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Doc Eplee’s House Calls

The 2021 Legislative Session is underway. Much like our daily lives, COVID-19 has changed the way the legislature conducts business. The photo above shows the new socially distanced seating chart of representatives on the House floor as well as the protective shields put in place to protect staff. As a physician, I was pleased to work with Speaker Ron Ryckman to establish some of the House of Representative COVID-19 protocols, to keep us as safe as possible while we conduct business.

In addition to the protocols put in place for the full House of Representatives, many committees are also taking measures to keep both legislators and the public safe as we weigh important policy decisions. For the first time ever, legislative committees are being streamed on the Legislature’s YouTube, as well as the House and Senate sessions. This isn’t just important during the pandemic, it is also critical for transparency in the legislative process and gives you another way to stay involved with the action in Topeka.

As always, I’ll use this newsletter to update you throughout the session on the key issues taking place during the session. You are welcome to share any feedback and thoughts you might have on the issues.

Thank you, again, for the opportunity to serve you and your family. If I can ever be of assistance, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me.

State Capitol
300 SW 10th St., 352-S
Topeka, KS 66612
Office: 785-296-8621
Cell: 913-367-5910
john.eplee@house.ks.gov
kansansforeplee.com

Kansas Emergency Management Act

The top priority for the Legislature this session is the state’s response to the pandemic, which is why I am pleased it was one of the first pieces of legislation we addressed. The House and Senate both debated and approved and the governor signed SB 14, which extends the emergency declaration put in place by the 2020 Legislature last year. The extension is only until March 31, 2021, but the additional time will allow the Legislature to more thoroughly evaluate the needs of the state and begin working on an economic recovery plan. In addition, it will ensure Kansas continues to receive relief dollars from the federal government, ensure local control, appropriate oversight of executive authority, extend telemedicine services and proper liability protections for businesses. I supported SB 14 and believe it is a necessary first step in addressing the pandemic.

Value Them Both

The Kansas House voted 86-38 to place the Value Them Both Amendment on the August 2022 ballot for the people of Kansas to consider. I have long supported pro-life reforms to our state laws. This amendment will safeguard those reforms and insure vital protections remain in place. The measure passed the House of Representatives and the Senate with the required 2/3 Constitutional majority. I proudly supported HCR 5003.

COVID-19 Vaccinations

The Governor provided an update on the state’s response to COVID-19 in her annual State of the State Address, the first week of the Legislative Session. Shortly after, it was announced Kansas would be moving into Phase 2 of vaccine distribution. The administration has developed a website dedicated to vaccine information in Kansas, www.kansasvaccine.gov. In addition, I encourage you to reach out to your local health department for information about what is happening locally and when you might be eligible to receive your vaccination. As a physician, I have received my vaccine and I encourage you to do the same.

Unemployment Fraud

One of the biggest issues facing Kansans during the pandemic has been unemployment, which has been made more difficult by the Department of Labor’s inability to properly and timely process claims and identify fraud. Many Kansans including those in our district have received fraudulent unemployment claims, which put their identities and the Kansas Unemployment Trust Fund at risk. It is disappointing that government has once again failed the people it serves. House Republicans have announced introduction of legislation that aims to hold public schools, universities, not for profits and businesses harmless from the fraudulent claims.

If you, or someone you know, receives an unemployment claim you believe to be fraudulent, please report it at: www.dol.ks.gov/fraud

Truth in Taxation

The Senate has passed and the House will be considered soon, legislation (SB 13) that will remove the current property tax lid, which actually raised taxes on Kansans by allowing for an automatic increase in the CPI index. Property taxes are high enough without government mandating unnecessary increases. Repealing the tax lid will restore local control and place some important requirements on taxing authorities to provide transparency to the public.

A look ahead

In the weeks ahead, the Legislature will no doubt deal with a variety of issues, perhaps none more important than our state budget, which is the Legislature’s only constitutional duty. The Governor released her proposed budget, which includes some things our community supports like constitutional funding for K-12 education, funding for economic development programs, and investments in public safety. However, it also heavily relies on budget maneuvers such as the reamortization of KPERS and the establishment of a sales tax on digital sales in order to balance. Those proposals aren’t likely to gain traction in the Legislature and I look forward to the opportunity to dive into the details of the budget and help set the budget priorities for our state.

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Copyright (C) 2021 Paid for by Kansans for Eplee, Patsy Porter, Treasurer. All rights reserved.

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