to over $150 million in cuts to Kansas schools, approximately $11 million of which would come from SMSD.
The rescission bill was scheduled to be debated by the Senate on Thursday, February 9th. The debate was canceled after public school advocates placed pressure on the extremists to leave schools unharmed. This denied Republican Leadership enough votes to pass the bill.
While the Republicans were promoting more cuts, a comprehensive tax reform bill was heard in the House Taxation Committee. This bill was promoted and submitted after a coalition of stakeholders came together to encourage a comprehensive solution to the revenue crises. Stakeholders included Kansas NEA, Kansas Center for Economic Growth, and Kansas Action for Children (protecting the Children’s Initiative Fund). Some of the key features of this legislation are: (1) a reinstatement of income tax on pass-through income for entities such as LLCs and S-Corps; (2)a repeal of the ratchet mechanism that Brownback dubbed the “glide path to zero” and that works to automatically reduce income tax rates any time revenue increases; (3) a return to a three-tier income tax structure, returning responsibility to the highest income earners in the state; (4) reducing sales tax on food; and (5) implementing a 10 cent sales tax on gasoline. This tax plan was not drafted by Democrats but enjoys support from numerous bipartisan groups. Those testifying on behalf of the bill included interfaith organizations, children’s advocates, and Kansas workers. Those testifying against included the lobbying groups Americans for Prosperity, Kansas Policy Institute, and the Petroleum Industry. This bill passed out of the House Tax Committee, and will move forward for more debate.
Meanwhile, in the Senate, Senate Democrats introduced the Democrats’ tax plan. This plan also provides a comprehensive solution to the revenue crises facing our state, reinstating a three-tiered income tax structure, repealing the ratchet, and restoring the tax on pass-through income, while returning to fully deductible health care costs, provides solvency and avoids the 10 cent sales tax on gas.
It is critical that we address the revenue crises. At this time, we are unable to meet the needs of our children in public schools, our children in State custody, the infrastructure of our state has been neglected to the point of causing safety risks, and the ranks of Kansas employees have been reduced to ineffective levels. To address the myriad of issues facing our constituents we have to first address our ability to pay for them. Whether or not a new finance formula is drafted for public education, or whether or not a Supreme Court ruling is issued requiring additional funding for k-12, if there is no money to invest, it cannot be invested. The time to support comprehensive tax reform is upon us.
Update on my work
I have several pieces of legislation I have been working on this session.
The Election Audit Act: House Bill 2251 This bill outlines requirements for an effective audit process for Kansas elections. Submitted in the Elections Committee, it has a hearing this Monday.
Foster Care Oversight Committee: In Children and Seniors, our committee is working on drafting a bill to create a bicameral oversight committee in order to supervise a comprehensive review of the Department of Children and Families. The oversight committee will be tasked with looking at all aspects of DCF, from their processing and review of complaints to the number of children in care and the outcomes of those children. It is our goal that this committee, with both Senate and House members, will be able to draft and submit legislation that will allow for improved care for children in State custody.
Repeal of the Safe Act: After the release of a draft report by the US Commission on Civil Rights this last week which revealed that Secretary of State and Donald Trump advisor Kris Kobach’s SAFE Act violates the 14th and 24th amendments to the US Constitution, I requested the Election Committee present a committee bill to repeal the SAFE Act. You can read more about this effort here: http://www.kansascity.com/news/politics-government/article131138984.html
Bill Protecting Victims of Domestic Violence. During a meeting with the Metropolitan Organization to Combat Sexual Assault prior to session’s start, I learned that currently, victims of sexual assaults are not statutorily authorized to seek and receive protective orders unless there has been two incidents involving the perpetrator. MOCSA advocated reducing the number of incidents that would trigger the ability to receive protection to one, and I agreed that would help survivors of abuse avoid potential recurrences. In order to help ensure passage of this legislation, we approached sponsorship of the bill from both sides of the aisle and from both sides of the Capitol building. Thus, Senator Pat Pettey (D), Senator Barbary Bollier (R), myself and Rep. Linda Gallagher (R), have jointly introduced legislation to answer this need.
Repealing Vouchers. I introduced legislation sunsetting vouchers that utilize public dollars for private religious schools.
Washington Days Announcement
The Kansas Democratic Party’s annual convention, Washington Days, will be held at the Downtown Topeka Ramada on February 24th and 25th, 2017. It’s the largest gathering of Democrats in the state.
The keynote speaker this year will be the former Presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders. He will speak on Saturday evening. For information click here: https://www.facebook.com/events/1892241110988187/
DeVos, Sessions Confirmed
This week, the U.S. Senate confirmed Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education and Jeff Sessions as Attorney General. DeVos and Sessions were appointed by President Donald Trump. The vote for DeVos was split evenly, 50 – 50, requiring Vice President Mike Pence to cast the deciding vote. Jeff Sessions was confirmed with a 52 – 47 vote.
The Kansas House Democratic Caucus had sent letters to Kansas Senators Jerry Moran and Pat Roberts, urging them to vote no on both appointments. Neither DeVos nor Sessions are qualified for their respective positions. See the links below to read the letters signed by the House Democrats, laying out the reasons why.
You can find the Jeff Sessions letter and signatures by clicking here.
You can find the Betsy DeVos letter and signatures by clicking here.
Saturday, February 18th 7:30-9:00am Overland Park Chamber of Commerce Hosting the Johnson County Public Policy Council Breakfast at the Double Tree by Hilton in Overland Park.
Keep in Touch
It is a privilege to serve as your state representative. I value your input on the issues facing our state. Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions. My office address is Room 173W, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612. You can reach me at (785) 296-7366. Additionally, you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please visit my website at www.jarrodousley.com and facebook page https://www.facebook.com/JarrodOusleyforthe24th/