State representative tells of frustration during recent session

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Opinion column


by Murrel Bland

There is an old saying that goes something like this:

“Those who like legislation and sausage would do well not to see either of them being made.”

That certainly proved true during the recent session of the Kansas Legislature. And that process proved very disappointing to State Rep. Kathy Wolfe Moore (D-36th Dist.) of western Wyandotte County. She explained her severe frustration at a meeting of the Legislative Committee Friday, May 10, at the Chamber of Commerce office.

Rep. Moore was particularly upset that the proposed Medicaid expansion bill failed to pass. It was even more disgusting to Rep. Moore to see the way that conservative Republican leadership twisted arms to kill the measure.

Rep. Moore knows firsthand how important expanded Medicaid could be to the 150,000 Kansans who do not have any health insurance coverage. She works for the University of Kansas Health System.

At one time, there were 70 members of the Kansas House and 24 members of the Kansas Senate who favored the expanded Medicaid. This was a coalition of moderate Republicans and Democrats.

But in final days of the legislative session, Rep. Moore said she saw the conservative leadership pick off Medicaid proponents, even though polls and Kansas hospitals overwhelmingly favored the expansion. The bill, which would have been funded 90 percent by the federal government, would have been particularly helpful for uninsured residents of Wyandotte County.

Rep. Moore said that State Sen. Jim Denning (R- Eighth Dist.) of Overland Park has said he will sponsor a bill next year that will be a version of such an expansion, suggesting that there needs to be a “work provision” in the law. She said that sounds good — that a person needs to work to receive the benefits. However, she said that in other states enforcing that work provision proved too costly.

Another discouraging aspect of this legislative session was that it ended at 3:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning.

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

Opinion column: Sort of a dinosaur

Window on the West

Opinion column

by Mary Rupert

I’m sort of a dinosaur when it comes to the modern-day sensational reporting around us.

I spend far more time on issues stories than I do on stories about the personal foibles of our local politicians or whatever the latest bad thing is that happened in our community.

I have always thought that issues facing our community, or our state and the nation, are more important than the private lives of people who are in public life. I guess that makes me a dinosaur compared to some of my colleagues.

I see from our readership numbers on Facebook, though, that these stories I spend a lot of time on are not necessarily the stories that people click on and read. Readers often tend to click on crime stories or other bad news.

Perhaps we are in an era where readers have an appetite only for stories about “the next bad thing.” If so, that’s a pity.

I don’t blame the readers. In fact, if I went to work one day and received an award, and on the way home, I had car trouble, which would I mention first when I got in the door? It might be the car trouble, as I could be very upset about it.

That said, there are still as many “good” stories on our website, more than the “bad” stories. It’s people’s perceptions, sometimes, that there is more bad news than good news.

And I continue to spend more time on the neutral or good stories, reading through documents and trying to present information to the public, than I do on the “bad” stories.

As a student journalist back in the 1970s, I was always more interested in issue stories, such as some law that would affect students, or the latest proposal the student government was considering, than covering all the bad things people are doing to each other.

That’s how it should be. News that is affecting the most people is more important in the long run than news affecting individuals.

I go back to a time when we never really did very many stories about people’s private lives. I don’t much like the way coverage seems to be just centered around this now.

I also admired Patty Dysart’s Armourdale political forums, where she told candidates to tell what they were going to do if they get elected, not to criticize the person they’re running against. That was good advice. A shouting match or a bunch of accusations never accomplishes anything. It doesn’t provide the essential information voters need to know about where the candidates stand on the issues. Stuff about the candidates’ personal lives is just a distraction, often, from the real issues of the campaign.

Were you more worried about Hillary’s emails or about Donald’s tax returns than about their positions on the issues in the last presidential election? Then maybe you weren’t voting according to how their stands on the issues will affect your own life.

“Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits,” Mark Twain once wrote. That probably applies today to Kansas City, Kansas, where a lot of people apparently are wanting to change other people’s habits. Maybe they should work on themselves first.

It’s possible that some things we see in this election season will be indications of someone trying to get someone else back for something that happened in the past. They would do well to remember John Milton’s comment, “He that studieth revenge keepeth his own wounds green, which otherwise would heal and do well.”

Typically, in the election season some people will try to persuade journalists to do hatchet jobs on various opponents. Some of the reporters see the motivation in back of this and try to avoid being drawn into the middle of these manufactured stories. In an evaluation of the issues, personal attacks have no place. In logic class, they were called “ad hominem” fallacies.

It’s true, at this tiny publication I really do not have the time to spend on all these manufactured crises aimed at getting someone elected. It’s also true that I really don’t want to do them.

Sometimes readers would like to tell us that they think my job is to go out and report as much negative stuff as I can find about people, particularly about elected officials. I don’t think that’s my job. Although occasionally I do these sorts of stories, it’s not my idea of what I should do. I think it’s mostly a waste of time to get into the middle of these unimportant political disputes and personal accusations.

It’s my job to tell people about the things that really matter to the most people.

If that makes me a dinosaur, so be it.

To reach Mary Rupert, editor, email maryr@wyandottedaily.com.

Legislative update from Rep. Pam Curtis, D-32nd Dist.

Rep. Pam Curtis

by Rep. Pam Curtis

This past week the Legislature held conference committees to work out differences in bill versions between the House and Senate.

A conference committee is made up of three members from each chamber, typically the chairperson, vice chairperson, and ranking minority member of the standing committee, or other committee, that originally considered the bill in that chamber.

HB 2279, that Representative Ponka-We Victors and I introduced, was included in the Conference Committee Report “CCR” for SB 18 and passed unanimously. The measure will help arm victims of domestic violence with the information they need at the time of arrest to make safe decisions. We appreciate everyone’s help in getting this measure passed.

It was a real pleasure to spend time on Wednesday with students from Schlagle High School and staff from El Centro who were at the Capitol to participate in Hispanic Day on the Hill and visit with lawmakers. I am looking forward to participating in the Join My Table Community Potluck event with students at Schlagle High School on April 29. It will be a great opportunity to discuss their ideas and suggestions on various issues and learn about the changes they want to see in our community.

Many thanks to everyone that attended the Legislative Coffee on March 30 at the Kansas City, Kansas, Public Library. It was great to have this opportunity to discuss our work in Topeka. I also want to thank the KCK Public Library, Bonner Springs Public Library, League of Women Voters of Johnson County and the NAACP for sponsoring the coffee.

The Legislature adjourned on Friday, April 5, for first adjournment and will be on break until May 1 when we return for the veto session.

It is a special honor to serve as your state representative. I value and appreciate your input on issues facing state government. Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions. My office address at the Statehouse is: Room 452-S, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612. You can reach me at 785-296-7430 or call the legislative hotline at 1-800-432-3924 to leave a message for me. You can also email me at: pam.curtis@house.ks.gov.

School funding debate continues


It was an intense week for the House-Senate K-12 Budget Conference Committee. The Republican-led Senate, the House and Senate Democratic caucuses, and Governor Laura Kelly, for the most part, were united on their approach to education.

With the intent of meeting the Kansas Supreme Court’s “adequacy” funding requirement in the Gannon case, they agreed to $90 million a year for the next five years.

However, the House Republican caucus staunchly disagreed with the bill. In a departure from previous decorum, the House Democratic representative was excluded from the majority of the House discussions. After three long days of contentious meetings, the Republican caucus conceded. In addition to funding increases, the plan also requires districts to produce academic performance reports on each of its schools.

After a furor of objection from Republican leadership on the floor, the House voted to concur. The CCR (conference committee report) on Senate Bill 16 passed 76 to 47. Shortly after, the Senate passed the CCR with 31 votes to 8. It now heads to the governor’s desk.

Gov. Kelly, lawmakers, and the state Board of Education are hopeful the plan will meet the Supreme Court’s standards; ending the cycle of litigation over education funding, and meeting the needs of Kansas students, teachers, and schools. The deadline is April 15.

Inaction on Medicaid expansion in the Senate

Despite the bipartisan measure to pass Medicaid Expansion in the House, the Senate has refused to address Medicaid Expansion. The bill is currently sitting idle on the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee unless there is a procedural vote to move the bill onto the Senate calendar.

In a Tuesday morning press conference, Gov. Kelly again urged the Senate to vote this week on the bill. She iterated that the bill has garnered bipartisan support and previously passed the Legislature in 2017- but was vetoed by then Gov. Brownback. Shortly after her press conference, Senate President Susan Wagle responded, doubling down on her refusal to allow the bill to make it to the floor.

Senate confirms first round of governor’s secretaries


On Monday, the Senate confirmed Laura Howard as secretary of the Kansas Department of Children and Families and secretary of the Kansas Department of Aging and Disability Services. They also confirmed in a 23-14 vote, David Toland as secretary of the Kansas Department of Commerce. This was the first, and arguably most partisan, round of confirmations so far.

Potential SB 22 veto override stalled


As soon as Gov. Kelly vetoed Senate Bill 22, Senate President Susan Wagle declared that she would move to override her veto. An override attempt of her veto would require two-thirds of the House (84 votes), and Senate (27 votes) to be successful. It was widely rumored an override would be attempted this week, however, for now, this effort seems to have fallen short. In a meeting with Republican college kids on Wednesday, Senator Wagle conceded the Senate does not have the votes to override.

This week on the floor

This week, the House-Senate Conference Committees worked a number of bills. To read the full list visit www.kslegislature.org/li/b2019_20/committees/conference/. Note that a few bills were bundled together. Here are a few highlights:

HB 2274: Requiring notification to patients that the effects of a medication abortion may be reversible.
HB 2167: Senate Substitute for HB 2167 by Committee on Agriculture and Natural Resources – Establishing a commercial industrial hemp program.
SB 18: Providing a process for the attorney general to enter into diversion agreements; authorizing certain entities to access a criminal defendant’s presentence investigation report; amending the crime of counterfeiting currency.
SB 78 (bundled with SB 150, HB 2279): Regulating assignment of rights or benefits to a residential contractor under a property and casualty insurance policy insuring residential real estate; amending the definition of consumer transaction; and in the Kansas consumer protection act; Housing protections for victims of domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, or stalking; Domestic violence calls; Law enforcement agency notification policies.
HB 2031: Amending the definition of “service-connected” in the Kansas police and firemen’s retirement system.
HB 2007: Senate Substitute for HB 2007 by Committee on Transportation – Authorizing certain toll projects for new projects or expanded capacity with approval from local units of government, the KTA and the state finance council; changing the requirement to fully fund toll projects solely through toll revenue.
HB 2087: Allowing certain light screening material on motor vehicle windows.
HB 2225: Senate Substitute for HB 2225 by Committee on Transportation – Providing for an increase in permit fees for oversize or overweight vehicles and required registration for escort vehicle service operators.
HB 2209 (bundled with SB 32, HB 2058, HB 2056, HB 2055, HB 2054): Authorizing the state board of regents to purchase cybersecurity insurance.; Exempting certain non-insurance healthcare benefits from the commissioner’s jurisdiction.; Updating definitions relating to small employer health plans and association health plans.; Exempting health plans issued to associations of small employers from certain statutory provisions governing small employer health plans.; Making certain self-funded association health plans subject to the jurisdiction of the commissioner.; Providing for fully-insured association health plans.
HB 2084: AN ACT concerning the Kansas 911 act; relating to emergency services; 911 fees, collection and distribution; amending K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 12-5363, 12-5364, 12-5365, 12-5366, 12-5367, 12-5368, 12-5369, 12-5370, 12-5371, 12-5372, 12-5373, 12-5374, 12-5375, 12-5376, 12-5377, 12-5378, 12-5380 and 19-101a and repealing the existing sections; also repealing K.S.A. 2018 Supp. 12-5327, 12-5338 and 12-5361.
HB 2103: Amending the revised Kansas code for care of children to provide requirements for placement of a child in a qualified residential treatment program.
HB 2144: Requiring community colleges to publish certain taxpayer and student transparency data.
SB 16: House Substitute for SB 16 by Committee on K-12 Education Budget – Making amendments to the Kansas school equity and enhancement act and other statutes related to education.
SB 130: Substitute for Senate Bill No. 130 by Committee on Ethics, Elections and Local Government-Permitting persons voting an advance ballot to correct a signature deficiency prior to the final canvass.
HB 2178: AN ACT concerning utilities; relating to the Kansas underground utility damage prevention act; definitions; location of facilities and duty to mark, exceptions; amending K.S.A. 66-1802, 66-1805 and 66-1806 and repealing the existing sections.

Resources
My Legislative Facebook page, https://www.facebook.com/PamCurtisKCK.
My Twitter account, https://twitter.com/pcurtiskck
My website, https://www.curtisforkck.com/
Kansas Legislature website, http://kslegislature.org/