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Dear Friend:

Please join me THIS Saturday, April 1st at 9 am at the Atchison Chamber of Commerce “The Depot” and bring your questions. I’ll ask the first one:
Why would a legislator hold a town hall on April Fool’s Day? It’s best not to take oneself so seriously…

Save the date: April 15, 9 am
Wathena Legislative Coffee
303 East St. Joseph Street

Around the District
On a personal note, you might recall I introduced three immunization-related bills a few weeks ago. The bill to allow pharmacists to administer vaccines to minors 12 and over and the bill to require all vaccine providers to utilize the state’s vaccine registry for documenting vaccines were combined into one bill (HB 2030) in the Senate and passed this week. The House will likely concur with the Senate's changes to the bill next week, and then it will proceed to the governor's desk, hopefully to earn his signature. I’m very pleased to have this success for Family Medicine in my first session. 

I was fortunate to spend time with legislative pages from Atchison Middle School. These young folks were very interested in the legislative process. (L-R) Jaden Riddle, Anika Steinbach, myself, Governor Brownback, Katelyn Servaes, Hannah Hampton, and Matthew Boyea.

I was very happy to welcome a great group of pages from USD 377 in Effingham.  All the students are from my district, but Effingham is in Representative Randy Garber's District.  They ask good questions. Pictured L to R are Bailey Wilson, Representative Eplee, Chaperone Amanda Hughes, Megan Pitts, Rebecca Statler, Skyla Stanley, and Madison Gill.

Finally, it was nice to spend time with Matt Schuermann last week as he was paging for Sen. Dennis Pyle.  He was preparing to tour the dome.

Representative John Eplee

Kansas Cash
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Doniphan County
Atchison County

At the Capitol:
300 SW 10th St., 512-N
Topeka, KS 66612

At home in Atchison:
163 Deer Run
Atchison, KS 66002
In the News
Providing Access to Care for Vulnerable Kansans
Medicaid Expansion (KanCare expansion) passed the House (81-44) and now the Senate (25-14) and
is awaiting the governor’s consideration. I expect him to veto the bill. The House would need three more votes and the Senate would need two more votes to override the veto. This is highly unlikely from what I can see, but I’ve been wrong before.

This is not every other state’s expansion. No other state has a plan close to this because we’ve privatized Medicaid (dubbed KanCare), and we have multiple providers that compete to keep prices down and improve access. This expansion is designed specifically to meet the needs of Kansans. A lot of work went into getting this through the House and Senate to get it on the governor’s desk.
Many of you have contacted me about one of those votes. I’ve learned it’s called “Christmas Tree-ing” a bill.
  • Jargon Alert – Christmas Tree: Proposing amendments to a bill that are very difficult to vote against, to load up a bill with so many amendments that it kills the bill.
    • In this case, legislators opposed to expansion offered controversial amendments knowing we would vote against them to preserve the underlying expansion bill.
    • These are also called “postcard votes” because you’ll see them cited on campaign materials against us in 2018.
      • During debate, there was an amendment which, as presented, would reduce ALL federal funding for ALL federally-funded health clinics. This was a deal-breaker for me because it would defund the community health clinic in Atchison and community mental health centers (of which there are two in my district), so I voted NO.
      • It turns out the amendment was aimed at Planned Parenthood, whose medical staff serve some Kansas Medicaid patients. State money is used to reimburse medical staff for Medicaid-approved services, this money is not shifted to other services, it is a reimbursement for approved medical services provided. Because Medicaid is a federal-state match, about $5,000 comes from the State of Kansas.
      • Moreover, Kansans for Life did not give their input on the amendment.
    • This amendment was a “gotcha” vote, pure and simple, with the intent of tanking the expansion bill.
My main focus was to get Medicaid Expansion through. This bill meets “Doc Eplee’s Litmus Test” because:
  1. It has the capacity to be budget neutral through Managed Care Organization (MCO) fees, drug rebates, and the increased reimbursement rate for prisoner health care,
  2. There’s a work provision – beneficiaries have to be working 20 hours per week or seeking employment, and
  3. There’s a poison pill that if federal match drops below 90% we can discontinue our end of the deal within a year. 
On the Floor
We will run through a lot of bills this week and next, most of them should be relatively non-controversial compared to the heavy lifting yet to complete: school finance, the budget, and taxes. My school finance update follows, but please take a moment to read the other bills debated this week as well.
School Finance
The House K-12 Budget Committee introduced “The Chairmen’s Bill” (HB 2410), written by the Committee’s Chairman (Larry Campbell, Olathe) and Clay Aurand (Belleville), Chairman of the House Education Committee. If all they were looking for was 63 votes, at face value, it would appear the bill would pass because the largest districts (and therefore those with the most legislators representing them) benefit most from the plan. However, there’s more to the story.
Many legislators have districts like mine, with multiple school districts of varying sizes and property wealth. I’ve reviewed the supporting documents and find the plan to be punitive for rural districts which are shrinking in population. This is the first iteration of the bill and it is certain to change, but I want to give you fair warning:
  • The current “block grant” formula held districts “harmless” at flat funding levels, regardless of declining or increasing student enrollment. This formula was declared unconstitutional and must be replaced by June 30.
  • We will most certainly return to a per-pupil-based funding formula, which the vast majority of states have, with a few notable tweaks. Those districts will lose money because their student population has dropped since the implementation of the 2015 block grant formula.
  • I’ve been lobbying to go back to a rolling three-year average to determine student enrollment. This is a frequently used formula for state funding (also used to levy some farm taxes) to even out spikes and dips.
What does that mean for us?
My district is split on “winners and losers” under the Chairman’s Bill, three districts “win” and two districts “lose,” but as a whole, schools in my district would see a net loss of $167,386:
  • Doniphan County:
    • Doniphan West Schools: $66,587
    • Riverside: -$392,371
    • Troy Public Schools: $121,751
  • Atchison County:
    • Atchison County Community Schools: -$466,735
      • Two-thirds of the students in this district live in my House District, even though the schools are not geographically within my boundaries.
    • Atchison Public Schools: $503,382
HB 2410 Details:
Major Policy Provisions
State Foundation Aid: District-by-District breakdownColumn Explanation
Local Foundation Aid: District-by-District breakdownColumn Explanation
Other bills from the week – there were a lot of bills that dealt with medicine, running for office, and tech security. I know a little about the first two and am learning a lot about the last!
HB 2343 would keep health care providers or institutions from disqualifying individuals from receiving anatomical gifts or organ transplants just because of an individual’s disability. The bill further prohibits a health care provider or institution from refusing to place a qualified individual on an organ transplant waiting list or placing that person lower on the priority list because of a disability. The bill passed unanimously.
H Sub for SB 42 would amend mandatory minimum terms of imprisonment for individuals that receive life sentences, so that individuals convicted of the most serious crimes are punished in a way that is consistent with their actions and criminal history. The House added in the components of HB 2264, a clean-up bill for last year’s juvenile justice overhaul. This allows the juvenile justice bill a quicker route to passage because the former has already passed the Senate. The House and Senate both passed their respective bills unanimously, but in different versions, so a conference committee will meet to negotiate a compromise bill. For more information, read testimony on the bill.
SB 32 would help recruit and retain psychiatrists in Kansas, especially in rural areas where there is a shortage. The bill would amend the Medical Student Loan Act to expand the eligible practice areas loan recipients could engage in to meet their loan obligations, adding general psychiatry and child psychiatry. In addition, the legislation would change the Kansas Medical Residency Bridging Program to expand eligible practice areas to general and child psychiatry. The House also made a technical change and passed the bill 120-5 (I voted YES). The Senate approved of these changes (38-2) and the bill is headed for the governor’s signature. For more information, read testimony on the bill.
Sub HB 2233 would establish new penalties for candidates that file late, last-minute campaign finance reports, as well as new penalties for political committee reports that are filed late. The bill also would require every lobbyist to electronically file the required reports of employment and expenditures. Current law does not specify how reports should be filed. The bill passed 116-3, I voted YES. 

Committee Work
My committees have completed their work for the session, except for Taxation Committee. We heard a number of bills last week on the flat tax, gas tax, and removing the tax exemption for some personal services. None of the bills passed, but all are exempt from deadlines, so will likely be part of the overall tax conversation as we move closer to veto session.
In fact, just yesterday, Taxation Committee passed a 5% flat tax bill out of committee and to the full House for consideration. It is a conversation starter, but it may not generate enough revenue to fill the hole we are in. 
Please do not hesitate to contact me with any questions or comments. It is a pleasure representing you at the Capitol. 

Representative John Eplee, MD
Kansas House District 63
Serving Atchison and Doniphan counties
Copyright © 2017, 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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