Stories & News
The regular 2022 legislative sessions in Kansas and Missouri have concluded. At Health Forward, our work is centered on supporting and building inclusive, powerful, and healthy communities by prioritizing people who experience the greatest injustices in health outcomes.
Throughout the legislative session, we worked to remove or address these injustices through our leadership, advocacy, and resources.
2022 marks the close of our 2-year policy agenda cycle. In each state, we sought to impact the adoption or rejection of policies that worked towards our main policy goals:
We will spend the remainder of this year seeking input and guidance from our communities and partners. We will use this information to inform our policy agenda for the 2023 and 2024 legislative sessions in both states that advance our purpose areas.
This legislative wrap-up will give a rundown of the bills in Kansas and Missouri that were of focus for us.
The Kansas Legislature adjourned for the year on May 23 and is set to reconvene on January 9, 2023, with a freshly elected class of legislators.
Coming back for a second veto session, legislators originally planned on returning to pass another version of federal Congressional district maps, but a ruling by the Kansas Supreme Court upholding an earlier map made that need irrelevant.
As the session wrapped, here’s an overview of how the dust settled after adjournment.
Another session has gone by without the Kansas Legislature granting a committee hearing to HB 2675, which would have expanded Medicaid in Kansas. This will prove another difficult year for the 150,000 Kansans who will be unable to access quality care for the 12th consecutive year after the Affordable Care Act was signed into law.
Refusal to pass expansion continues to drag down the Kansas economy. Expansion would produce an estimated 23,000 jobs and would have brought in more than $5.5 billion dollars since 2014 (and counting) that could have been invested to close health outcome gaps for rural, Black, indigenous, and other Kansans of color.
As we look toward 2023, we will be working with our partners in Kansas to determine the best path to open up access to quality, affordable care to those needing it most.
We did see a significant win with the budget when dental benefits were extended to adults enrolled in Medicaid. This funding is important as dental care was not previously included. Starting this year, enrollees will be able to get regular dental check-ups as well as treatment for debilitating dental health issues.
Federal Districts: After a Wyandotte County judge struck down a congressional map — known as Ad Astra 2 — that was adopted in February after overriding Gov. Kelly’s veto, the Kansas Supreme Court upheld the map drawing. The map splits Wyandotte County in half, diluting the voting power of Kansans of color.
State Districts: SB563 draws state Senate and House of Representative districts. It was adopted by the Legislature on March 30 and was signed into law by Gov. Laura Kelly on April 15. It cleared the House with 83 in favor and 40 opposed, and it cleared the Senate with 29 in favor and 11 opposed.
Health Forward supports equitable drawing of district lines to ensure that community voices are heard and have representation in elected offices.
Food Sales Tax
On May 11, Gov. Kelly signed HB 2106 into law, which phases in an elimination of the food sales tax. The bill takes a “stair step” approach by lowering, then eventually eliminating it, over time. This legislation, while not having an immediate impact, will save families money each month.
According to the April 2022 USDA food plan estimates, here’s what it looks like for a family of four on a moderate food budget costing about $1,122 a month:
In about six months, a family of four will save over $28 a month, or about $336 total in 2023. By the time it’s completely eliminated in 2025, a family will save over $875 a year relative to what they pay now.
Kansas’ food sales tax was the second highest in the country, and Health Forward supports and applauds the move to eliminate it over time to increase economic justice for low and moderate income Kansans.
The Legislature passed a significant bill that Gov. Kelly signed that is designed to spur investment in affordable housing in rural and urban communities. It establishes tax credits for investors in rural housing development, as well as an affordable housing tax credit for the state overall. Additionally, a provision was made to create a loan guarantee for qualified single-family home construction or renovation in rural areas.
This is a landmark piece of legislation that could help stimulate investment in often overlooked and underinvested communities in Kansas. Health Forward will look for more opportunities to enhance investment in affordable housing in Kansas in our policy agenda.
Just before the Legislature closed the second veto session, they took final action on SB19, which creates a 988 suicide prevention and mental health crisis hotline. Not only is the law in place, but it is already funded through $10 million included in the budget.
This is a huge win for Kansans, and we thank the Legislature for passing and funding this valuable mental health resource. We will look for other opportunities to enhance mental health resources across Kansas as we build our 2023-2024 policy agenda.
Check Mark Vectors by Vecteezy
The close to the 2022 Missouri regular session was a mixed bag. On one hand, some harmful legislation was adopted, such as a restrictive voter ID bill, and some beneficial legislation withered in the Legislature, such as extending Medicaid coverage to new Missouri mothers.
On the other hand, elected officials rejected some very bad legislation, like HJR 117, which we strongly opposed.
Of the bills that we advocated for, not many that made it through both houses for signature by Gov. Mike Parson.
Some notable legislation passed were those constitutionally required of the Legislature, namely the budget and the new Congressional maps. We’ll cover more on that below.
The Missouri General Assembly is off until the veto session starts on Sept. 14.
The highest priority legislation for Health Forward was ensuring that HJR 117 was stopped. Fortunately, the bill — while placed on the calendar for potential Senate debate — never came to the floor. The bill would’ve put on the ballot a question to ask Missouri voters to allow legislators to determine funding amounts for Medicaid program funding on an annual basis and impose work requirements.
We testified in opposition to the bill when it was in committee in the Senate as it subverts the voice of Missouri voters and jeopardizes efforts to provide working Missourians with access to quality, affordable health care.
We oppose any efforts to impose work requirements because they restrict access to health care and other essential safety net programs, by adding another layer of administrative overhead. We’re also opposed to work requirements as they are rooted in anti-Blackness imposed during the Jim Crow era.
The General Assembly sent newly configured federal congressional maps to Gov. Parson, which he signed on May 18. This was a contentious process all session as many Republicans were pushing for a map that would’ve cracked up the current seat held by Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver II. This didn’t come to fruition, though. And despite holding the status quo of a likely 6-Republican, 2-Democratic seat split, the new maps feature some notable boundaries. For example, the border between the third and fourth districts cuts right through the heart of Columbia, Missouri.
Voting Rights and Initiative Petitions
HB 1878 passed both houses and is awaiting the Governor’s signature. This bill increases the difficulty for Missouri voters to vote absentee in upcoming elections by requiring a narrow set of acceptable personal identification to do so. Additionally, this bill doesn’t allow any dollars outside state funding for elections.
While we were opposed to the bill overall, there is a provision that now allows for no-excuse absentee voting two weeks before an election.
HJR 79, thankfully, died before getting any floor debate in the Senate. The joint resolution would’ve required a two-thirds supermajority approval threshold for any Missouri constitutional amendment.
SB 798 was an innovative bill that would’ve allowed older adults and people with diverse abilities to use their Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in restaurants. Unfortunately, the bill was not taken up by the full House, and it died this year.
HB 2510, which would’ve allowed doctors licensed in other states to treat Missouri patients, failed to pass. This legislation would’ve helped increase access and options to MIssourians seeking telehealth care. We were in support of this bill.
As a part of this year’s budget, there was an increase in the pay scale rate for dental providers who see patients on Medicaid. The rate has been 40 percent of the “usual and customary rate” (the amount paid for a typical dental service in a geographic area). But this budget increases it to 80 percent of the usual and customary rate, which will help incentivize more dentists to accept patients covered under Medicaid.
The General Assembly passed a substantial bill, SB 820, on broadband access to unserved and underserved areas in Missouri. Some main components of the bill include:
Health Forward provided testimony earlier in 2022 in support of bills that were then rolled into this ‘omnibus’ bill, which bundled other related pieces of legislation together. We are glad that this legislation was taken up and passed. We will continue to monitor how much the broadband landscape improves in rural and urban Missouri over time.
A final bill, HB 1606, that effectively criminalizes being unhoused, was passed out of both houses and is being sent to the Governor for signature. There is specific language that prohibits and creates a Class C misdemeanor for unauthorized sleeping on state-owned land. This legislation is unnecessarily harmful for people in a housing crisis. The legislation also makes it exceedingly difficult for organizations to access critical state funding by adding compliance requirements and narrow limits on what dollars can be spent on.
We testified in opposition to this legislation and would encourage a veto by the Governor. This bill erects unnecessary barriers for people attempting to find safe living spaces or eventually find affordable permanent housing.
Keep In Touch Stay up to date about our region’s health equity movement. Subscribe today