As we approach the end of January, committees are meeting and sorting through the approximately 125 bills introduced in the Senate and the 175 introduced in the House to this point. The deadline for introducing bills is just over two weeks away.
Budget issues continue to weigh on everyone’s mind. At the forum in Moundridge, several questions were asked regarding how the budget will shake out. It is impossible to know at this point in time what combination will attract 63 House votes and 21 Senate votes to get it to the Governor’s desk. There is also the question of tax increases that will be needed to finalize the budget so it balances as required by the State Constitution.
There is some shifting of funds that is going on behind the scenes. The amount going into the general fund from fee funded agencies (agencies that charge fees for services rather than use tax money) is generally proposed to increase from 10% to 20%, and an office like the Insurance Department is being asked to provide an additional $5M annually to the general fund. That means the tax on insurance policies will likely increase if this change is approved.
Serious work on the 2015 rescission budget began Thursday. It’s always something of a shell game between the House and Senate as to who goes first, but the House went first on the rescission budget. The 2015 budget is called a rescission bill because cuts are being made to existing programs. If changes were simple adjustments it would be called a supplemental budget. After both the Senate and House pass their versions, the final budget is negotiated between Senate and House members.
Several individuals have emailed asking how the school funding proposal to make block grants to schools will work and if that affects facilities funding as well. Information regarding those questions has been slow, so answers are not readily available.
I have also been asked about Medicaid expansion and, again, I do not have answers to most questions. It appears hospitals, especially in rural areas, would benefit from expansion and that the net effect would be a shift of costs from those rural hospitals to the State, but we know what the State budget situation is so discussion is being suppressed on that issue.
There was a long debate on the House floor regarding our House and Joint Senate and House rules. One rule was added to the House rules that does not allow meeting on the House floor between midnight and 8 am. We will see how that works but typically not much good happens after midnight. Another was a change to the Joint Senate and House rules that does not allow bundling of more than two bills in a conference committee report. That will have to be negotiated with the Senate to see if the Senate will agree to the changes.
You can follow what is happening with live streaming by going to the Kansas Legislature website. You can listen in to the debates on the House floor at 11am and the Senate floor at 2:30pm. All types of information are available regarding bills introduced and the subject of committee hearings as well as hearing dates and times. Thank you for the feedback on articles, and contact me if you have further questions or comments.