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.