We have reached the mid-way point of the 2016 Session. Turn-around (bills moving from the House to the Senate and vice-versa) has come with very little to report in terms of significant bills passing the House. The Speaker was seeking “nothing of controversy” on the House agenda, and in my estimation was quite successful in that endeavor. Normally at this time of the session I have too much to write about for one newsletter; this year there is a paucity of information to report other than what has NOT been done this year.
Of course, the elephant in the room is the passage of a budget that makes no attempt to fund our schools as was just announced in the Gannon lawsuit ruling. We need to find $51 million more to satisfy the Kansas Supreme Court, and we do NOT have that money available. Additionally, the court has instructed the state to meet the adequacy requirements set out in our state constitution, and that will entail multi-millions of dollars. I have seen no move to actually work on these school funding issues by our leadership. It is always possible that they are doing it behind closed doors. Time will tell.
Rene and me at the K-State Wabash Cannonball. The event raises money for scholarships. As we continue to cut dollars from our state institutions, students will need more scholarship money!
Things to Watch
The budget just agreed upon by the House and Senate includes $10 million of anticipated funds from passage of SB 314. The bill implements a Step Therapy program in KanCare, requiring patients to start the lowest cost drug available to treat a disease and then “step up” to the next tier if the previous one fails. Although many insurance plans have something similar, this particular program does not have a “safety valve” that allows health-care providers to opt out of the Step Therapy if it is in the best clinical interest of the patient.
I am opposed to interfering with the physician-patient relationship and suggest the bill be amended to include special circumstances not to follow the Step Therapy program. My fear is that this bill will not come to the Health committee for review but will instead be included in a conference committee report. If that should happen, the bill would not be amendable and would be only an “up” or “down” vote. Compromising patient care does not fly in my book.
After the recent tragic mass shooting in Hesston, Kansas, it is imperative to move two gun violence prevention bills through the committee:
HB 2370 sits in the Fed and State committee and would put gun violence restraining orders into the law.
HB 2526 would eliminate the 2017 requirement for Higher Education campuses to have concealed carry unless able to prove NO guns are present.
According to the Chairman of the Fed and State committee, the decision to bring either of these bills to be worked is up to the Speaker. From my perspective, it is imperative to seek some sensible solutions to our gun violence catastrophes. I acknowledge that putting these types of laws in place won’t make all gun violence end, but it will prevent SOME of it!
The Destruction of Kansas Government
On Monday, the revenue reports for February were released and the news was terrible. Kansas reported a $53 million shortfall from projections. Keep in mind that projections have already been significantly reduced because of missed projections earlier in the fiscal year. The Governor’s administration continues to cite low unemployment numbers as an indicator of their claimed success of current tax policy. Or, they blame the Obama administration for our low revenues. The Governor also has taken a “my way or the highway” stand, claiming he will veto any attempt to change the business income tax exemption currently in place.
My take is that the Governor wants to starve our state government, thus forcing the call for “smaller government”. Not only did the most recent revenue numbers trigger an across the board 3% cut including $17 million taken from Higher Ed, the state still must come up with $51 million just to meet the Gannon ruling. As revenues collapse, so does the basic infrastructure of the state. I have had “off the record” reports from a few state employees who say that things are being held together by a “shoestring and a prayer”. We have three more years of this type of management UNLESS there are enough changes in both the House and Senate this next election to be able to override a Governor’s veto.
So enough of the bad news. The good news is that there are many of us who remain in the legislature who are dedicated to the Kansas that we love and who continue to vote with pragmatic sensibility. We just need more legislators like that, which puts the ball into the people’s court. Will you help save the Kansas that we love? I hope so. Regardless of who are presidential candidates are in November, we have serious business in Kansas that will need your involvement come August Primary time.
District 21 has always had a reputation for having one of the highest voter turnouts in the state. I believe that is because you care, and now is the time to put that caring into action. Talk to your neighbors and friends about what you want the priorities of Kansas to be. Make sure they are registered to vote and then confirm that they do vote. With a three-week timeframe to vote, there really is no excuse to miss casting a ballot. I am counting on you, and the future generations of our beloved state are counting on you as well.
Thank you for allowing me to serve. You can reach me at email@example.com. I am always eager to hear from my constituents!
Rep. Barbara Bollier
Kansas House District 21
Serving Northeast Johnson County