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In Topeka: 
State Capitol Room 352-A
Topeka, KS 66612

At home in Fairway
4124 Brookridge Drive
Fairway, KS 66205

Dear Friend:

In my newsletter last week, I shared the details of HB 2178 which the House passed 76-48 last Thursday. The Senate debated and passed the bill Friday (22-18), sending it to the governor’s desk. On Tuesday night, using the backdrop of the annual Kansas Chamber of Commerce dinner, Governor Brownback announced his plan to veto the bill. He made good on that promise at 8:30 Wednesday morning.
Kansas City Star article: Gov. Sam Brownback says he’ll veto tax bill, setting up fight with lawmakers
The House gaveled in at 9 am and made consideration of the veto our first order of business. After spirited debate, we voted 85-40 to override the governor’s veto. I voted YES. 

Those of you who have followed me from the beginning know I have steadfastly advocated for comprehensive tax reform, seeking a plan that broadens the tax base, restores fairness for all taxpayers, provides balance across consumption, income and property taxes, and raises enough revenue to responsibly pay our bills. I have held out for a plan that allows us to stop employing fiscal tricks, delayed payments, excessive borrowing and short-selling state assets in order to make ends meet. For all the one-time gimmicks, we face a $350 million shortfall in the current fiscal year, and a $580 million shortfall next fiscal year. As a reminder: 
I do not wish to mislead you. This plan is not perfect – but it is a responsible step in the quest for solvency. Critics have already begun sending postcards, making robocalls and recruiting opponents for those of us willing to step up and put the interests of the state first. I refuse to vote in fear. There is a time and a place for campaigning, but right now, we are called to serve.

Unfortunately, the Senate had different priorities and voted to sustain Governor Brownback’s veto (24-16).
My comments were covered by the Washington Post: Republicans’ ‘real-live experiment’ with Kansas’s economy survives a revolt from their own party
To all who contacted your Senators and Representatives – regardless of which side you are on – thank you for voicing your position and participating in this valuable process. However, the Senate’s failure to stand up to Governor Brownback, sends us back to the drawing board, with the looming potential of harmful cuts to current fiscal year budgets for all state agencies including K-12 schools. I will continue to stand up for comprehensive solutions to this crisis.
News outlets across the state covered this week’s action: Medicaid Expansion
After some procedural wrangling, the House brought the topic of Medicaid expansion up for debate this week. The bill in question had three days of hearings in the House Health committee earlier this month, but failed to make it out of committee. On Wednesday HB 2044, a bill designed to reimburse providers for rehab treatments performed in clubhouses (think prescribed exercise programs to recover from injury, surgery or illness) was amended to add the contents of HB 2064 - Bridge to a Healthy Kansas. (Unlike a gut & go, this time the contents of the original bill remain intact.)

Why support expansion?
More than 150,000 Kansans currently fall into the category of earning too much for traditional KanCare coverage, too little to buy private insurance. These are hardworking Kansans with few options for affordable health coverage. When these folks get sick, they end up in our emergency rooms where care is far more expensive than the doctor’s office. Because they have no insurance, hospitals are left to absorb the costs but this is unsustainable. Independence, Kansas has already lost its hospital and 30 other hospitals in the state are in financial danger. Expansion should help stabilize the situation in communities all around the state, including our own. All of our area hospitals, as well as over 100 business, civic and health organizations came together to form the Alliance for a Healthy Kansas to help support the effort to expand.

Five other amendments were offered during debate, all meant to derail passage of the plan. This is called “Christmas-treeing” the bill. The point is to capture votes to be used later on campaign postcards. We voted against all of them because of the need to keep this bill as “clean” as possible. In the end, the bill passed on a vote of 81-44. I voted YES and await action on the Senate side after the break.
KanCare Reform
Let’s be honest, KanCare has well-documented problems and I share your concerns about the viability of the program for the people who rely on it. For that reason, SB 69 is under consideration in the Senate Health & Welfare Committee. Among many important reforms, the bill would require external third-party review and streamline the processes that currently contribute to the backlog in the system. 

What’s Ahead
We are on a brief legislative break called “Turnaround” until March 6. During the next week, legislative staff will process the bills passed out of each chamber and prepare them to be received by the other side. Committees will go back to the normal schedule when we return.
K-12 Budget
We will hold a hearing on At-Risk Funding in order to fully explore that topic and then get to work in committee putting together a new funding plan. I introduced HB 2270 which had a hearing last week. There are several other plans that were heard but consensus is building around 2270. We can expect changes in committee, but I will be working hard to protect a formula that takes into account student demographics and local differences.
Federal & State Affairs
HB 2240 seeks to add Kansas to the Great Plains Fire Fighting Compact. As a member of the Kansas Forest Service Advisory Council, I introduced this bill in committee and carried it on the floor this week. Kansas is one of only 5 states in the nation not currently a member of a fire fighting compact. The compact streamlines the sharing of resources across state lines in times of emergency. In last year’s Anderson Creek fires that began in Oklahoma and raged across the border, Oklahoma had air resources to fight the fire but because of our lack of compact status, the planes had to turn back at the state border. The bill passed 124-1 and moves on to the Senate for consideration.
Aside from some important informational hearings, very little action has taken place in the Education committee this year. Given the battles waged in the past four years over vouchers, private charters and the repeal of our state education standards, I consider this to be a good thing! However, efforts to restore due process rights for teachers put us in the spotlight last week.
The bill had a hearing in our committee, but our chair announced he would not work the bill. After days of procedural maneuvers, we finally had the opportunity to amend the bill into HB 2186 on Wednesday during floor debate. The motion passed 66-59, then the bill passed 72-53. I voted YES on both. Now the bill heads to the Senate for consideration.
Due process requires cause to be given for termination. The Shawnee Mission district has maintained due process for teachers in our district, but across the state many others have not. We are experiencing a serious shortage of teachers and the Commissioner of Education cited low morale among Kansas teachers as a serious challenge. He urged us to take steps to restore a climate of respect and professionalism. The restoration of due process rights is a great step in that direction.
If you have questions, comments or need help please contact me at 785-296-7686 or via email at If you are in Topeka, please stop by my office in 352-S. It is my pleasure to serve.


Rep. Melissa Rooker
Kansas State Representative, District 25
Serving Northeast Johnson County
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Melissa Rooker,