This is my first newsletter of 2019 and I hope you find it informative. The legislative session is only 15 days old and already the ultra conservative Republican leadership is flexing their muscle to thwart Governor Kelly's agenda and take us back to the good ole days of Brownback. Senate leadership is intent on passing a tax bill that is sure to blow a big hole in the budget, in spite of the fact that no one yet truly understands what the Federal Tax changes will mean for companies or individuals and that staterevenue estimates are way down from projections. Additionally, with a concern of a possible upcoming recession many worry that this premature tax bill could "plunge the state back into a budget crisis."
If that bill doesn't put a nail in the coffin of the progress we made over these past two years, these same "leaders" are insistent on stalling any resolution on a school finance bill that would put us in compliance with the Supreme Court. Talk of plans to cut funding or push through a constitutional amendment to carve out the Judicial Branch of government are still floating around the halls of the Statehouse.
The Governor submitted a bill last week that proposes expansion of KanCare. Kansas is one of only a few states that has not approved Medicaid expansion, in spite of the fact that 77% of Kansans believe that expanding Medicaid is right for the state of Kansas.
You may recall the legislature passed Medicaid Expansion in 2017, but the bill was later vetoed by Governor Brownback. To date, Kansans have lost over $3 billion dollars of their taxes to the federal government due to the failure to expand Medicaid. That money should be helping our people, our hospitals, our state.
We’ve seen Republican and Democratic-led states across the country find consensus on Medicaid expansion to benefit their citizens, their communities and their economies. Healthcare is a critical need for all Kansans. And for too many, it’s still inaccessible and unaffordable. It's time to bring our dollars back home.
By expanding KanCare - the state’s Medicaid program - we can help our hospitals and clinics stay open and provide affordable health care to 150,000 more Kansans - no matter where they live.
States that have passed Medicaid expansion have seen significant economic benefits – new jobs, hospitals and clinics remaining open, and a healthier workforce. Additionally, we know that rural communities cannot survive without hospitals and affordable healthcare. So, Medicaid expansion is critical to revitalizing our rural communities.
Technical Changes from 2017 Bridge to a Healthy Kansas
The 2019 version has a few changes from the 2017 version that are technical in nature: specifically permitting KanCare Expansion to address the “Schultz Amendment” prohibition against adopting expansion (Section 1), removing language that requires state residency for 12 months that caused issues of constitutionality for the Revisor’s Office in (Section 2) , clarifying that KDHE is permitted to submit a State Plan Amendment and/or an 1115 Waiver to implement expansion (Section 6) and updating the name of the Community Care Network of Kansas from KAMU (Section 12).
Substantive Change from 2017 Bridge to a Healthy Kansas
The 2019 version has one substantive change from the 2017 version. In the “poison pill” provision in Section 13, the 2019 version allows KDHE to end KanCare Expansion if the federal government reduces the federal contribution rate from 90 percent (“may”) while the 2017 version required KDHE to end KanCare Expansion if the federal government reduced the rate (“shall”).
I’m pleased the governor is providing leadership on this important issue and that she has presented a bill to expand KanCare (Medicaid). I hope you will contact your legislators to urge them to support this important bill.
The Governor’s Cabinet
Now that Governor Laura Kelly has been inaugurated, the Executive Branch transition shifts to getting the Governor’s Cabinet solidified. The Governor has recruited some of the best and brightest to lead us out of the dark days of the Brownback administration. And, it will take all of their skills and expertise to reconstitute our state agencies into the functioning government agencies they are meant to be.
The Governor’s Secretaries will face Confirmation hearings and if successfully recommended, then are subject to the full Senate’s approval. These hearings will take place in Senate Committees during the 2019 Session. The following individuals have been named to lead state agencies:
Major General Lee Tafanelli
Duane Goossen (interim)
Laura Howard (interim)
Aging and Disability Services
Laura Howard (interim)
Children and Families
Roger Werholtz (interim)
Dr. Lee Norman (interim)
Health and Environment
Colonel Mark Bruce
Kansas Highway Patrol
Former Rep. Delia Garcia
Wildlife, Parks and Tourism
In addition, Kelly is retaining the services of Larry Campbell, former Representative from Olathe as Budget Director, and Lee Allen as Chief Information Technology Officer. She has also named Stephen Durrell as the Interim Director of the Kansas Lottery.
Good public policy doesn't happen in a vacuum; indeed, it takes many voices to find solutions that will serve the needs of the citizens of Kansas and that is why at all levels of government, we have many different people engaged in public policy decisions (see side bar below). Each one of these layers of government address different problems and have different limitations of their jurisdiction (more on this later).
There is pretty strong consensus about what public policy should "do" for us as citizens. First, public policy should solve a problem, effectively and efficiently. It's not prudent to spend limited resources (time, money, political capital, etc.) on crafting a policy for which no problem exists. Second, public policy shouldn't produce undesirable or unjust outcomes (for the few or the many). Often times, the unintended consequences of a policy aren't truly understood until the policy is enacted. But, our intent should always be to craft policy in a way that teases out these threats before the policy is put into law or goes into effect. Third, public policy should support democratic institutions and processes. This isn't to say that institutions and processes shouldn't be updated or changed, only that our intent should be to strengthen our democracy with our policies, not weaken or dismantle it. And finally, public policy should encourage active and empathic citizenship. In other words, our policies shouldn't make it harder than it needs to be for people to understand the governing systems and rules that shape their participation in shaping those systems and rules.
All of this is simply an attempt to frame how we can understand the policies put forth by our elected leaders. If we have a ready framework, we can systematically and easily decide whether or not a policy being promoted is actually "good" public policy.
Policy decisions are driven by a lot of things, not the least of which are our own beliefs and self-interests. Consequently, underlying all public policy are belief structures that have been created by human beings. One way to understand these structures is to examine the political platforms of our two major political parties. If you haven't reviewed these platforms, it's time you did. They speak volumes about what is important to those who choose to put a "D" or an "R" behind their names.
Kansas Democratic Party Platform
Kansas Republican Party Platform
This is my last newsletter as your State Representative and it has been an honor to serve you in District 28! I have learned so much about our state and our community by being your public servant; I can’t thank you enough for the honor.
If you haven't heard the news yet, Senator Barbara Bollier has taken the step to switch parties and will now caucus with the Democratic Party. Senator Bollier has been a good friend and mentor to me for the past two years and I applaud her courage. I have wrestled with doing the same thing for some time and tomorrow I plan to go to the election office and change my party affiliation, too. I just can't stomach trying to "fit in" any more to a party that grieves me so each and every day. And, it wouldn’t matter one bit how many times I voted with them (90%) or how much I have donated to other Republican candidates (plenty), I still would not be welcome in the party.
I’ve spent the last several weeks finishing up my fall school visits, speaking at cub scout pack meetings, attending local events and taking care of constituent calls (yes, I’m still doing my job as your representative). But, I also managed to take some time off for a long-overdue vacation (the only up-side to losing an election).
Nothing has given me more pleasure over the past two years than to walk into one of our schools for a visit. The energy is palpable, the wonder and excitement are infectious, and the people are truly inspiring. Lakewood Middle School, the home of students from 40 nations, exudes all these characteristics and more. So, spending one more afternoon with Principal Heinauer and Assistant Principal Graber was just delightful. In addition to showing off their new security system, we watched students making films about solving math problems, and listened to a Socratic discussion about the book, “Where the Red Fern Grows.” An amazing student-led discussion!
The school year is well underway and there’s no better time to talk about some of what’s going on in our school district. I’ve spent the past month attending several events that highlight many of the amazing things that are happening in the Blue Valley School District to support our kids.
Probably the biggest and most important initiative that the Blue Valley School District has rolled out in the past year is the one having to do with mental health and well-being. When the Blue Valley School Board and district leaders decided to turn their attention to “educating the whole child” by focusing on social and emotional learning (in addition to academics) they acknowledged that today’s student is living in a very different environment. This environment is more complex than ever before and while academics still need to be at the fore-front of a student’s learning, students cannot reach their full potential without specific social and emotional skills: Self-awareness, self-management, decision-making, relationship skills, and social awareness (i.e. empathy of others). As a communication scholar myself, I am thrilled with the direction the district has taken! These core communication competencies are at the root of our daily success, whether it’s at work or play or home.
Joy has blogged extensively about her experience and activities during the legislative session.