Archive for Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Legislative update: Week 12

March 31, 2010

— Very early this morning the Legislature finished its regular session and there is much work left to be done when we come back on April 28, most importantly the budget. My Senate office will be closed during the recess and I will not send out another newsletter until the veto session, but I will have access to my Senate e-mail.

FY 2011 BUDGET UPDATE – MARCH 2010 REVENUES ARE UP

In an unusual turn of events, the House and Senate have decided to hold off working a budget plan until after first adjournment. According to legislative records, an appropriations bill (which includes the bulk of funding for state agencies) has been passed prior to the April break every session since 1996.

The Legislature will typically reconvene a month later for the Veto Session (also referred to as the Wrap-Up Session) to pass an "Omnibus Budget Bill." The Omnibus Bill normally contains technical adjustments to previous appropriations bills, financing for the Governor's budget amendments which were not considered as part of regular appropriations bills, and financing of substantive legislation that passed earlier in the session. The calendar is structured in this manner to allow time for the Legislature to make budget adjustments based on updated revenue estimates, which become available in mid-April.

According to budget information that was just released this afternoon the March 2010 revenues are up by $12.230 million or +3.5%. However, that still leaves fiscal year-to-date revenues down $92.8 million or -2.6%.

Faced by a growing budget deficit, which is estimated to be somewhere between $450-$500 million dollars, I feel it is more prudent for the legislature to deviate from tradition and to wait until revised revenue estimates are delivered on April 16th. Due to our current budget crisis, the State of Kansas is in an extraordinary time. We must get a clearer picture as to what our budget deficit looks like before moving forward with a budget plan.

EDUCATION ISSUES PASS BOTH HOUSES

In a conference committee report for SB 359 three issues pertaining to education were passed by both Houses and sent to the Governor.

First, the bill amends the special education catastrophic state aid law for the 2009-2010 school year by increasing the threshold for eligibility from $25,000 to $36,000 and by requiring that state special education state aid and federal special education state aid, including Medicaid Replacement State Aid, be deducted in determining the amount of reimbursement per special education student. In school year 2010-2011 and years thereafter, the catastrophic state aid reimbursement threshold would increase to twice the state aid per special education teacher from the previous year. State and federal special education aid, including Medicaid Replacement State Aid, would be deducted in determining the amount of reimbursement per special education student.

Secondly, the bill allows a pilot program that changes the special education funding formula from a teacher-based formula to a census-based formula. This provision in the bill sunsets on June 30, 2013.

Finally, the bill amends a provision in the special education law which provides for the payment of Medicaid Replacement State Aid to school districts. Under current law, during the school years of 2007-2008, 2008-2009 and 2009-2010, the State Board of Education is required to designate a portion of special education state aid as Medicaid replacement. This funding cannot exceed $9 million in any school year. The bill removes the designated school years resulting in continuation of Medicaid Replacement State Aid permanently.

NURSING FACILITY BILL SENT BACK TO COMMITTEE

On Tuesday, the Senate debated a bill which would have implemented a new $30 million fee on Kansas nursing homes, before sending the bill back to committee for further review.

Under S Sub for Sub HB 2320, Kansas nursing facilities would be assessed on the number of beds that the facility is licensed for as of July 1st each year. The assessment amount would be $1,325 per bed annually. The money generated by the provision is intended to supplement the current 10 percent Medicaid cut which was put into place by the Governor earlier this year. The $30 million fee would have drawn down $56 million in matching federal funds.

DAY CARE LICENSING BILL APPROVED

In a 25-14 vote, the Senate on Tuesday approved a conference committee report as amended on S Sub for HB 2356 (formerly Senate Bill 447).

If you’ll recall, Senate Bill 447 – which the Senate formally named “Lexie’s Law” on behalf of a 13-month-old child who died while staying at a day care provider in 2004 – would change current law to state that all Kansas day care facilities must be licensed rather than just “registered”. The state would then have the ability to inspect all licensed facilities and to require that providers submit written self-examinations annually.

The Senate passed SB 447 on March 17th, but because the House of Representatives added in provisions of another bill, a conference committee was appointed. The conference committee reported the bill for approval – which means that the six House and Senate conference committee members had agreed on final changes to the bill.

I agreed to the changes which were made by the committee and voted in favor of the conference committee report. Not only will this bill provide parents with better access to relevant background information on those daycare facilities located in Kansas, but it will mandate that all facilities follow the same guidelines for childcare and self-examination and require that registered day care homes become licensed. It is an important step to preventing the tragic loss of any more Kansas children who are under the supervised care of a daycare provider.

TRANSPORTATION PLAN COMES OUT OF SENATE COMMITTEE

On a 5-4 vote the Senate Transportation Committee recommended approval of a .3 cent increase in the state sales tax to help pay for a new comprehensive transportation plan. The committee’s vote marked the first tax increase proposal to advance to the floor with a favorable recommendation in the 2010 legislative session.

The measure would increase the state sales tax of 5.3 cents to 5.6 cents in 2013 with the revenue going toward highway construction and other transportation projects. It would also increase car registration fees by $20 and truck registration fees by $100 starting in 2013. New revenue in the package totals about $2.7 billion over 10 years. Combined with existing revenue, the transportation plan would cost about $8.2 billion. The bill now goes to the full Senate for consideration.

The measure was hotly disputed in committee. Opponents said it does not make sense to recommend a tax increase when the Legislature has not received more current revenue projection figures. New revenue numbers will be available in mid-April. However, supporters of the proposal said advancing the legislation would help lawmakers gauge whether the taxpaying public supports a comprehensive transportation plan and is willing to increase their investment to support it. Supporters also state that a new transportation plan would bring new investment and jobs to the state during this economic crisis when we need to create more jobs.

KDOL UPDATE

The Kansas Department of Labor (KDOL) has made a number of changes recently in an effort to expand their online presence and to improve customer service. I wanted to take this opportunity to share some of these changes with you:

Contact Center:

In efforts to reduce call congestion in KDOL’s Contact Center, the agency has changed the way certain calls are routed. Until recently, the biggest backlogs occurred when callers with specific claims-related questions had to be routed to another operator.

KDOL has changed where calls regarding online services are routed, relieving some pressure from “general inquiry” respondents and reducing wait times for callers. As a result, the number of calls that can be handled in a day has increased by nearly 30 percent.

  Podcasts:

In February, KDOL initiated its Questions from Claimants podcast series. The podcasts are short audio clips designed to help claimants understand different aspects of the unemployment insurance program. Each week KDOL releases a new episode, which can be accessed via www.GetKansasBenefits.com and can be downloaded to be listened to at the claimant’s convenience.

So far, there have been more than 10,000 hits on the podcast site and more than 3,600 individual visitor sessions among the five podcast episodes.

Reporting UI Fraud:

Earlier this month KDOL added a page to its Web site that helps individuals report instances of suspected fraud on the part of claimants or employers: www.dol.ks.gov/fraud/fraud.html. From the site, individuals can find information on what constitutes fraud in the unemployment insurance program and how they can report fraud by phone, mail or e-mail. You can also download a fraud reporting form to complete and return to the agency for further investigation.

  Hearings and Judge’s Orders:

Individuals requesting access to claims information can now receive it electronically. Instead of receiving hard copies of records by fax or mail, claimants can receive an e-mail notification when the data is ready to be “picked up” on KDOL’s Web site.

KDOL is also sending e-mail notifications of Administrative Law Judges awards and hearings. Those parties involved in a disputed issue will now receive e-mail notifications when a hearing is requested or a judge’s orders have been given.

  Proof of Coverage:

KDOL now provides employers, attorneys and medical providers the ability to check its Web site at any time to find an insurance company and determine whether an employer has proof of coverage. Injured workers can also use it to determine who is responsible for their medical bills.

FREE MAMMOGRAMS OFFERED

Qualified women living in Northeast Kansas will be eligible for a special no-cost mammogram during the week of May 3rd through the 7th as part of the Race Against Breast Cancer. Up to 300 screenings will be performed free of charge at St. Francis Breast Center, Jane C. Stormont Women’s Center and Cotton O’Neil Urish Clinic.

Please call Health Connections at (785) 354-5225 before April 12 to see if you qualify for one these mammograms.

GOVERNOR SIGNS 16 NEW BILLS INTO LAW

Governor Mark Parkinson signed 16 new bills this week, bringing the total number of bills signed during the 2010 Legislative Session to 49. Here is a full list of the latest bills he signed:

Exempting state educational institutions from State Surplus Property Act

HB 2415 exempts the state universities from being required to sell, trade, or dispose of personal property owned by these institutions through State Surplus Property, and would give the Board of Regents oversight of the process. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.

Concerning the administration of vaccines

HB 2448 amends current law and allow a pharmacist, pharmacy student, or pharmacy intern working under the direct supervision of a pharmacist to administer the influenza vaccine to a person six years of age or older. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.

Concerning trusts; relating to the uniform principal and income act

HB 2455 amends the Uniform Principal and Income Act, relating to trusts and trustees. The bill clarifies language regarding payment requirements in order to receive estate tax marital deductions for certain trusts. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.

Concerning crimes and punishment; relating to sentencing

HB 2469 amends current law with respect to criminal history category to delete the language in the statute regarding applicable penalties so that there is no ambiguity that prior convictions can be counted in determining the criminal history category of a defendant. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Register.

Relating to motor carriers; increasing time for verification of compliance

HB 2485 increases from 12 to 18 months the time the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) has to verify that a carrier is in compliance will all applicable requirements, after the KCC has initially authorized the carrier to operate in Kansas. This time period is consistent with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s compliance timelines. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.

Inspection of parole offices by the Department of Corrections

HB 2503 expands current law to allow the Secretary of Corrections the authority to inspect parole offices. Current law gives the Secretary explicit authority to inspect all correctional facilities, including facility management and business practices, offender treatment, and any allegations of improper conduct. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.

Concerning the inheritance tax

HB 2557 removes references to the inheritance tax that appear in Kansas statutes. Current law eliminates the inheritance tax beginning tax year 2010. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.

The Addictions Counselor Licensure Act

HB 2577 creates the Addictions Counselor Licensure Act to require any person currently licensed as an addiction counselor or substance abuse counselor to be licensed and meet applicable requirements. Addiction counselors or substance abuse counselors would be prohibited from practicing without being licensed by this act, effective August 1, 2011. HB 2577 also increases the number of members on the Behavioral Science Regulatory Board from 11 to 12 to include a Licensed Addiction Counselor or Licensed Clinical Addiction Counselor. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.

Increasing the limitation on irrevocable funds for prepaid funerals

HB 2588 increases the maximum amount that can be placed in an irrevocable pre-financed funeral agreement from $5,000 to $7,000.

Required disclosures for prepaid funerals

HB 2589 requires a number of disclosures in a prearranged funeral agreement, including the names and addresses of the seller and purchaser; a statement of the funeral goods and services being purchased; and whether the contract is guaranteed or not guaranteed. The legislation also requires a prearranged funeral agreement to disclose whether the contract is revocable or irrevocable; what happens to excess funds after the funeral and arrangements have been paid for; the name of the institution in which the funds are deposited; and notice of reasonable fees and expenses deducted from the trust. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.

Relating to work release programs

HB 2604 authorizes a sentencing court to assign defendants, convicted of misdemeanors or felonies that require imprisonment in the county jail rather than a state correctional facility, to work release programs. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.

Concerning law enforcement for the HorseThief Reservoir Benefit District

HB 2638 allows the governing board of the HorseThief Reservoir Benefit District to appoint a law enforcement manager and associated officers. The law enforcement officers will be required to meet the requirements of the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Act and complete instruction at the Kansas Law Enforcement Training Center. The Hodgeman County Sheriff’s office would control the law enforcement functions and enter into a contract for these services with the Benefit District. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.

Relating to the crime victims compensation fund

SB 326 increases the amount the Attorney General has the authority to transfer from the agency’s Crime Victims Compensation Fund to the Crime Victims Assistance Fund. Currently the internal transfer limit is $100,000 and it would increase to $300,000. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Register.

Relating to filing requirements for limited liability partnerships

SB 437 requires limited liability partnerships to have the same requirements in regards to filing resident agents and registered offices with the Secretary of State as current law on domestic or foreign limited partnerships. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.

Concerning corporations and business’ merger of limited partnerships

SB 441 repeals the Revised Uniform Limited Partnership Act and allows limited partnership mergers to take place under the Business Entity Transaction Act. Limited partnerships would be required to file a certificate of merger or merger agreement as opposed to a notice of cancellation with the Secretary of State. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.

Concerning the metropolitan transit authority act

SB 544 increases the area in which a metropolitan transit authority could offer services. The area increases from a radius of three miles of the city’s corporate limits to a radius of 90 miles from those limits. Under current law only Topeka and the Topeka Metropolitan Transit Authority (TMTA) are limited to the original three mile radius. The TMTA is the only transit operator with a service area limit in the state. The bill takes effect upon its publication in the Kansas Statute Book.

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