eNewsletter 2016 Session, Week 1
Dear Friends,
It is has been awhile since I last wrote you!  Though our state and nation continues to face challenges, it has been a special experience to enjoy great moments this year in our community from the Royals winning the World Series to the Chiefs making the playoffs. Our family was like many of yours. We had many late evenings watching the extra inning efforts to that exciting finish in Game 5! 
In a quick family update, the boys are growing up so fast. They are in the 4th and 7th grades this year and are active in karate and baseball.  In fact, baseball practice has already begun for the season. They keep us really busy once baseball games and tournaments begin in April. We continue with that schedule until the end of fall baseball in October. 
As with past years, I will do my best to report on our work and the votes we take on the House floor.  As always, I welcome your feedback and questions as we work through the various legislation that reaches our desk.   
Our legislative session has begun and the hard work of doing the people’s business resumes.  It is no secret that our legislature faced some tough decisions last session, and challenges remain as we begin our work in 2016.  From balancing our budget to implementing the right kind of comprehensive tax policy and crafting a new school finance formula, the decisions we make will last for years and have an impact on all Kansans.
What is happening in Kansas?  Jobs are being created, proven in the low unemployment numbers we’ve consistently seen month-to-month.  More money is in the pocket of hard-working Kansans, where it belongs.  The growth of government has slowed significantly.  We have taken significant steps towards ending a school finance formula Johnson County schools have long opposed and rewriting one which is fair throughout the state as well as being student focused.
Much work remains, of course, and that is the task of the 2016 legislative session. My committees this session, as last, are directly involved with the work of the budget and with specifically on education.  I am Chair of the Education Budget Committee, and serve on both the Education and Appropriations Committees. I look forward to working with my colleagues on all three committees in the coming weeks.
State of the State and the Kansas Budget
This first week, we heard from Governor Brownback when he delivered his annual “State of the State” address on Tuesday evening, prior to President Obama’s State of the Union.  Among the highlights for the speech were his legislative priorities, which include:  adjusting the property tax lid passed last session so Kansans will have the right to vote on potential property tax increases this summer instead of beginning in 2018, increasing security at Kansas National Guard facilities, working on a funding system for public schools that puts more money into the classroom, reform to our Supreme Court selection process, and continued opposition to the transfer of terrorist detainees from Gitmo to Leavonworth.
Key legislative committees also heard from Shawn Sullivan, the Budget Director for Governor Brownback regarding his proposals for the fiscal year.  Among them were:
  • Changing administrative oversight of the Children’s Initiative Fund from the Children’s Cabinet to the Department of Education, so the money is better integrated into early childhood programs already in place. The money currently designated for children’s programs would remain available for those purposes. 
  • Reorganizing the structure of the Kansas Bioscience Authority so that it works in broader cooperation with the private market. Legislation will be needed to enact this. 
  • Implementing step therapy within the Medicaid system, so that patients try less expensive drugs first before higher priced options.  Legislation will also be needed in this instance.
Efficiency Study
Perhaps most significantly, we received an initial report from the efficiency study that the legislature ordered as part of last year’s budget deal.   After receiving bids from multiple outside consulting firms, the firm of Alvarez & Marsal (A&M) was picked. A&M has spent the past several months reviewing the spending and efficiency of state agencies and K-12 education.  
This effort is important, as one of the main complaints many legislators have had in past efforts to reduce spending is that it is often impossible, in the time we have allotted during our short session, to dig into each agency and identify where the real savings can be had.  This is how we get to a long term approach to making targeted cuts rather than across-the-board cuts, which end up taking out the good with the bad.
The study’s recommendations proposed around $2 billion over the next five years.  You can read the full initial report here. Soon we will receive the final report, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to go through these recommendations.   
Fact of the Week – Kansas Spending
Kansas Budget Director Shawn Sullivan this week laid out historical state spending going back 50 years, under several governorships representing various eras, both political parties and different philosophies of governing.  
The spending trend of past decades is revealed, and that is the spending and government growth that Republicans were elected to correct in 2010, 2012, and again in 2014. We still have more progress to be made, but state spending growth since 2011 has only increased by an average of 1.8% annually, which is below the rate of inflation. Past administrations increased state spending by an average of over 10% annually which was an unsustainable trend. Much has been done in the way of controlling state spending, despite massive federal regulations from the EPA, Obama taxes, growth in Medicaid caseloads and historic investments in K-12 education. 

Here is the graph:
The Kansas Caucus – March 5th
Did you know that Kansas selects 40 delegates to the Republican National Convention? Those delegates are pledged to vote based on the results of the Kansas Caucus. Did you know that any Republican can vote? 

The Kansas Caucus is being held on Saturday, March 5th from 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. In Johnson County, we will have nine locations.  For the full list, click here. Sites near the 16th District include Shawnee Mission South and Shawnee Mission West. If you are interested in helping volunteer, I can help connect you.
I look forward to talking to you next week as work in committees continues and the session begins to take shape.  As always, it is an honor to represent the 16th District. 
Thank you!
Amanda Grosserode
Subscribe to our email list.