Legislators returned from the Turnaround long weekend on Tuesday, March 1, and went back to work on bills related to the sales tax on food, forensic medical evaluations for children alleged to be victims of abuse and neglect, enhanced newborn screening, and standards for licensing laboratories testing medical marijuana. This edition of Health at the Capitol looks at health policy issues that were discussed during the eighth week of the session.
Health at the Capitol is a weekly summary providing highlights of the Kansas legislative session, with a specific focus on health policy related issues. Sign up here to receive these summaries and more, and also follow KHI on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Previous editions of Health at the Capitol can be found on our ARCHIVE PAGE.
On Tuesday, March 1, the Department of Revenue announced tax collections for February exceeded the Consensus Revenue Estimates by more than $18 million.
On Friday, March 4, the Kansas Supreme Court denied Attorney General Derek Schmidt’s petitions to dismiss three lawsuits filed in the district courts of Wyandotte and Douglas counties challenging the Ad Astra 2 congressional redistricting map passed by the Legislature in late January. The cases will proceed in those jurisdictions.
House Health and Human Services Committee
(Rep. Brenda Landwehr, Chair)
On Wednesday, March 2, the Committee continued its informational hearing regarding the foster care system and roles within the Kansas Department for Children and Families (DCF). DCF Deputy Secretary Tanya Keys provided an overview of the work performed at the six regional DCF offices across the state, and the regional directors then described the community support programs, prevention services and investigation processes in their regions. Committee members asked questions regarding the percentage of abuse and neglect reports that are substantiated (4 percent) and how legislators can make contact with staff in the regional offices to inquire about children who have been removed from their homes.
On Thursday, March 3, the Committee heard a presentation by Tracy Russell, Nurture KC, regarding the results of a survey of 600 Kansans conducted in January and February on childhood and adolescent wellness vaccinations in Kansas. The survey focused on collecting information on Kansans’ attitudes toward routine vaccination requirements, who Kansans trust for vaccine information, and what is the appropriate authority for determining the vaccination schedule. The survey did not poll on issues specific to COVID-19. Russell reported that the results were overwhelmingly positive when it comes to Kansans’ support for wellness vaccines and existing policy, including that 95 percent of those polled indicated support for both the efficacy and safety of wellness vaccinations; 90 percent support the existing wellness vaccination requirements to attend child care facilities and K-12 schools; 56 percent support the religious exemption to wellness vaccines but the majority would like to see a tighter application of the exemption; 85 percent believe the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) is the appropriate entity to set wellness vaccine policies; and doctors and health care providers are the most trusted source for vaccine information. Russell also noted that the results were consistent across party lines and geography.
Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee
(Sen. Richard Hilderbrand, Chair)
On Tuesday, March 1, the Committee held a hearing on Senate Bill (SB) 460, related to child abuse or neglect, which would require a forensic medical evaluation of an alleged victim of child abuse or neglect as part of an investigation, known as a child abuse review and evaluation (CARE) examination; create a program in KDHE for the training and payment for CARE examinations; and define child abuse review and evaluation providers, networks and examinations and child abuse medical resource centers. Proponents included Sen. Molly Baumgardner, Kelli Mark, Bureau of Family Health, KDHE, and representatives of the Kansas Chapter, American Academy of Pediatrics. Written proponent testimony was submitted by Deanne Dinkel, DCF, Melissa Johnson, State Child Death Review Board, and Rachel Marsh, Children’s Alliance of Kansas. There was no neutral or opponent testimony. Committee members asked questions regarding the current process for evaluations; how parents are informed about evaluations; the purpose of the training programs; how providers are being reimbursed for conducting the evaluations; the current training on child abuse evaluations; and the availability of evidence showing that the training and expense of these evaluations results in better outcomes for children. Note: The House version of this bill, House Bill (HB) 2632, was passed out of the Children and Seniors Committee on February 18 and remains on the House calendar.
On Wednesday, March 2, the Committee held the confirmation hearing for KDHE Secretary Janet Stanek. Stanek provided an overview of her professional experience before her appointment to KDHE and shared her top 10 priorities for the agency if confirmed as Secretary, including rebuilding confidence in the agency by improving transparency with the public, legislators, and stakeholders; improving communication with policymakers; and increasing stakeholder engagement. Committee members asked questions regarding how Stanek would approach her policy decision-making; whether she would rely solely on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidance to make decisions; whether she agrees with vaccine mandates; how she would balance controlling the spread of disease and protecting individual rights; how she intends to utilize her experience to improve workflow efficiencies in the agency; what cost saving measures she developed during her time as director of the State Employee Health Plan; how county health departments can be utilized to their advantage; and her plans to improve mental health.
On March 3, the Committee held a hearing on SB 155, which would establish an advance universal newborn screening program; provide for reimbursement of treatment services; authorize the Secretary of KDHE to specify conditions included in screenings; and increase transfers from the medical assistance fee fund to the Kansas newborn screening fund. Proponents, including Drew Duncan, Bureau of Family Health, KDHE, a representative of Kansas Action for Children, and private citizens, stated the bill allows newborn Kansans to continue having the advantage of the early diagnosis of metabolic and genetic diseases which benefit from early treatment and intervention. There was no neutral or opponent testimony. Committee members asked questions regarding the number of newborns currently being screened; the cost of screening; the availability of consulting specialists within the state; and how increased funding will impact the program.
The Committee also voted to pass out the nomination of Janet Stanek as KDHE Secretary without recommendation to the full Senate.
House Federal and State Affairs Committee
(Rep. John Barker, Chair)
On Thursday, March 3, the Committee held a hearing on HB 2708, which would establish standards for laboratory licenses that test medical marijuana and require the director of Alcoholic Beverage Control to adopt rules and regulations regarding testing laboratories. Kyle Hamilton, Office of Revisor of Statutes, provided an overview of the bill and noted that sections of this bill are similar to provisions in House Substitute for SB 158, the medical marijuana regulation act, passed by the House at the end of the 2021 session. Proponent Clay Bullard testified that he supports the establishment of a single testing laboratory. Neutral testimony was provided by Debbi Beavers, Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC), who stated that KDHE has existing laboratory standards and accreditation certification programs and KDHE staff are willing to consult with ABC on lab certification. She also noted that the bill does not provide for fees for accreditation certification and ABC believes this is something that should be addressed.
The Committee also held a hearing on HB 2706, which would specify that final hemp products may contain a delta-9 tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) concentration of not more than 0.3% and allow certain prohibited hemp products to be manufactured, marketed, sold or distributed. Proponents including Robert Anderson, Ellis County Attorney, and representatives of the Kansas Cannabis Chamber of Commerce and Kansans for Hemp/Planted Association of Kansas, stated that the bill would closely align Kansas law with federal law. Written proponent testimony also was submitted by several owners and operators of hemp farms and CBD and vape shops. Opponent testimony was submitted by representatives of the Kansas County and District Attorneys Association, Office of the State Fire Marshal, Kansas Association of Chiefs of Police, Kansas Sheriffs Association, Kansas Peace Officers Association, Kansas Department of Agriculture, and the Kansas Bureau of Investigation. Committee members asked questions regarding the physical effects of delta-9 products; how the bill would conform to or be uniform with federal guidelines; and if there are unauthorized activities in the state associated with hemp products. Chair Barker stated that proponents and opponents should work together to resolve their differences before the bill is worked.
Senate Education Committee
(Sen. Molly Baumgardner, Chair)
On Wednesday, March 2, the Committee heard presentations from Scott Henricks, Director of Permanency, DCF, and Mike Fonkert, Kansas Appleseed Center for Law and Justice, regarding the 2021 Kansas Foster Care Annual Academic Report Card. Highlights from their testimony include:
- The percentage of students in foster care who graduate with a diploma in four years is 61.2 percent compared to 88.1 percent for all students.
- The attendance rate for students in foster care is 90.6 percent compared to 93.8 percent for all students.
- The chronic absenteeism rate for youth in foster care is 32.1 percent compared to 17.5 percent for all students.
- The dropout rate for youth in foster care is 5.9 percent compared to 1.7 percent for all students.
Committee members asked questions regarding whether racial disparities in graduation rates are increasing or decreasing; whether DCF can track students in foster care moving to different districts; whether DCF can explore tracking students in non-accredited schooling, such as home schooling; and whether it is feasible for DCF to collect data on the number of students that have changed school districts upon entering foster care, changed school districts while in foster care, and how many times they have moved while in foster care.
Senate Judiciary Committee
(Sen. Kellie Warren, Chair)
On Thursday, March 3, the Committee held an informational hearing on potential legislation focused on orders and actions by public officials relating to vaccine passports, face mask mandates, gathering limitations, business restrictions, and religious gathering limitations. The Committee heard testimony from numerous private citizens who shared their experiences regarding COVID-19 mandates and restrictions that were imposed by public officials.
House Taxation Committee
(Rep. Adam Smith, Chair)
On Wednesday, March 2, the Committee held hearings on two bills related to the sales tax on food — HBs 2711 and 2720. HB 2711 would lower the sales and compensating use tax rate to 6.3 percent for all sales and 3.5 percent for the sales of food and food ingredients, which does not include prepared foods. In addition, the bill would further reduce the state sales tax rate on food and food ingredients 1.2 percent commencing July 1, 2023, for any fiscal year in which the balance of the Budget Stabilization Fund is $100 million or greater on July 1 and the change in rate would go into effect the following January 1. The bill also would allow for the continued levying of city and countywide retailers’ sales tax by cities and counties and Washburn University, and the nonrefundable food sales tax credit would be made refundable starting in tax year 2023 and be discontinued if the state rate on food and food ingredients is lowered to 0 percent. Proponents, including representatives of the Greater Kansas City Food Policy Coalition, Kansas Action for Children, Greater Kansas City Chamber of Commerce, United Community Services of Johnson County, and Association of Kansas Food Banks, all expressed support for the elimination of the sales tax on food but some conferees acknowledged that with the passage of SB 347, the APEX tax incentive bill, a gradual reduction of the sales tax on food would allow maintenance of the $100 million balance in the Budget Stabilization Fund. Opponents of the bill included the Kansas Farm Bureau, Kansas Department of Transportation, and Kansas Restaurant and Hospitality Association. Neutral testimony was provided by the Kansas Society of Professional Engineers/American Council of Engineering Companies of Kansas, Kansas Policy Institute, the League of Kansas Municipalities, and the Kansas Chamber. Committee members asked questions regarding which Kansans would benefit from the bill.
HB 2720 would reduce the state rate of sales and compensating use tax to 0 percent for sales of food commencing August 1, 2022. Food would be defined as only those products and types of food that may be eligible for purchase with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits. The bill also would allow the city and countywide retailers’ sales tax and the sales tax levied for Washburn University to continue to be levied for the sales of food and food ingredients. Proponents included El Centro, Kansas InterFaith Action, Rep. Dave Baker and owners/operators of rural supermarkets. Opponents included some of the conferees who support HB 2711. It was noted that the effective date of August 1 and the use of the SNAP definition of food in this bill would put Kansas out of compliance with the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement for sales tax collection and administration. Note: Kansas is one of 24 states that have adopted the Streamlined Agreement. The purpose of the Agreement is to simplify and modernize sales and use tax administration to reduce the burden of tax compliance.
Senate Ways and Means Committee
(Sen. Rick Billinger, Chair)
On Friday, March 4, the Committee received and reviewed the budget reports for DCF and the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS), as presented by Sen. Carolyn McGinn. The Committee adopted the Ways and Means Human Services Subcommittee’s recommendation to concur with the Governor’s recommendation for the DCF budgets for fiscal year (FY) 2022 and FY 2023, including the addition of $10 million State General Fund (SGF) for workforce recruitment and retention incentives for child placing agencies and licensed facilities, including qualified residential treatment programs for FY 2023 and language regarding review at Omnibus for the potential of adding $500,000 SGF for expansion of the Safe Families for Children program for FY 2023.
The Committee also adopted the Subcommittee’s recommendation to concur with the Governor’s recommendation for the KDADS budget for FY 2022 and adopted the Subcommittee’s recommendation for FY 2023, with several adjustments, including:
- Adding $7.7 million, including $3.1 million SGF, and the addition of language to increase the reimbursement rate for the T1000 Medicaid code for specialized nursing care from $43.00 per hour to $47.00 per hour.
- Adding $146.3 million, including $58.5 million SGF, to provide a 30 percent reimbursement rate increase, excluding the T1000 Medicaid code, for specialized nursing care, for providers of Home and Community Based Services Intellectual and Developmental Disability waiver services.
- Adding $65.2 million, including $26.2 million SGF, to provide for a full rebase of the nursing facility daily Medicaid rate.
- Adding $500,000, all SGF, for FosterAdopt Connect to offer Behavioral Interventionist services for children with behavioral and emotional issues.
- Adding $12.5 million, including $5 million SGF, to provide a 4 percent reimbursement rate increase for providers of Medicaid behavioral health services.
- Adding $2 million, all SGF, to assist with staffing at Psychiatric Residential Treatment Facilities.
- Adding language regarding review at Omnibus for the possible addition of language to make the $15 million for regional bed expansion contingent on State Finance Council approval, with a requirement that the Secretary of KDADS report on the process of determining the location of the facility to the State Finance Council; as well as language for the agency to work with Sedgwick County to study the need for regional mental health beds within the county and identify the impact of staffing that opening a new 50-bed facility would have on the Sedgwick County health and human services sector. The costs of the study shall be shared between the agency and the county, with the agency covering 80 percent of the cost and the county covering 20 percent of the cost.