Legislative Update with Rep. Mason

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Les Mason
Representative Les Mason

Legislative Session End Rapidly Approaching

The Kansas Legislature is currently on a short break, following the “Drop Dead Day” point; where bills from non-exempt committees must have passed both houses or languish until next session. This week we’ll see four days of Conference Committee action, then off until Veto Session starting May 3. In the meantime, we’ve been busy with a number of issues.

Protecting Local Control on Masks

On March 24th, the administration announced their intent to issue another statewide mask mandate by Executive Order despite a decline in new COVID cases. The House responded quickly with passage of House Resolution 6015 on a vote of 84-39. The resolution urges the Legislative Coordinating Council (LCC) to revoke an Executive Order that mandates masks if the order is issued when the Legislature is adjourned. On April 1, less than a day after the Legislature adjourned for the Easter holiday, Governor Kelly issued EO 21-14, a new statewide mask mandate.

Senate Bill 40, which the Governor recently signed into law, grants the Legislature the authority to revoke Executive Orders while they are in session. However, when the Legislature is adjourned, that authority is granted to the LCC. The LCC met April 1 to review the 13 new executive orders issued by the Governor. The members of LCC voted 5-2 to revoke the order calling for a statewide mask mandate.

What’s this mean? Revoking the order will allow our local elected officials to continue to decide what’s best for our communities rather than forcing a one-size-fits-all approach across the state. In November, the Governor issued her last statewide mask mandate saying there was a “worrying spike” in cases. At that time, Kansas had 5,217 new cases and a 7-day average of 2,430 new cases. Recent numbers reflect a fraction of that.

Kansans have been asked to help reduce the spread of COVID – and they’ve done so during a time when most counties had opted out of the Governor’s mask mandate. With cases dropping and no data to support the need for another statewide mandate, the best approach has proven to be local control.

House Advances Full Funding for Schools, Support for At-Risk Learners

Last week the House debated House Bill 2119 regarding K-12 education. The bill contains full funding for our schools in compliance with the Kansas Supreme Court’s Gannon ruling and is identical to the school funding levels contained in the Governor’s Budget Report. The bill also contains funding for the School Safety and Security Grants and expansion of the Mental Health Intervention Team Pilot Program, both which were allotted by the Governor.

Additionally, HB 2119 creates more options for at-risk students and their families by creating Educational Savings Accounts and broadening the state’s existing Tax Credit Scholarship Program. These policy provisions are targeted at helping at-risk learners – no matter where they live – access added opportunities so they can bridge academic achievement gaps.

HB 2119 now goes to the Senate for consideration in the budget conference process.

Tax Cuts for Families, Small Businesses Heads to Governor’s Desk

In 2017, the federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was signed into law, which provided tax relief to American families and businesses. While this legislation brought American workers bigger paychecks, enhanced economic opportunity, and yielded historic job growth, Kansans experienced an unintended tax increase, because Kansas is a “rolling conformity” state. Federal tax changes are adopted automatically, and Senate Bill 50 provides Kansans with the full tax relief that was intended by the federal Act. Last week, the Legislature sent this bill to the Governor’s desk.

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