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Dear Friend:
Our days are full at The Capitol. As we rush from one meeting to the next, we’re reminded every day that this is the house of the people. On a daily basis, it gives me great pleasure to watch our Statehouse docent lead school children as they sing “Home on the Range” or run into a group of high school students celebrating their service with Junior ROTC. My committee schedule is completely full; we are hearing testimony every day right now and have begun discussing budgets to complete FY2017. Between meetings, I return phone calls or emails and often meet with lobbyists, representatives from state agencies, or visiting citizens. We have already started voting on some bills in the House and I expect the pace to accelerate in the days to come.

Our evenings are filled with receptions and dinners (sometimes five events in one night!). Last week, the women of the Kansas Senate and House were celebrated as we gathered together at the home of Josh and Kimberly Svaty.  Kansas-own Renee Kelly, a renowned Chef who founded Harvest in Shawnee, Kansas, prepared an amazing dinner. And, we heard from amazing speakers: Wendy Doyle (Women's Foundation), motivational speaker Gail Dicus, and Valerie Nicholson Watson, from Harvesters Kansas City. Each speaker inspired us as to what it means to be "Leading Edge Women." There are now 47 women serving Kansas and it’s good to be in such great company!

About the 28th District

Contact Joy

At the Capitol: 
Room 268

At home in Leawood:
3310 W. 137th St
Leawood, KS 66224

Voter Resources

Legislative Information

Our bipartisan freshman caucus holds lunch and learn meetings each week. So far, we have hosted the non-partisan KS Legislative Research Department for overviews to bring us up to speed on several complex issues, including the budget, taxes, and the KS Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS). Many of us also attend the weekly lunch briefings at the Kansas Health Institute to learn about topics from KanCare to Medical Marijuana. Last week the entire Johnson County Delegation held a special lunch meeting to hear from the Johnson County School Superintendents and Board Members. 

Around the District
Opportunities to Engage:
  • Please take a moment to complete my first legislative survey; I look forward to hearing your ideas for how to move the state forward.
  • Thanks to those of you who attended last weekend’s Johnson County Public Policy Council’s legislative breakfast at the Doubletree Hotel. It was a great crowd with engaging questions.
  • We held our monthly listening session this past Saturday (the 28th) and had a great turnout. Our next listening session will be on February 25th at 9:00 am at the Leawood Pioneer Library.
  • Please join me on Saturday, March 25th at 10 am at the Central Resource Library in Overland Park (9875 W. 87th Street, Lenexa) for a legislative coffee sponsored by the Johnson County Library and the League of Women Voters.
I have a couple more spots for legislative pages. If your student would like to run errands around the Capitol and see the legislative process in action, reply to this email. 

We met with Bobby Olm-Shipman, CEO of St. Luke’s South in Overland Park, last week and learned that  like many hospitals they continue to have trouble getting Medicaid payment and any coordination of care across the state.  KanCare continues to be plagued with significant problems, as was made abundantly clear last week when we were notified that Kansas is “substantively out of compliance” with U.S. law, a situation that poses risks to recipientsLike most hospitals in Kansas, the folks at St. Luke’s support Medicaid expansion (as do the  clear majority of constituents I’ve heard from) and it seems a bill introduced in the house by Rep. Susan Concannon may have some traction this year, but all of that could be influenced by changes at the federal level. Stay tuned.

Finally, I’m scheduled to visit the elementary, middle, and high schools in my district during the February and April breaks. Thanks to Mike Slagle and his assistant Kim Hendrix for arranging  dates for me to visit Prairie Star Elementary and Middle, Mission Trail Elementary, Overland Trail Elementary and Middle, Lakewood Elementary and Middle, Blue Valley North, and Blue Valley High.

On a personal note, I’m looking forward to leading a training at Fort Leavenworth on March first, training military personnel  about the importance of improving their “soft skills” like communicating in teams and groups as they transition into private sector workforce.

In the News
It was a bang up week in Topeka last week (pun intended) as the local news focused on a hearing in the Senate on extending the ban on guns in campus buildings (SB 53). The current  law states that guns can be carried anywhere on campus, but not into campus buildings. As of July 1, guns will be allowed inside campus buildings and classrooms. Dozens of organizations and more than 100 advocates crowded the committee room and the hallway outside. A corresponding hearing will be held in the House (HB2074) on Wednesday (the 25th). I’m hearing from a lot of constituents in support and opposition of keeping the ban. What are your thoughts on the issue? Please do let me know!
Meanwhile, one of my colleagues made national news last week when it was discovered after he left a committee meeting that he had left his own gun behind on the floor beside his chair. This is a serious concern on so many levels – an understatement if there ever was one. You can read about it here.   
On the House Floor
Committees and constituent meetings are back-to-back, so it  was slow week on the House floor as we wait for bills to complete the committee process. We did passed a number of non-controversial health-related bills which apparently passed their committees during the last session, but the previous Speaker of the House would not allow them to come up, for fear of an amendment to expand Medicaid in the state. I was pleased our current leadership team recognized the need to pass them.
The House welcomed the
Kansas Teacher of the Year nominees as well as the official Teacher of the Year for the state, Jason Sickel.  Jason teaches at Blue Valley North and since that’s where a lot of my constituents attend, I was thrilled to meet him. I was particularly pleased to know that Jason teaches choral music as these programs rarely get the recognition (or financial support) they are due and have the ability to change lives in profound ways. I encourage you to watch this video featuring Jason: The team will travel the state over the next year, sharing their expertise with fellow Kansas teachers.

Committee Work
Corrections & Juvenile Justice
The highlight of my week last week was a tour of the Kansas Juvenile Correctional Complex (KJCC) with Kyle Rhor, Superintendent of KJCC and Terri Williams, Deputy Secretary of Corrections – Juvenile Services. We rode to the facility on a corrections bus from the Capitol and after lunch (yes, the same lunch that the kids eat) the spent over two hours touring the complex, learning about the programs they support to help get these kids back on a good path.
Over 60% of these kids suffer from mental health issues and often experience childhood trauma. Superintendent Rhor has been visionary in his leadership to create an environment that support structure and responsibility while affording them every opportunity to learn about themselves and others. In addition to attending classes to complete their high school degree, kids attend group therapy sessions focused on addictions and a variety of behavioral treatment programs.
KJCC houses both men and women, but they are completely segregated. Currently there are 218 individuals housed at the complex, 16 of whom are women.  The complex includes a fully functioning school (with a school mascot and basketball court) and an amazing vocational-tech program operated by the Washburn Tech Department, led by Dean Coco. Currently 85 students (including a few women) participate in this program (again, totally segregated), where they can earn certificates and college credit in a variety of technical programs. These programs ensure that they are workforce ready when they are released.
Deputy Secretary Williams reported that over the past five years, intake and assessment events have been reduced by 21%; there has been a 27% reduction of juvenile cases filed; and JCF average month end population is down 31%. These are encouraging numbers and with the passage of SB367 last year I am hopeful that Kansas will become a leader in juvenile justice programs.  

Government Technology & Security
The audit manager who led the state’s tech security audit briefed us on recommendations from staff and recent IT legislation initiatives. We also received a briefing from the Kansas Bureau of Investigation’s Chief Information Officer. The committee has convened in closed session a few times because of the high sensitivity of the items up for discussion.
Transportation & Public Safety Budget
To be frank, the budgets we are looking at are dismal. It's depressing and I'm troubled by the cuts the governor recommends. He wants to de-fund intervention programs for the extensive and positive juvenile justice reforms passed last year (SB367). Instead, I recommended we defer capital improvements  and fund human capital initiatives wherever possible. If we intervene early with good programs, we give juveniles an opportunity to change course – these Kansans have the rest of their lives and helping them make good decisions now will impact all of us.
We combed through (again) the
Alvarez & Marsal efficiency report, which you might recall seemed to find the most inefficiencies in KDOT. Since last year, KDOT has been  cut so much that there are not enough employees to properly do the work of the department. You’ve heard of “too big to fail?” Well, the A&M report found  several state agencies that were “too small to succeed.” This seems to be a common theme as we talk to agency stakeholders. Turnover rates are high across state agencies (30%-35%); a statistic that would compel most CEO to fix the fundamental problem, which in these cases is low pay. Most state employees are paid well below what similar employees are paid in neighboring states and haven’t seen a raise in nearly 7 years. We have dozens of jobs that remain vacant, simply because the pay is too low to attract anyone.
Which brings me to my last report – what’s to come? Rumor has it that a comprehensive tax reform package is in the works and may find its way to the House floor in the near future. I’m hoping this is the case and will support a comprehensive plan to return our state to the progressive type of government we once had, one where “seldom is heard a discouraging word and the skies are not cloudy all day.”
During the session, I might not be as quick to reply as I normally would but I will get back to you. That's a promise. 
Warm regards,

Representative Joy Koesten, PhD
Kansas House District 28
Serving Leawood and Overland Park
Copyright © 2017 Paid for by Joy for Kansas, Bob Regnier, Treasurer, All rights reserved.

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