Yesterday, the 2020 Legislative Session began with a bit of a weather delay. Legislative staff were allowed to come in at 10 a.m.—which is surprising—due to icy fog. However, the start of the session was not postponed, and it went off as planned at 2:00 pm.
Day 1 was as quiet as I have seen in recent years. No formal committees met, and no floor action took place. Week 1 is much the same with the big exception being the State-of-the-State address later this evening. Gov. Kelly will address the Legislature and the state for the second time, but she has a year of experience behind her now. It is anticipated she will focus on Medicaid Expansion and tout the recent compromise reached with Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning (R-Overland Park). Last week, Gov. Kelly and Sen. Denning stood together to announce a plan to expand Medicaid in Kansas. See; https://www.cjonline.com/news/20200109/kansas-gov-laura-kelly-sen-jim-denning-reveal-bipartisan-medicaid-expansion-deal; See also; https://www.kansas.com/news/politics-government/article239115823.html.
The proposal, which was pre-filed as SB 252, has 22 Senate co-sponsors. This is one more than needed to pass. The compromised plan is not without obstacles though. Sen. President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) continues to oppose expanding Medicaid, and she has several legislative procedures at her disposal to delay the bill from receiving a vote. Efforts will be made to bring the bill to the floor for a vote, but many of those same procedures have been thwarted in the past. There is a good chance that Medicaid Expansion will drag on and remain in the news for the better part of the session.
Gov. Kelly may also discuss tax cuts on food, tax on internet sales, state employee raises, and the reorganization of DCF and KDADS into a new department titled KS Department of Human Services. She is likely to touch on Osawatomie Hospital and Criminal justice Reform. This year, she won’t have to worry about a lagging state budget or underwhelming revenue projections; the Consensus Revenue Estimate Group has projected an additional $535 million over the next 24 months. This unexpected revenue will come in handy when its time to pay off school finance, expand Medicaid and provide state employees with additional benefits. The one hot topic concerning the budget is Gov. Kelly’s second attempt at amortizing KPERS. This would make KPERS payment slower in the short run but force payments to be made for additional years on the backend. Legislators balked at this proposal in 2019 and will most likely oppose it again in 2020. See; https://hayspost.com/posts/5e13ae2e57544d3fe90e8f4e
As for the legislature, things will pick up steam next week. Look for overviews on the budget, updates on the abortion amendment and the introduction of dozens of bills. Should be an interesting start to the year.
To access live updates during the session, you can follow us on twitter @KansaBarLeg. Look for our Big Item of the Day and Pic of the Day beginning on Jan 13th.