A Polar Bear Plunge Into the 2019 Legislative Session
By Marlee Carpenter, J.D., Owner, Bright & Carpenter Consulting, Inc.
KSCPA Governmental Affairs Consultant
Published January 4, 2019
Brrrrr. This January, countless numbers of brave swimmers across the country will welcome the new year with frigid polar bear plunges into icy waters; all in good fun and in the name of raising money for worthwhile charitable organizations. For those of you that have participated in such selfless events – we applaud you!
Similar to the all-in physical and mental commitment of a polar bear plunge, this year on January 14, legislators, activists, and state dignitaries will officially begin their ‘plunge’ into the high profile and sizable work that lies ahead this legislative session.
The Waves of Recent Elections
Before the November 2018 mid-term elections, pundits were predicting a “blue wave” to sweep across the country, bringing in more Democrats to elected office. This “blue wave” played out on a small scale in the Johnson County area of Kansas. Democrat Sharice Davids was elected to the US House of Representatives and Democrats picked up additional Kansas House seats in the Johnson County area. Kansas also elected a Democrat for governor, State Senator Laura Kelly from Topeka.
In Kansas, the urban-rural divide became very apparent as you look at the election demographics. The breakdown of the governor’s race show that rural counties voted for Republican Kris Kobach while urban counties voted for Democrat Laura Kelly. The majority of Johnson, Shawnee, Douglas, Sedgwick, Riley and Crawford counties voted for Kelly. All other 99 Kansas counties supported Kris Kobach. In urban Johnson County, challenger Democrats won Kansas House seats against moderate Republicans and in rural counties, Republican challengers won Kansas House seats. After the election, the Republican/Democrat split remains the same in the Kansas House after the 2018 elections, but more Kansas House Democrats will come from urban counties than in previous years.
The Stream of House and Senate Leadership
The 2019 Session will see a more conservative Kansas House than in previous years. Moderate Republicans lost 5 seats during the primary election and lost another five during the general. Leadership elections also indicate a more conservative Kansas House with the election of Speaker Ron Ryckman, from Olathe and Majority Leader, Dan Hawkins from Wichita. This is Ron Ryckman’s second term as House Speaker. Majority Leader-Elect Dan Hawkins beat out moderate Don Hineman, Dighton, who served as Majority Leader in 2017-2018. We expect most House committee’s will be led by conservative Republicans, where they had been split between moderate and conservatives in recent years. Learn more about House leadership here: http://kslegislature.org/li/b2017_18/chamber/house/leadership/
The Kansas Senate is also expected to be more conservative, even though its members did not face election. Senator Vicki Schmidt, Topeka was elected Kansas Insurance Commissioner. Schmidt, a moderate Republican, will be replaced by more conservative Eric Rucker. In addition, Senator Barbara Bollier, Mission Hills and Senator Dinah Sykes, Lenexa, switched parties from Republican to Democrat, leaving less moderate Republicans in the Senate. Senate committees also saw a shake-up with several new conservative chairmen appointed several key committees. Learn more about Senate leadership here: http://kslegislature.org/li/b2017_18/chamber/senate/leadership/
The December party changes were not only limited to the Senate. Representative Stephanie Clayton, Overland Park, also switched from the Republican to Democrat party. The party changes in the Senate resulted in two additional women joining the Democrat caucus, resulting in a majority of women in the Senate Democrat caucus. There have been rumors of additional legislators switching parties, but do not anticipate any additional announcements to be made before session begins.
Current and Expected Issues
The Kansas House and Senate leadership have indicated there will be a focus on issues that did not get passed during the 2018 Session. Passage of a tax bill will be a top priority. The bill debated last year that did not pass would have allowed Kansans to take advantage of the higher federal standard deduction, passed last year as part of federal tax reform, to itemize their Kansas returns and accelerate the restoration of the current Kansas deductions to 100%. The bill also included expensing provisions for small businesses, tax credits for employers who purchase from certified disabled employers and other federal decoupling provisions such as repatriation, the global intangible low-taxed income (GILTI) and an FDIC provision. Other tax issues that may be considered include an expansion of nexus provision for sales tax collections, in response to a US Supreme Court case, as well as discussion of the property tax assessed on large box retailers.
The 2019 Legislature will also continue to debate adding dollars to K-12 education to satisfy a Kansas Supreme Court case, consider passage of a new comprehensive transportation program, look at new sports betting provisions and possibly Medicaid expansion. Governor-Elect Kelly has indicated a bi-partisan approach to politics. She has appointed both Republicans and Democrats to her transition team. All indications point towards both Republicans and Democrats serving in her administration. With a more conservative legislature, there is much speculation on what Governor-Elect Kelly’s priorities will be. Will she look for areas of compromise or turn to Democrat priorities that may go largely ignored by the Legislature? We will continue to update you as the 2019 Session begins and key issues are debated in Topeka.
Take the polar plunge this January into legislative action! How can you make your voice heard – no matter what your chosen level of involvement?
Dipping your toe in the water?
Stay Knowledge-Empowered. Be able to confidently engage in conversation related to pertinent legislative issues with managers, colleagues, and friends by tuning into KSCPA’s weekly legislative updates and podcasts. Just five minutes each week will keep you in-the-know! Watch for the first edition to hit your email in the next few weeks. (Need to join our email list? Send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org).
Ready for more? Get your feet wet!
Grassroots Efforts. Get to know your legislators on a first-name basis. Before the start of the 2019 Legislative Session, familiarize yourself with your representatives and make an appointment to meet with them to position yourself as a trusted resource should they encounter any questions. Learn more about voting records and your representatives here: https://openstates.org/
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