The Kansas Legislature finish up their turnaround break and have resumed their work in the capitol. It's a good thing, since they haven't done a whole lot in the first 36 days of the session. So far, they still haven't passed a school funding bill or passed Medicaid Expansion.
With the mid-April deadline set by the Supreme Court looming, the Kansas legislature has yet to complete its job concerned with school funding. Attorney General, Derek Schmidt has indicated that he needs a decision on school funding by March 15th so he would have time to prepare court briefs. Some lawmakers and community leaders are showing frustration, but today is March 13 and so far - no votes! Some of the litigants in the court case have expressed concern about the level of spending proposed and this has prompted Senator Wagle to threaten to take the case to the U.S. Supreme Court. And, to top it all off we now have a good-ole voucher bill to distract us from getting the real work of funding public education done. Man, it just shouldn't be this hard to prioritize (and pay for) what we value in Kansas.
Today, the House Appropriations Committee debated the Medicaid Expansion bill, but the bill failed to pass out of committee when the committee chair, Rep Waymaster (R) voted NO to break the 11 to 11 tie. So, the bill won't get a debate on the House floor unless something creative happens. This is in spite of clear evidence that Medicaid expansion could help us save rural community hospitals.
Johnson County Citizen’s Academy
What Happens Locally Matters, By Janet Milkovich
It was during the months following the last presidential election, a time when I felt powerless to stop the chaos happening in the nation’s capital, that I attended a League of Women Voters event at the Blue Valley Library. Representative Joy Koesten was on a panel with other representatives and senators and fielding questions about gun control and education funding, among others. Some panelists waffled, skillfully avoiding taking a clear position but not Joy! I was so impressed with the clarity of her answers and with her knowledge of what was happening at the state level that I waited in line after the forum to speak with her. My takeaway? What happens locally matters. Get involved on a city, county and state level where people like me can make a difference.
Listening to her, hearing truth in her confidently spoken words, I felt my panic subside and I realized that I could be an influencer rather than a helpless by-stander.
I’ve lived in Overland Park twice and have participated in city council meetings numerous times but I knew little about the county government structure or the role of the county commissioners. I was unaware that Johnson County Government provides 350 services and programs including health and human services, mental health services, public works, criminal justice and correction programs. I wanted to know more!
Joy sent me information about the Johnson County Citizens Academy and suggested that I apply. In their introductory materials was a quote by Margaret Mead. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.”
I applied and was thrilled to be selected from a field of 160 applicants for a class of 40 citizens. I’m now halfway through the ten-week program and have gleaned a better understanding of the Johnson County Government Structure. Each week we hear from three county departments and do an on-site tour of one. Sitting in the Emergency Operations Center surrounded by screens with real time action in the county was akin to being in a Tom Cruise movie. A tour of the elections warehouse helped me see the giant scope of operations and the importance of election volunteers. My favorite field trip so far is the Emergency Management & Communications Center where trained staff and police officers respond to 911 calls.
Getting back to Joy’s advice. Because of my participation in the JOCO Citizens Academy, I am more familiar with how the county and city governments function and how citizens can participate through service on boards, commissions and committees. I need not by a helpless bystander. There are many ways to get involved, to use my life experiences and skill set to be a good citizen and an influencer in my own community.
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.
Joy has blogged extensively about her experience and activities during the legislative session.