Wichita Woman Pleads Guilty to Medicaid Fraud, Related Charges

WICHITA –– A Wichita woman pleaded guilty May 17, to Medicaid fraud and related charges, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said.

Jessica Jo Washington, 32, pleaded guilty in Sedgwick County District Court to one count of Medicaid fraud and one count of felony mistreatment of a dependent adult. The charges stemmed from an investigation by the attorney general’s Medicaid Fraud and Abuse Division, which revealed that Washington mistreated a resident while working as a Certified Nurse Aide in a Sedgwick County nursing facility. The crimes occurred in July 2018.

As a condition of the plea, Washington has agreed to voluntarily surrender her certification with the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services. District Judge Terry Pullman accepted the plea and scheduled sentencing for July 9 at 8:45 a.m.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant Attorney General Meghan Markey of Schmidt’s office.

Kansas filed the case as part of a sweep of Medicaid Fraud enforcement actions involving misconduct by health care providers. As part of that effort, the Kansas attorney general filed criminal charges against ten individuals. Four of those individuals have now been found guilty. Six additional cases remain pending.

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly Veto’s Tax Reform Bill

On Friday, May 17, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly vetoed a tax relief bill known as House Bill 2033.  The veto was not a surprise as she had promised that would be what she would do.  In a press release, the Governor said that she had a long record of supporting responsible, commonsense tax policy. However, she said,

“Unfortunately, that is not what House Bill 2033 represents. It will decimate the state’s ability to pay our bills and invest in our people. Just as Kansas begins to stabilize after years of senseless fiscal crisis, House Bill 2033 will create a $1 billion deficit within three years.”

Governor Laura Kelly
Governor Laura Kelly

She further stated that one of her top priorities, as Governor was to lower Kansas’ unacceptably high tax on food. We must first provide relief for those who need it most and then ultimately for all Kansans. We need stability so our tax code can offer certainty to businesses and families. “This,” she said, “all must go hand-in-hand with rebuilding our state’s rainy-day fund so we can weather economic downturns without putting our schools and children at risk. Kansas is also long overdue for a thorough, nonpartisan study of how we can ensure our tax code is fair and truly incentivizes economic growth – in urban and rural communities alike. Our state has not conducted such a study since 1995.”

Her press statement continued by saying,

“Kansans deserve a plan. Successful tax reform must be shaped by a thoughtful, big-picture vision – not by a rushed attempt to achieve an immediate political victory. To that end, my administration recently began outlining a plan to help build this vision, which I look forward to sharing in the weeks to come.”

“Pro-business, pro-growth, pro-family tax policy can absolutely reshape Kansas for the better, but only if it fixes the failures of the past, not repeats them. I was elected to rebuild our state; House Bill 2033 is not the way to do it.”

Concluding her statement, she said,

Therefore, under Article 2, Section 14(a) of the Kansas Constitution, I hereby veto House Bill 2033.

 

Following Governor Kelly’s veto of HB 2033, the tax bill that would ensure Kansans keep more of their hard-earned money, Americans for Prosperity-Kansas State Director Jeff Glendening released a response saying,

“Kansas families deserve to keep more of their hard-earned money. This bill would save taxpayers millions by reversing the unintended state-level tax bump for folks who saw tax relief from federal tax reform. Now Kansans are facing a tax hike on top of an already heavy tax burden. We urge lawmakers to override this veto.”

 

Governor Kelly Signs Bill Supporting Licensed Retail Liquor Stores

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly signed several bills this past week, including one that provides support to local licensed retail liquor stores and the Kansas citizens who own them.

“Throughout my years of serving in the Legislature, I have supported our licensed retail liquor stores and the Kansas citizens who own them,” Kelly said. “I know that April 1 has brought new challenges as well as new opportunities for these small Kansas-owned businesses.”

 

House Bill 2035 simplifies the tax duties of licensed retail liquor stores, as it relates to the sale of cereal malt beverages and strong beer products. It also provides for uniform law enforcement under the New Beer Law that became effective on April 1, 2019. This legislation will become effective upon its publication in the Kansas Register.

 

“I encourage Kansas shoppers to continue to choose to shop at local businesses where the profits and tax dollars support the local economy,” Kelly said.

 

The governor signed five additional bills yesterday, bringing the total number of bills signed in the 2019 Legislative Session to 18, with one being vetoed. By law, the Kansas governor has 10 calendar days to sign bills into law, veto bills or allow bills to become law without her signature.

 

House Bill 2104

Amending the statute governing tests related to driving under the influence (DUI), effective July 1, 2019, to amend the oral and written notice a law enforcement officer must provide when requesting a person take such a test. Specifically, the bill clarifies that refusal to submit to and complete the test or tests will result in suspension of the person’s driving privileges for a period of one year and test failure will result in suspension of the person’s driving privileges for a period of 30 days or one year.

 

The bill also amends preliminary screening tests and implied consent advisories. This legislation will become effective upon its publication in the Kansas Register.

 

House Bill 2201

Updating statutory references necessitated by 2012 Executive Reorganization Order No. 41 by transferring the powers, duties, and functions of the Tuberculosis Control Program for the Kansas Department for Aging and Disability Services (KDADS) to the Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE). This legislation will become effective on July 1, 2019.

 

House Bill 2211

Allowing courts to waive or reduce driver’s license reinstatement fees if they find payment, of the assessed amount, would impose manifest hardship on that person or that person’s immediate family. This legislation will become effective on July 1, 2019.

 

Senate Bill 90

Allowing financial institutions to claim the Center for Entrepreneurship tax credit and increasing the annual tax credit limit that can be claimed. This legislation will become effective on July 1, 2019.

 

Senate Bill 94

Establishing a minimum course duration of four hours for motor vehicle accident prevention courses, requiring the course to utilize a driver training curriculum recognized by a state or federal agency, and other technical changes. This legislation will become effective on July 1, 2019.

Hawver: Tax Cut?

The major tax cut bill of the 2019 Legislature has now passed, in slightly different forms, both the House and Senate and we’re waiting to see what happens next…and next…and possibly next as the 2017 federal tax cuts trickle down into state finances and politics.

Martin Hawver
Martin Hawver

The Legislature’s tax debate wasn’t all that exciting because, well, it’s a tax bill and it is complicated and technical. So, the excitement starts now.

Key is that both the Republican-controlled House and Senate have agreed to the major income tax cut provisions of the bill. The Senate baked the cake, with about $187 million in income tax cuts this year, about $50 million for individual income taxpayers and about $137 million for corporate income taxpayers. Next year, the ratio changes, with some individual Kansans seeing about $60 million in cuts, corporations about $51 million in cuts.

And when that cake got to the House, well, it got frosted. The House added a 1 percent cut in the state sales tax on food (from 6.5 percent to 5.5 percent) which will cost the state about $43 million in lost revenue next fiscal year and about $66 million in lost revenue (or, kept by food buyers), partially paid for by a new Internet sales tax, which might bring in about $21 million next year and maybe $33 million a year after that.

The next thing to happen will be when the Senate decides whether it wants that appealing frosting. We all want to pay less sales tax on the food or anything we buy, and those local stores don’t want Internet sellers, to not have to collect Kansas sales tax that they have to charge customers, which costs them, customers.

Now, part of the House’s frosting looks better than it’s actually going to taste. Dropping the sales tax on food (starting Oct. 1) is going to leave a little more change in Kansans’ pockets. And the guy buying steak gets the same percentage cut as the guy buying bologna. Hard to tell whether either will notice the sales tax cut, but the provision is probably worth mention on a campaign palm card.

And everyone who has a store is by this time tired of customers saying they can get stuff cheaper over the Internet…especially without a 6.5 percent sales tax added in as local stores must.

So, watch for the Senate to decide next week whether to negotiate those food and Internet taxes or just OK them and vote to send the bill to the governor.

Next after that?

It’ll be the governor likely vetoing the bill because it will upset her budget and because nobody’s really sure yet just what that federal tax cut /expansion “trickle down” is going to mean to state revenues. Lots of guesses, lots of charts and tables and explanations, but the Department of Revenue hasn’t actually counted the dollars in additional revenue that federal tax cut will send to Kansas.

While the House and Senate stand for reelection next year, Gov. Laura Kelly’s got nearly four years to figure out how to pay for basic state responsibilities: schools, highways, possible expansion of Medicaid, pension, roads… She needs revenue to pay for all the things Kansans want and need from their government.

And next after that?

It’ll be the House and Senate trying to override the veto. The House passed the bill 76-43, and in that chamber, it takes 84 votes to override a veto. The Senate earlier passed the (un-frosted) bill 26-14, just one vote short of the 27 needed for an override.

And next after that? If it becomes law, we’ll see how House and Senate candidates tout it.

One Republican already has calculated that a 1 percent drop in the sales tax is—ready?—a 15 percent cut in the sales tax on food…

 

By Martin Hawver

Syndicated by Hawver News Company LLC of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report—to learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit the website at www.hawvernews.com

Governor Proclaims Kansas American Legion Day

On March 15, 1919, The American Legion was founded in Paris France by members of the American Expeditionary Force. Over the past 100 years, The Kansas American Legion has become a preeminent community-service organization in Kansas. It has more than 40,000 family members in over 500 Kansas American Legion posts, units, and squadrons. These Legion entities promote a variety of programs that support the goals of The American Legion.

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly recognized the special role that Kansas American Legion members play in supporting Kansas veterans. Governor Kelly recently signed a proclamation designating March 15, 2019, as Kansas American Legion Day.

“We appreciate the Governor recognizing the significant contributions made by American Legion Posts as pillars in Kansas communities over the last 100 years,” Kansas Department Commander Dan Wiley said. “Kansas has a special place in the history of The American Legion. One of our favorite sons, Harry Colmery, Past National Commander from Topeka, was the author of the post-World War II G.I. Bill of Rights that lifted the standard of living for an entire generation. We look forward to another century of service positively impacting the lives of veterans and the communities in which they live.”

Kansas Department Vice Commander Chuck Shoemaker agreed. Shoemaker has participated in three signings in the Governor’s Office proclaiming the state’s gratitude for American Legion activities. “There’s a sense of pride in being associated with dedicated Legion Family members that make it happen,” Shoemaker said. “There’s little doubt that the unwavering principles of our Kansas American Legion Family will ensure continued service to the State of Kansas Veterans into the next 100 years.”

Legislative Update By State Senator Caryn Tyson

March 1, 2019

Turnaround is the halfway point in the legislative session.  It is a point when bills die that have not passed the originating chamber or have not been in an exempt committee.  The Senate exempt committees are Federal & State Affairs, Tax, and Ways & Means.  Generally, there is a major push to work as many bills as possible before the turnaround.  My first year in the legislature we worked long hours for several days, including 24 hours the last day before turnaround. This year was much different.  We worked several bills and then Senate leadership decided to take off the last day before turnaround.  Needless to say, it was disappointing.  While I appreciate the meticulous pace in working legislation, we could have worked another day on the floor and completed more of the State’s business.

Taking an approved Motor Vehicle Accident Prevention Course will qualify most drivers for a reduction in their motor vehicle insurance.  Some insurance companies offer as much as a 10% discount.  The course must be completed every three years.  Currently, an online course takes four hours to complete, while an in-person course takes eight hours to complete.  Senate Bill (SB) 94 would make a course four hours, regardless if online or in-person.  The bill passed the Senate unanimously.

KS Department of Wildlife, Parks and Tourism (KDWPT) requested SB 49 that would remove the cap on cabin rentals owned and operated by KDWPT.  I did not support removing the cap and raised the question – should state government be in the business of competing with private sector lodging accommodations? The bill passed the Senate with 29 Yes and 11 No votes.

Eudora Community Library District  Act, SB 50, would allow the city of Eudora and the local township to continue to be a library district.  Eudora was a class 3 city that formed a library district with the local township.  However, Eudora became a class 2 city because of an increase in population, which forced a change in the library district.  This may not seem like important legislation but it is because most library districts are taxing authorities.  Statewide, Kansas libraries collect approximately $114 million a year in property taxes.  The new Eudora Library Board would first be appointed, not allowing voters an opportunity to select their representation.  While I support libraries, I am a stronger advocate for elected representation.  The bill passed  Yes 27 to No 12.  I voted No.

Law enforcement must obey the rules of the road as we do.  SB 34 would give law enforcement some leeway when the rules impede law-enforcement action.  The bill passed the Senate 34 Yes to 4 No.  I voted Yes.

Advance Ballot Signatures: SB 130 would require county election officers try to contact each voter who submits an advance ballot that is not signed or the signature does not match the signature on file, allowing the voter an opportunity to correct it before final canvass.  While I have concern as to the logistics, especially in larger counties, we need to make every attempt that all legal ballots are counted.  The bill passed the Senate unanimously.

There were many more bills debated and passed, too many to list here.  Many legislators support transparent government, myself included.  As a result of this effort committee meetings and daily sessions are available online.  Legislation and the meetings can be found at www.kslegislature.org.

 

It is an honor and a privilege to serve as your 12th District State Senator.

Caryn

Teacher Dissatisfaction

In many regions across the United States, the number of out-of-field teachers is growing while the number of college students entering teaching continues to fall and more teachers are leaving the classroom. While pundits want to target a major cause, there are likely a combination of factors that have caused this 20-year decline that varies by region, grade level, and discipline.
    The National Education Association just released the 2016-2017 average starting teacher salary data; state-by-state averages are on its website. The national average starting salary was $38,617 with New Jersey at $51,179 and Missouri at $31,842. Oklahoma was second lowest; it recently increased its education budget by 19 percent, only to see its teacher shortage grow larger.
    Money can be a factor driving a shortage in rich communities and in select disciplines. Even within one state, the cost-of-living can vary dramatically. In affluent areas in California and Colorado, teachers cannot afford to live in the communities where they teach. In some states, affluent suburban schools hire away teachers from sparsely populated rural districts. Failure to consolidate leaves those rural students with out-of-field teachers and fewer academic opportunities.
    While graduates do not enter teaching for the money, more are leaving teaching as their
    salaries, continue to fall behind inflation. Science teachers, in particular, find they can double their
    salary, in other science jobs. While there is regional variation, in most portions of the country the
    purchasing power of the average teacher was greatest in the early 1970s and has fallen behind ever since.  Some teachers are frustrated with lack of student discipline and lack of administrator support. The end of corporal punishment, new “no touch” policies, and the ending of out-of-school suspension have also to some teachers leaving the classroom.
    Loss of teacher tenure in Kansas and loss of new teacher tenure in North Carolina caused immediate drop-offs of college students pursuing teaching careers, actions that students nationwide witnessed.
    Some states eliminated an automatic pay raise for a master’s degree. While research, showed a master’s degree in education provided no student improvement, a master’s degree in math or science did raise their students’ scores. When districts threw away that incentive across-the-board, it resulted in a decrease in teachers pursuing higher degrees.
    Viewed across the last 20 years, the decline in teachers shows several patterns. With the implementation of No Child Left Behind external testing in the early 2000s, many high school students observed their teachers’ loss of professional authority. By the mid-2000s, it then became harder to recruit those students, now in college, into teaching when they had seen that professional erosion. At this same time, more veteran teachers were taking early retirement while a new generation of student teachers, were being trained in education schools to teach to external assessments.  School administrators lauded this young malleable cohort of teachers who, unlike the veteran teachers, could be ordered from above to adopt an unending array of new reforms and be rewarded with merit pay.
    This era of “transformational leadership” and reform-from-above may be coming to an end. The recent Denver strike was not just about pay, but also sent a clear signal that the ProComp merit pay system of controlling teachers by awards was no longer being tolerated.      
    Because a major portion of each state’s general fund goes to K–12 education, the 2008 Great Recession cut school spending nationwide. While the U.S. economy has recovered and a few states have seen boosts in funding, a recently released analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities finds about half of state funding formulas have not recovered to pre-recession levels.
    However, “dissatisfaction with how I am treated as a teaching professional” ranked highest on a survey, given at the beginning of this millennium. It was a greater concern than pay or student discipline. That question has not appeared on a major teacher survey since, leading education commentators to only look at other factors. Would that item be heavily marked today…or have we now lost too many of our best?

John Richard Schrock

 

Boil Water Advisory Issued for City of Richmond, Franklin Co.

TOPEKA – The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) has issued a boil water advisory for the City of Richmond located in Franklin County.

Customers should observe the following precautions until further notice:

  • If your tap water appears dirty, flush the water lines by letting the water run until it clears.
  • Boil water for one minute prior to drinking or food preparation or use bottled water.
  • Dispose of ice cubes and do not use ice from a household automatic icemaker.
  • Disinfect dishes and other food contact surfaces by immersion for at least one minute in clean tap water that contains one teaspoon of unscented household bleach per gallon of water.
  • Water used for bathing does not generally need to be boiled. Supervision of children is necessary while bathing so that water is not ingested. Persons with cuts or severe rashes may wish to consult their physicians.

The advisory took effect on March 9 and will remain in effect until the conditions that placed the system at risk of bacterial contamination are resolved. KDHE officials issued the advisory because of a line break resulting in a loss of pressure in the system.  Failure to maintain adequate pressure may result in a loss of chlorine residuals and bacterial contamination

Regardless of whether the public water supplier or KDHE announced a boil water advisory, only KDHE can issue the rescind order following testing at a certified laboratory.

 For updates online, go to:

Kansas Supreme Court Agrees to Review Workers Compensation Case

TOPEKA –– The Kansas Supreme Court yesterday agreed to review a decision by the Court of Appeals that overturned a 2013 state law on workers compensation, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt said.

AG Derek Schmidt
AG Derek Schmidt

Although the state was not a party to the original case, the attorney general intervened in the case in August for the purpose of filing a petition for the Kansas Supreme Court to review the case. The Supreme Court yesterday granted that petition. The defendant in the case, U.S. Food Service, also petitioned the Kansas Supreme Court to review the case, and its petition was also granted by the court yesterday.

 

In 2013, the Kansas Legislature amended the Kansas Workers Compensation Act to require use of the Sixth Edition of the American Medical Association (AMA) Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment to rate the impairment of injuries sustained after January 1, 2015. Last year, the Kansas Court of Appeals struck down that law as unconstitutional, requiring that the Fourth Edition of the AMA Guides, which was in place under the law prior to the 2013 change, be used going forward. The attorney general argued that it was within the prerogative of the Legislature and Governor to amend the law to adopt the newer edition of the evaluation guides based upon medical advancements that have occurred since the Fourth Edition was written in 1993.

 

Further briefing in the case is anticipated. Oral arguments have not yet been scheduled. The case is Johnson v. U.S. Food Service et al.

KCC Order Requires Kansas Gas Service to Pass Tax Break on to Customers

Topeka– In an order issued yesterday (February 25, 2019), the Kansas Corporation Commission (KCC) instructed Kansas Gas Service (KGS) to return just over $17.9 million in tax savings to its customers. For residential customers, that will mean a one-time bill credit of $22.78.

Kansas Gas Service
Kansas Gas Service

The savings resulted when the Federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) reduced the corporate tax rate from $35% to 21% in January of last year. The KCC required utilities to track savings resulting from the tax cut and maintain those funds in a separate interest-bearing regulatory account pending Commission review.

In a rate case filed in June, KGS asked to retain the accrued tax savings to offset its cost of service. The Commission determined that was not in the public interest and, as yesterday’s order states,

“KGS has provided no evidence that returning the regulatory liability to its customers will endanger KGS’s health and viability in providing reliable, sufficient and efficient service”.