Capitol Update: Rep. Xu celebrates some bipartisan wins in 2021 session

Rep. Rui Xu, Democrat representing Kansas House District 25. File photo.

Each week, we provide Shawnee Mission area legislators the opportunity to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Rui Xu, Rep. Jo Ella Hoye and Sen. Dinah Sykes are scheduled to send updates this week. 

Below is the submission from Democratic State Rep. Rui Xu from Kansas House District 25. 

As this article is slated to go out on the first day of the Veto Session of the legislative calendar, there is an obvious tendency to focus on the bad stuff that has passed, the subsequent gubernatorial vetoes and the political probabilities on whether the vetoes will be sustained or overridden.

Many of my colleagues have spent the last few weeks doing a great job of outlining those, so I wanted to spend a little bit of time focusing on some of the positive things that happened this session that might not be talked about as much.

Unemployment Modernization

HB2196 went through a committee that I sat on, and at its introduction, it was a problematic (but mostly well-intentioned) bill in many ways.

Throughout the process, we continued to examine it, amend it, tweak it, and the end result is actually a pretty great piece of bipartisan legislation.

It does a lot, but the important things are:

  • It creates an Unemployment Modernization Council to oversee upgrading our outdated IT system.
  • It expands the Board of Review to 6 members instead of 3, which will help speed up unemployment appeals. (This was an amendment that I brought, and was rather pleased it got on the bill)
  • It requires the Secretary of Labor to publish certain data related to the Unemployment Trust Fund
  • It shortens the time an individual is locked out of benefits for fraudulent or misleading statements, upon repayment.

I know many of you have had issues with our unemployment system over the last year. This piece of legislation aims to make sure that never happens ever again.

Utility Securitization

HB2072 creates a legislative framework to allow for the securitization of aging coal plants to be retired.

Very few pieces of legislation that have crossed the House floor in my 3 years serving could actually have a real effect on mitigating and reversing the threat of climate change, but this one really could.

It allows utilities to request bonding to help retire these coal plants, and they can use the savings to invest in other forms of energy (ideally wind and solar), or it can be used to lower the rates for Kansans.

This is not necessarily related to the securitization bill that was passed, but last week, Evergy announced that they were retiring 2 coal plants, which accounted for 1,153 megawatts, by 2030 and in the same timeline, they’re planning on replacing that with 3,200 megawatts of wind and solar energy.

I look forward to this shift towards renewable energy continuing in the state, and hopefully soon, we’ll be able to create a State Energy Plan, which has been caught up in mere politics, to help guide this shift.

Technology-Enabled Financial Fiduciary Institutions

Senate Sub. for HB2074 does something that I have frequently criticized the legislature for not doing more: it creates a first-of-its-kind product with the potential for the state to be at the forefront of a new financial tool.

These institutions, affectionately dubbed “TEFFIs”, essentially help high net-worth individuals from around the country liquidate alternative assets, and a fee is charged to them and then remitted to foundations in rural Kansas.

This type of financial product does not exist anywhere else, so we’re starting it off with a pilot program with the aim of seeing how it develops and if all goes well, growing it in the near future. There is no financial risk to the state or taxpayers; this is not money that is in the state right now.

There’s no promise that this turns out as a pure win. With any ambitious, leading-edge idea, uncertainty is obviously a trade-off. But, I appreciate the ambition and look forward to seeing what it can do.

As always, please feel free to contact me about anything talked about here and anything else in general. You can email me at rui.xu@house.ks.gov or call/text at 913-535-8691.