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Dear Friend,

“Never make plans in May” is one of the many sayings around the Capitol. For more than a decade, veto sessions have lasted weeks, even more than a month. In record time, the 2019 veto session lasted just four days (plus a couple hours into Sunday morning). Quite unexpectedly, I’m writing this from home with the entire month of May to catch up on real life. 

I will continue updating you throughout the rest of the year should legislative issues arise. For example, the Kansas Supreme Court heard oral arguments on the state’s school finance solution, so there will certainly be a decision released this summer, as well as other happenings throughout the state. Please keep in touch during the interim!

On the Home Front
Easter Sunday is always special in our church as we hold Sunrise Service at the home of Rick and Sally Berger’s home on the banks of The Missouri River in Atchison. We adorn the cross with fresh cut spring flowers, and enjoy the beautiful Redbuds in the background. 

This past week I was able to take a few days off and travel to Cotter, Ark. to visit a friend of mine—Wayne Clinkingbeard, who was the builder of our current home. He gave me a copy of his family memoirs in a book called “Roots and Wings”, a humorous book about growing up in Northwest Arkansas 75 years ago. He is a wonderful guy and great humorist. This pic was taken at the famous Rainbow bridge in Cotter Park on the White River—Trout Capital of the USA.

Representative John Eplee

Kansas State Legislature
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Contact Doc Eplee
At the Capitol:
300 SW 10th St., 512-N
Topeka, KS 66612

At home in Atchison:
163 Deer Run
Atchison, KS 66002
On March 26th it was great to say “hello” to Dr. Jennifer Bacani and her great family from Fredonia, Kansas.  She was here at our State Capitol donating her time to our “Doc of the Day” program here in Topeka. I share many values and beliefs with Dr. Bacani as I was born and raised in Fredonia as well.  
I was honored to participate in the National Day of Prayer and give a moment of prayer for all health care workers throughout our state. I was especially honored to have Amelia Earhart’s statue in the background (from Atchison).
On May 2nd I presented on the floor of the House a clarification about the importance of the Abortion Pill Reversal Notification Bill to my colleagues. This bill originally passed in April with a veto-proof majority, but on veto override we lost by 2 votes. This became a very partisan issue and failed. I was very disheartened because we had worked so hard to get this bill passed. It was an important issue.  
On April 19th as I headed home, I stopped by Washburn University to observe the robust poster competition of bachelor's and master's degree candidates. There were more than 100 posters to review. I am pictured here with Khrystan Masters (from Lancaster) on her subject of “The Benefits of Music in the Classroom” particularly as it applies to learning improvement in children with ADHD and Emotional Behavior Disorders (EBD). Great job Khrystan!
Floor Action

As its name would suggest, veto session is intended to be when the legislature considers bills vetoed by the governor following the regular session. However, it is generally used to finalize the budget as well as any other major issues still outstanding – most of which tend to be the largest issues of the session. This year was no different. 

Our first action was to consider the governor’s veto of SB 67, a bill to require physicians who prescribe medication abortions (also known as Plan B, RU-486, or mifeprex) to inform patients of the option to stop the treatment after the first of two pills, and potentially save the pregnancy. Failure to provide this information would result in a felony charge for the physician. 

  • The Senate quickly voted to override the governor’s veto with the required 2/3rds majority – 27-13. The bill then came to the House where 84 votes are needed to override a gubernatorial veto. The override failed 82-43, I voted YES to override the veto.
  • I’m very disappointed that this common sense measure – which is simply informational – will not become law. The bill simply requires information be shared so a woman has the choice to change her mind. I will continue to work on this issue.
Budget Stalemate
I mentioned in my last newsletter that the Senate Minority Leader made a motion at the end of the regular session to bring the Medicaid Expansion bill out of committee. When we returned for veto session, the Senate approved that motion. However, another motion was needed to bring the bill up for debate, and that motion failed. Medicaid Expansion was DOA in the Senate. 

Because the budget is the only “must pass” bill of the session – it is required before we can adjourn - a group of us who support Medicaid Expansion decided our best move was to block the budget from passing until the Senate held a debate and vote on Medicaid Expansion. 

This was a frustrating process. Especially since the first budget presented was the best budget the legislature had put together in about a decade. We had the money to continue the slow process of restoring funding for K-12 schools and higher education, roads, foster care, employee salaries, and our crumbling corrections system. However, in support of Medicaid Expansion, we sent that budget back to committee and waited on another. 

As part of the negotiating team, I was part of a group that offered to support the budget in exchange for Medicaid Expansion being implemented by April of next year. Again, this fell on deaf ears.

The budget conference committee voted to slash may good items out of the budget bill to punish us for supporting KanCare expansion. That was very frustrating to me as they are members of my own party. If we were willing to vote against a great budget, a bad one is easy to oppose. That budget went down 42-81. This went back and forth with literally no other work being done – we convened and recessed many times Friday and Saturday while negotiators attempted to reason with Senate President Susan Wagle (R-Wichita) and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning (R-Overland Park). 

Keep in mind that killing the bad bill in support of Medicaid Expansion was only possible due to Republican support, and other Republicans would rather stop any progress than allow a debate on the issue. This is a sad example of the divisions within the exist within our party, just as we are seeing among our Democrat colleagues as well.

After days of back and forth, the coalition came to the realization Medicaid Expansion was not going to happen this year. We voted to pass basically the same budget as we were first presented (79-45), I voted YES. This is a good budget. Here are a few highlights:

  • More than $200 million increase for transportation plus $6.4 million to speed up completion of T-WORKS projects still on hold
  • $5 million for Community Mental Health Centers
  • 2.5% pay raise for state employees 
  • $33 million for Regents institutions
  • $3 million to increase reimbursement rates for dentists who take Medicaid patients
  • $6 million to reduce the waiting lists for Home and Community Based Services (HCBS) for intellectually or developmentally disabled Kansans. 
  • $16 million to increase reimbursement rates for HCBS and nursing home providers 
  • $35 million for the Department of Corrections to hire and retain guards and deal with overcrowding issues.

I was disappointed and frustrated with the fact that two people can block the needs of 150,000 Kansans and something nearly 80% of Kansans support. I am committed to continuing this work during the 2020 session.

Tax Plan
In the waning hours of the session we started work on another tax bill. HB 2033 passed the Senate 27-13, then came to the House for debate. The bill is different – and about half as costly – as the bill the governor vetoed earlier in the session, though it retained some of the basic components. It is a good compromise – it takes away some of the business tax deductions but leaves plenty of incentives for businesses, as well as individual taxpayers.

Admittedly, it’s a concern that we’re reducing revenue at a time when we have a major school finance bill still up in the air and we want to expand Medicaid, but we are always trying to balance priorities. Here are the key components of the bill: 

  • Return $157 million back to Kansans by allowing them to itemize deductions when they might not itemize them on their federal tax forms. 
  • Allow small businesses to deduct the cost of capital expenses (computers, etc) instead of deducting the depreciation.
  • Add sales tax to internet purchases – and this is where things get creative:
    • With the resulting increase in sales tax revenues, any revenue above 3% growth would be used to “buy down” the food sales tax. So, the more you buy online, the more the food sales tax goes down (it’s obviously a little more complicated than that, but you get the idea).
  • My sales tax exemption for purchases of bullion and gold was also included in this bill (finally)!
It passed 83-41, I voted YES. It awaits the governor’s consideration.
It is an honor and a pleasure representing you at the Capitol. Please feel free to share my legislative newsletter with your friends and family and do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or comments. 

Representative John Eplee, MD
Kansas House District 63
Serving Atchison and Doniphan counties
Paid for by Kansans for Eplee, Patsy A. Porter, CPA, Treasurer
Copyright © 2019, All rights reserved.

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Paid for by Kansans for Eplee, Patsy Porter, Treasurer · 163 Deer Run · Atchison, Ks 66002 · USA

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