Do you have your haircut scheduled? I’m wearing my mask and washing my hands a lot, but at least the "hair wings" on my head will be clipped! This should be Personal Services Appreciation Week as they open up for appointment-only services.
Legislature Adjourns. Sort of.
The final day of the legislature was awkward for everyone as we attempted to navigate debate and voting while maintaining social distancing and focusing on not shaking hands after not seeing colleagues for two months. It also became record-breaking as the longest Sine Die session in legislative history – 23.5 hours on May 21st.
House members were allowed to stay in their offices to listen to debate, and were called to the chamber in groups for voting purposes. Senators sat in their regular desks on the Senate floor – far less than 6’ apart, and far more than 10 people were gathered.
The governor vetoed the COVID-19 Authority bill we passed (explained below) and called for a Special Session to begin June 3.
Contact Doc Eplee At the Capitol: 300 SW 10th St., 512-N Topeka, KS 66612 785-296-8621 firstname.lastname@example.org
At home in Atchison: 163 Deer Run Atchison, KS 66002 913-367-5910
I was very disappointed that many of my colleagues did not show enough respect or diligence to wear masks or socially distance during our day at the Capitol. On my desk was a box of masks and hand sanitizer I offered to any who wanted them.
As a result, I have asked leadership to strongly recommend everyone wear masks, socially distance, and the microphones are cleaned between speakers when we return on June 3rd.
The majority of us are at a high-risk age, not to mention we have family members at home that we could unknowingly carry the virus home to. It boils down to loving your neighbor as yourself.
We know when this started but cannot know when it will end. The legislature needed to extend the governor's emergency authority for longer, but in a democracy, it is appropriate to provide guardrails (checks and balances) on that authority (regardless of party) when no end is in site.
Arguably, this bill was rapidly brought together. It was debated in both chambers without public input and our discussion lasted into the wee hours of night. When you must pass certain provisions (especially in an emergency situation), it provides some an opportunity to incorporate bad things one would normally vote against, but cannot because of the must-pass portion. However, extending the disaster declaration was our #1 priority in order for federal funds to continue flowing and other resources to be available. This is evidenced by the bill's passage with a large, bipartisan margin.
When the gavel fell to mark the official end of the 2020 legislative session, the official campaign season began. And now we have been called back on June 3rd for a Special Session, which is highly unusual with the primary election just 60 days away!
A friend says "good public service IS a good campaign," so I treat every day as though I am asking for your vote by my words and deeds. I don't just come around during campaign time, but work hard to represent you throughout the year.
If you are in a position to donate $5 or $500, I would be grateful for your help. You can help without donating, too! If you would host a yard sign, commit to write postcards, or make phone calls to neighbors and friends throughout the district, those are tangible ways you can help send me back to Topeka.
Property Tax Changes
A few years ago the legislature capped local governments’ ability raise taxes. This placed a significant strain on communities. Growing areas could not expand to meet the needs and shrinking areas still had the same infrastructure to support.
Extends the deadline for 1st-half property taxes due from May 10 to August 10.
Repeals the cap mentioned above,
Requires cities to hold a public hearing for property tax increases which exceed the previous year’s rate, and to
Notify taxpayers 10 days in advance of the hearing.
Considering all taxing districts are subject to the Kansas Open Meetings Act, they are already doing this, but the notification piece is new and will add some additional cost to county clerks. The report passed the House 89-28 and the Senate 35-2. I voted YES.
COVID-19 Authority Bill
Senate Substitute for House Bill 2054 (S Sub HB 2054)
This bill has two key functions – funding and emergency declarations:
Declarations: The bill prohibits any further COVID-related emergencies be declared through the end of 2020, unless the governor requests it from the State Finance Council (SFC), and receives at least sixvotes from the Council (6 R, 3 D). If the governor declares a state of emergency under the Kansas Emergency Management Act (KEMA), business closures are permitted up to 15 days. The Council must approve closures beyond 15 and up to 30 days at a time.
Notably, the bill:
Allows counties to set less restrictive rules than the state’s, as long as it is “based upon advice from the local health officer or other local health officials”
Requires “any order issued by the county health officer, including orders issued as a result of an executive order of the Governor, and orders on behalf of a county regarding the remediation of any infectious disease, be approved by the Board of County Commissioners.”
States that “any such approval would be required to include an expiration date set by the Board of County Commissioners and could be revoked at an earlier date by a majority vote of the board.”
The report passed the House 104-9 and the Senate 27-11, I voted YES.
What Should Happen Now?
When we return to Topeka next week, we should go back to basics:
Pass a bill extending the governor's authority to January 11, the beginning of the 2021 legislative session.
Maintain some of the local control provisions which do not supersede the state. If a county chooses to:
Follow the state's plan, no action should be required;
Institute more restrictive guidelines than the state, the County Commission must pass such a resolution by a majority vote.
Be less restrictive than the state, the county's health official must submit basis to and receive guidance from the Kansas Department of Health & Environment (KDHE), and the County Commission must pass such a resolution by a majority vote.
COVID-19 Cases Update
Wear a face mask and maintain social distance when out in public to stay healthy,
Representative John Eplee, MD Kansas House District 63 Serving Atchison and Doniphan counties
Paid for by Kansans for Eplee, Patsy A. Porter, CPA, Treasurer