Legislature may need extended session

by Rep. Don Schroeder

Kansas House of Representatives

The Legislature is near the halfway point on the calendar, but that does not mean the work is half done. As we move past turnaround, the pace picks up. We still need to get the 2018 and 2019 budgets finished and many Senate bills and conference reports voted on after turnaround. We still need to get the 2018 and 2019 budgets finished and vote on many Senate bills and conference reports.

The tax plan that passed the House and Senate last week has been the subject of much speculation. The plan eliminates the exemption for pass-through income and increases the two upper personal income tax rates.

The governor vetoed the bill Wednesday morning and the House voted to override it, but an override failed in the Senate by three votes. Because of the veto, the session could go on much longer. Speculation is as much as a month, perhaps going into June while hoping that does not happen.

While a tax plan would make progress to help balance the budget, the rest of the story is we have a lot of catch-up to do from the borrowing and payment delays that have occurred the last few years. KPERS and school payments are the main payments that have been delayed and those payments are around $275 million for 2018. Because of the borrowing and delayed payments, it is logical to expect continued transfers from the Kansas Department of Transpor­tation to the State General Fund for some time to come.

Assembling the FY 2018 and 2019 budgets is continuing. It is something of a start and stop process as budget committees need to finish work looking at their assigned budgets before they are reported out to the larger Appropriations Committee. So far, most committee reports generally recommend the governor’s recommendation, although there have been a few that depart from that recommendation.

Most of the departures are to increase the expenditures over the governor’s recommendation with very few decreases proposed. Examples of proposed increases are to replace outdated lab equipment for the Department of Agriculture or to provide additional resources for children’s or social programs and mental health. Those requests to increase are called enhancements. All the enhancement requests will be put off until later to determine if there is funding to approve any of the requests, based upon priority.

Wednesday the House saw final passage on a due process bill that started as a business due process to update the state laws. An amendment was added to return due process laws as they pertain to teachers to the way they were prior to 2014. This is an emotional issue, but for many it is a question of whether school boards should negotiate locally, or if a statewide due process law is in order.

In a somewhat unusual procedure, a bill was pulled up for House debate that would be amendable to Medicaid expansion.

Of course, the Medicaid expansion is a controversial issue with many pros and cons. One of the main arguments in favor is that rural and other hospitals are in a financial crunch and could use the funding the expansion would provide.

Primary arguments against would include uncertainty about how the Afford­able Care Act will play out in Washington and the difficulty in determining the actual impact on the state budget. The bill passed on final action and is on the way to the Senate.

Although many bills have come across the House floor, most of them are relatively non-controversial. Some­times it becomes a decision as to whether to add another board or committee, or if additional unenforceable regulations should be put in place. So much of it comes down to using common sense with a cell phone or seat belts, as examples.

It has been a very full turnaround week. We will have a week at home before returning March 6. At that point, we begin the process of hearing and working Senate bills and the time will fly. I will not have an article next week because the legislature will not be in session.

Rep. Don Schroeder represents District 74, which includes much of the southern half of Marion County.

by Rep. Don Schroeder