2021 Kansas Legislature wrap up

We had a lot going on this year at the Kansas Legislature. Check out our recap!

hero_image_alt_text===Kansas State House
thumbnail_alt_text===Kansas State House

Below are the major pieces of legislation we worked on:

“Junk” Health Plans
The American Heart Association joined other health advocacy organizations in opposing a bill that proposed an expansion of short-term “bridge” or “junk” insurance plans. These plans discriminate against people with pre-existing conditions. This bill increased the risk to Kansas families who could be could met with astronomical out of pocket costs during an unexpected event such as a pregnancy and birth of a child with a congenital heart defect or a medical emergency, like a heart attack or stroke.

We were successful in our advocacy with Governor Kelly, and she vetoed the bill. Senate overrode her veto (28-11), but the House came up short (67-48). Failing to meet the necessary 2/3 threshold, the veto was sustained! Consider this a WIN!

Medicaid Expansion
Along with the Governor Kelly's bill to expand Medicaid, there were multiple attempts with amendments to bills in both the Senate and the House. Both chambers voted to reject (House, 46-78, Senate 12-23). The American Heart Association advocated in support of this crucial access to care policy, including renting a mobile billboard to “remind” lawmakers. Our advocacy for Medicaid expansion will continue next year!

Tobacco Tax Increase
A bill to increase the state’s tobacco tax by $1.50 a pack and provide funding for state tobacco prevention was introduced. It also uses the revenue from the tax to reduce the food sales tax by 1.5%. The tax committee ran out of time to hold a hearing on the bill this year. Chair Adam Smith has promised to hold a hearing on the bill in January 2022. Our advocacy for a tobacco tax increase will continue next year!

A bill "HB 2340" was introduced and aligns state law with the federal law increasing the minimum legal sale age of tobacco products, including e cigarettes, from 18 to 21. It also adds e-cigarettes to the clean indoor air law. AHA joined the Tobacco Free Kansas Coalition in submitting joint neutral testimony. We could not fully support the bill, as it kept youth purchase, use and possession penalties (PUP) in place, criminalizing youth for their addiction to tobacco products. Research has shown that these laws are inequitably enforced, disproportionately impacting Black youth.

HB 2340 was voted favorably out of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee, after a preemption amendment failed by one vote. Preemption takes away the ability for local action to solve health issues, including the ability of communities to enact stronger tobacco restrictions and enforcement other than state law. We were successful in keeping the bill from a debate and vote in the full house, where it would have met another preemption amendment attempt. This delay allows us time to organize against tobacco preemption in 2022. Consider this another WIN! We will continue to oppose tobacco preemption and educate on other harms of other preemption in 2022.

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