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Dear Friend:

Welcome to Doc Eplee’s House Calls! The start of each legislative session seems like the first day back at school for the incumbents, and like the first day at a new school for me. The first week has a glow about it – full of hope and promise. 


Around the District
My committee schedule is back-to-back, and when there is a break, some other group is meeting or there are constituents in town. It is refreshing to see friendly faces from home and meet constituents I’ve never met.

Please take this opportunity to complete my first legislative survey. 

I enjoyed the KS Association of Family Physicians reception and meetings with old friends:

I’m off to a running start as I was fortunate to carry my first bill on the House floor.

In the News
On a 13-9 vote, the House Taxation Committee passed the first major tax bill of the session, about three months earlier than when tax bills usually “grow legs.” Substitute for HB 2178 would do the following, retroactive to January 1, 2017:

Representative John Eplee

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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
  • Reinstates income taxes on LLC and S-corp businesses.
  • Reinstates the third tax bracket:
    • Bracket 1: Individuals earning <$15K, couples <$30K, taxed at 2.7%
    • Bracket 2: Individuals earning $15-50K, couples $60-100K, taxed at 5.25%
    • Bracket 3: Individuals earning >$50K, couples >$100K, taxed at 5.45%
  • Removes scheduled income tax decreases (“Glidepath to Zero”), keeps all three brackets at lower rates than they were in 2012.
  • Reinstate deductibility of medical expenses at 100%.
These are the exact provisions my constituents demanded on their doorsteps last summer and I look forward to having this conversation both with my colleagues and with my constituents. If you haven’t taken my 2017 legislative survey, here’s your chance to voice your thoughts on taxes and services in Kansas!
On the Floor
Incumbents tell us this is the earliest they’ve seen “actual” votes and a rules debate in recent memory. I’m glad to hear we are getting to work ahead of the typical schedule, just as we hoped during the campaign.
HB 2017 was introduced in response to the selection of Wichita Congressman Mike Pompeo to be the next CIA Director. This requires him to vacate his seat in Congress and for a replacement to be elected by special election. This part of the statute was more than 50 years out of date, and required independent candidates to collect 17,000 petition signatures in just over 30 days in order to get a candidate on the ballot. We changed the number to 3,000 and extended the time required to call an election to allow candidates to campaign. The Special Election is set for April 11.
HB 2049 enacts the Law Enforcement Protection Act by increasing penalties for offenders who commit nondrug felony offenses against law enforcement officers 1) while the officer is on duty; or 2) because of the officer’s status as an officer. The bill includes mandatory minimum sentences that cannot be reduced for good behavior. I’m pleased to support the Thin Blue Line and vote for this bill. It passed 112-8.
HB 2093 allows juvenile missteps to “decay” from an offender’s record. Juvenile offenses would not “count” as criminal history in an adult sentence if:
  1. The current crime is committed at least 5 years after judgement;
  2. The offender has no new judgements or convictions during that 5-year period; and
  3. The juvenile judgement is for an offense that would be a nondrug severity level 5-10 felony, drug felony, nongrid felony or misdemeanor if committed by an adult.
This will help adults who commit lower level crimes avoid harsher sentences due to juvenile missteps, and aims to reduce the cycle of incarceration. I voted YES and the bill passed 101-21.
When defendants owe a debt in criminal, traffic, or juvenile offender cases, they must pay for the cost of those collections efforts. HB 2053 would add domestic abuse cases to the list. A simple but common sense change! I voted YES, it passed 122-0.
HB 2067 would require anyone applying for an insurance agent license in Kansas to be fingerprinted as part of a background check for criminal history. The KS Bureau of Investigation (KBI) will perform the checks and only state officials could use the information to validate an applicant’s fitness to receive a license. I voted YES, it passed 85-38.

Committee Work
Health & Human Services
The committee held a week’s worth of hearings on the Medicaid Expansion bill (HB 2064). The seriousness and financial hardship caused by medical debt is not unfamiliar to me, but it was frustrating to hear the stories, knowing we can do something about it. The opponent testimony was not surprising as it’s the same arguments I’ve heard for years. The reality is Kansas is sending millions of tax dollars to Washington that are distributed to other states who have expanded Medicaid. As a reminder:  (Medicaid Graphic)
  • Kansas has one of the lowest Medicaid eligibility levels in the US.
  • KanCare does not cover parents whose incomes are greater than 38% of the federal poverty level (about $5,600 for a family of three), and non-elderly, non-disabled adults without children are not eligible at all.
Beyond the Medicaid Expansion hearings, we also considered these bills: 
  • HB 2046 would create a new licensed profession of Anesthesiologist Assistant. The requirements for acquiring and maintaining licensure and issuance of the license would be handled by the Board of Healing Arts.
  • HB 2121 would require all people who administer vaccines to report each administered vaccine to the KS Immunization Registry maintained by KDHE. Currently only pharmacists are required to do so. This will help create a seamless vaccination record across the state.
  • Similar to the nursing student loan expansion we heard last week, HB 2124 would include general psychiatry and child psychiatry to the list of residency training programs eligible for the Medical Student Loan Program. 
TaxationLive Stream Link
When session started, we met jointly with the House Appropriations Committee, and then were briefed on the current impact of sales tax exemptions, tax rates of neighboring states, and recent tax law changes. The governor’s tax proposals were explained in-depth and we compared them with the current sources and amounts of taxation.
The committee worked hard last week to create and pass the tax bill discussed above. I don’t like taxes, let alone raising them, but it’s time to restore revenue to our state because it cannot perform the basic functions required of it under the current funding mechanism. “Just” fixing the LLC tax break will only fix about 30% of the problem – reinstating the 3rd tax bracket and halting the “March to Zero” were the bulk of the revenue challenge. If this bill were to be signed into law “as-is” today, your income taxes would still be at least 1% lower than they were in 2012.
These meetings have been brief with introductions of members, staff, and the various organizations who frequently present in this committee. This week’s tour of Security Benefit here in Topeka was informative and it was nice to get out of the committee room after so many days of constant hearings.
  • HB 2021 is an insurance mandate for hearing aids. The bill would require every insurer that issues individual or group medical policies to cover hearing aids after July 1, 2017. Coverage would include batteries and repairs, and coverage would be subject to the same annual deductibles, copayments and coinsurance limits as other benefits offered in the plan.
  • HB 2103 would provide insurance coverage for amino acid-based elemental formula, which is used to diagnose and treat food protein induced enterocolitis syndrome (food allergies affecting the GI tract), eosinophilic disorders (chronic inflammation that causes tissue damage) or short bowel syndrome (a malabsorption disorder caused by a lack of a functioning small intestine). Coverage would be subject to the same annual deductibles, copayments and coinsurance limits as other benefits offered in the plan.
Financial Institutions & Pensions
I was glad for the “Financial Institutions 101” overview by the state banking and credit union experts. This was followed immediately by a KPERS 101 review, a much more humbling tutorial on the state of our state’s pension program. We begin the bulk of our hearings next week with a consideration of death benefit changes for Kansas Police and Fire (KP&F) retirees’ surviving spouses. KP&F beneficiaries are held separate from the KPERS system. We will also hear testimony on changing the “working after retirement” rules for KPERS retirees under the KS Board of Regents. 
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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