Opinion column: Legislative preview includes focus on health care

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by Murrel Bland

The Kansas Legislature went back into session Monday, Jan. 13. A major issue before lawmakers will be a bill that would expand Medicaid coverage to an estimated 100,000 Kansans who couldn’t otherwise afford insurance.

This was one of the issues which the Legislative Committee discussed Friday morning, Jan. 10, at the Kansas City, Kansas, Area Chamber of Commerce office.

Gov. Laura Kelly, a Democrat, and Sen. Jim Denning, a Republican, announced Thursday, Jan. 9, in Topeka that, after extensive meetings, the two had reached a compromise on proposed Medicaid legislation. Sen. Denning, the Senate Majority Leader from Overland Park, said he has 22 votes (11 Republicans and 11 Democrats) out of the 40 necessary to pass the issue. It has already passed the Kansas House.

Ultra-conservative legislators, including Susan Wagle, the Republican president of the Senate, opposes the Medicaid issue. She said it would be expanding a broken system; she said she favors health care reform, not socialized medicine. She is hoping to succeed U.S. Sen. Pat Roberts this summer in the Kansas primary election.

The chamber supports health insurance for low-income Kansans; this could leverage federal dollars, reduce the burden on local government and help stabilize the finances of local hospitals. The Unified Government estimates that more than 10,000 Wyandotte County residents could benefit from this Medicaid service. The federal government would bear 90 percent of this cost. State funding would be capped at $35 million annually.

Legislation is expected on sports wagering. Interested parties would include state-owned casinos and the Kansas Lottery. The chamber supports gaming to include sports wagering.

The chamber supports a federal resolution to immigration reform that would “compassionately address the situations of individuals currently in this country.” The chamber opposes increasing penalties or threatening the business licenses of employers who have unintentionally hired unauthorized workers.

The chamber supports the collection of sales and use taxes on e-commerce; such a system should be origin-based.

On a local level, the chamber supports streamlining the Unified Government’s permitting process and consistent and predictable enforcement of zoning regulations, planning and development codes. Business West also adopted the same position.

The chamber will sponsor its monthly luncheon meeting of the Congressional Forum at 11:30 a.m. Friday, Jan. 17, at Children’s Mercy Park. David Toland, the Kansas secretary of commerce, will be the featured speaker.

Murrel Bland is the former editor of The Wyandotte West and The Piper Press. He is executive director of Business West.

Boat and Sport Show offers escape from cold winter day

Dreaming of a fishing trip? The Boat, Sport and Travel Show is the place to go. (Photo by William Crum)

by William Crum

From Jan. 9 to 12, the annual Kansas City Boat, Sport and Travel Show is happening at Bartle Hall in Kansas City, Missouri, with over 130 vendors from all over.

There are representatives from Canada, Illinois, Kansas and Missouri at the show.

Illinois had brochures not just on fishing and hunting, but also on the wines the state has to offer, for wine enthusiasts.

Kansas was well represented, with brochures on virtually everything that goes on in the state.

Missouri also had a lot of brochures, and had very knowledgeable representation.

For those who love to fish, who doesn’t think of a Canadian fishing trip? I am one of those dreaming of a fishing trip on a cold winter day.

As I went to the Sports Show, fond memories of my childhood occurred. This is where I met Harold Ensley, the Sportsman’s Friend. Ensley passed away 14 years ago.

On a cold winter day, this is the place to go. Spend some time, there is a lot to see and learn about. They even have fishing seminars.

For the $12 admission price, you can hardly beat it. It’s an event you and your family must do on a cold winter day.

For more information, go to the website, https://www.kansascitysportshow.com/.

The Boat and Sport Show runs through Jan. 12 at Bartle Hall, Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by William Crum)
Products are on display at the Boat and Sport Show, along with information about fishing and outdoors places to visit in other states. (Photo by William Crum)
At the Boat and Sport Show at Bartle Hall, Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by William Crum)
At the Boat and Sport Show at Bartle Hall, Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by William Crum)

Letter to the editor

(Editor’s note: Rose Mulvany-Henry, newly elected member of the Board of Public Utilities, will take office on Wednesday, Jan. 8. The following is an open letter to Mulvany-Henry from her general election opponent, State Sen. David Haley, who lost the general election for the BPU at-large, position 3, seat by 37 votes.)

Dear editor,

With the nail-biting finish of November’s citywide general election decidedly in 2019’s rearview mirror (which asserted Rose Mulvany-Henry for BPU’s campaign bested David Haley for BPU’s campaign by a mere 37 votes; just ¼ of one percent of the 14,356 votes cast that were counted), many of us greet your new, never-before-elected service at BPU in 2020 with genuine optimism.

After all, six of us, including the one-term incumbent who was president of the Board of Public Utilities, vied in the at-large BPU August primary which resulted in my 1st place, your 2nd place and his 3rd place finishes. As you and I alone moved forward towards the general, an oft articulated awareness of public concerns for BPU’s policies and practices was regularly cited.

Your campaign, endorsed by a few of our fledgling primary opponents and generously funded by some of the same special interests that lost that incumbent in the primary, picked up major steam immediately. Bolstered too by public yard sign displays alongside a respected established candidate for another countywide office, the Mulvany-Henry campaign just ran a stellar race.

The muted Haley for BPU campaign had one mission alone; to provide one voice (ostensibly, my own) on the six-member board that’d put public concerns about BPU policies and practices back before the Board of Public Utilities. As a decades-long elected officeholder, I ran only on a well-established integrity for being ever accessible and of doing what I said I will once elected.

Constantly questioned, let me reiterate. Haley for BPU raised and spent less than $1,000. in both the primary and the general election. Though outspent 10-1 by your campaign, only low voter turnout, ironically 33 percent lower from precincts really needing a responsive voice before BPU’s syndicate, led to that 37-vote deficit and won the crucial race for you this time … instead.

Our campaigns expressed approaches to better, more transparent governance of the utility but differed. Mine, which I will continue to pursue in Topeka as a state senator, simply advocates comparing concerns and policies with opinions on other Kansas utilities issued by the Kansas Corporation Commission (kcc.ks.gov.) while yours purports to rely on internal drivers to change.

As you join the board, I for one take heart in believing you do hold the requisite skills, intellect and awareness to leverage influence on an established and entrenched machine; tone deaf to pleas for parity by the public due to senility, obliviousness and even corruption. Where so many others have understood, pledged, won and failed us, you, Rose Mulvany-Henry, can succeed.
Godspeed.

David Haley
35+ year ratepayer / consumer of the Kansas City, Kansas – Board of Public Utilities