Ramp closure delayed by rain

A scheduled ramp closure today from northbound I-35 to the northbound I-635 ramp in Johnson County will not take place because of the rain, according to the Kansas Department of Transportation.

The ramp closure has been rescheduled between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m. Friday, April 25. The ramp was also closed Wednesday for attenuator replacement work.

Northbound I-35 drivers are asked to use the 18th Street Expressway interchange to exit and then may head southbound on I-35 to access the northbound I-635 ramp, according to KDOT.

Motorists are asked to slow down in the work area.


State says cities can’t regulate firearms; open carry scheduled to go into effect this summer

by Mary Rupert

One hundred fifty years of cities regulating firearms was taken away this week.

With a new law signed by Gov. Sam Brownback, persons will be able to openly carry firearms despite local city ordinances, beginning July 1, 2014.

“Get ready, because people are going to be able to walk around here with guns, openly,” said Mike Taylor, UG lobbyist.

The Unified Government opposed several parts of the bill, including the open carry of guns on city streets, Taylor said.

“I think that’s a gross disrespect of local control,” Taylor said. “Not all communities are the same. If you’re a ranching, farming county out in western Kansas, it’s one thing, but if you’re Wichita or Topeka or KCK, it’s a whole different kind of environment, and to have people walking up and down the streets with guns and swords strapped on their hips, it’s crazy.”

No permit at all will be required for open carry of firearms. Concealed carry requires a license, training and a background check. There are still laws in effect against felons carrying guns.

People who have no idea of how to use a gun could get one, strap it on and carry it around loaded, he said. Taylor tried to get an amendment for training, but that was not successful.

Unless a person is threatening someone with a gun, or is a known felon or a known gang member, the police will not be able to stop anyone with a gun, he added.

The state currently has made an issue of exempting itself from federal government mandates such as the Affordable Care Act or environmental regulations, but at the same time it is getting inside the local government workplace and mandating what it can or can’t tell its employees, he said.

“It’s hypocritical, and they don’t see it,” he said.

Besides guns, this new law also expands the state’s prohibition on local laws concerning other weapons, including knives.

The new law even prohibits local governments from implementing, administering or operating a firearms buyback program.

Additionally, the law says that local governments cannot require disclosure by municipal employees who possess concealed carry of handgun licenses.

Taylor said it may have to be researched to see if this provision may take away the UG’s right as an employer to regulate employees carrying guns during their lunch hours or breaks.  Currently, the UG policy says employees may have a gun in their car in the parking lot, but they can’t bring it inside the public building or workplace with them.

Persons will not be able to bring a firearm into a public building that is posted in accordance with rules set up by the attorney general.

The new state law also prohibits cities and counties from regulating the sale of firearms by persons who have federal firearms licenses.

The Libertarian Party of Kansas today sent out a news release thanking the governor and Legislature for the new open carry law. Libertarians had challenged the “patchwork of laws” of several local ordinances in cities in Kansas during the past few years.

“Now with the passage of HB2578 all ambiguities for law abiding citizens and law enforcement are gone,” the Libertarian news release stated.

To read the HB 2578 bill summary or the law, visit http://www.kslegislature.org/li/b2013_14/measures/hb2578/

Brownback signs controversial health care compact bill

Goal is to give member states control over Medicare and Medicaid

by Dave Ranney, KHI News Service
Topeka — Gov. Sam Brownback has signed into law a bill that might make it possible for Kansas to join a compact of states that want the power to run Medicare and Medicaid within their borders.
The new law also creates the possibility that the compact states could circumvent several key provisions in the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare.
“The Health Care Compact will allow states to restore and protect Medicare for generations to come,” Brownback said in a prepared statement today announcing that he had signed the measure. The actual signing was Tuesday.
The compact couldn’t come into being without approval by Congress, which is considered unlikely as long as Democrats control at least one of its chambers. Democrats currently control the Senate, and Republicans are pushing hard in this year’s elections to regain the majority. The GOP already controls the U.S. House.
Kansas Insurance Commissioner Sandy Praeger and AARP Kansas had earlier urged the governor not to sign House Bill 2553, calling the initiative frivolous and misguided.
‘Really twisting things’
In a statement released today, the governor accused Obamacare of “cutting $700 billion out of Medicare,” a claim being used by Republicans across the nation as they continue to fight the law and campaign for election. Politifact, a fact-checking project of the Tampa Bay Times, has labeled the claim a half-truth.
According to Politifact, the law doesn’t actually cut Medicare spending but is expected to reduce future growth in the program’s costs mostly by reducing Medicare Advantage, “a small subset of Medicare plans that are run by private insurers.”
“The governor is really twisting things,” said Dave Wilson, a past volunteer president of AARP Kansas.
Wilson also said he doubted Brownback’s assurances that he would oppose any reduction in Medicare benefits, if the compact were enacted and state officials gained control over Medicare, which currently is administered solely by the federal government.
“That’s what he says and that’s what legislators who support this say,” Wilson said. “But the reality is they can’t do it now, but with this bill they could do it and that could have a tremendous impact on seniors, on the disabled and on veterans.”
Federal offiicals run the Medicare program, which provides health coverage for seniors. But Medicaid, which serves poor children, the frail elderly and the disabled, is a shared state-federal program with the federal government paying the majority of its cost (about 60 percent) and imposing various basic requirements on the states.
But Medicaid also gives states significant latitude in the ways they manage the program, including the determination of eligibility standards. For example, Kansas operates its KanCare program with a waiver exempting it from many of the standard Medicaid rules. And Kansas also is allowed to keep thousands of people out of Medicaid who would qualify for the program in other states.
One of nine
Kansas is one of nine states that have enacted laws expressing the desire to join the so-called “health care compact.” The others are Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.
“All nine states that are now in this compact are states that have turned their backs on Medicaid expansion,” Praeger said. “On the one hand you’re saying you want to bring those federal (Medicare) dollars back to Kansas, but on the other hand you’re saying we’re not going to take those (Medicaid) federal dollars.”
It’s unclear whether Kansas seniors will support the governor’s decision to sign the bill, she said.
“If it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” Praeger said. “And the Medicare program, while it needs to rein in costs, is a reliable source of health care services for our senior population, and I would not want to be putting those folks at risk.”
Americans for Prosperity, a political action group tied to the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, has spent millions of dollars fighting Obamacare.
“Health care decisions should be made by Kansas officials, not the federal government,” said Jeff Glendening, state director of Americans for Prosperity-Kansas. “With Congressional approval, the Health Care Compact will transfer control of federal health care funding from Washington, D.C., to Kansas. It supports the state’s ability to control its own health care system.”
Glendening said the compact wouldn’t require the states to take over Medicare or Medicaid but would allow them the option.
“Under the compact, we can set standards and reimbursement rates rather than handing those important decisions over to the federal government,” he said.
‘Path out of Obamacare’
The Libertarian Party of Kansas also endorsed the new law.
“We believe in government at its most local level,” said Al Terwelp, chairman of the state party. “So we support the compact idea in general, having the state of Kansas be in as much control over health care issues as possible.
In the Legislature, the bill’s primary sponsors were Rep. Brett Hildabrand and Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook, both Republicans from Shawnee and opponents of Obamacare.
“By signing the health care compact, the governor has agreed Kansas needs to protect Medicare for seniors, while also providing a path for Kansas citizens and businesses out of Obamacare, giving Kansans more economic stability, freedom and choices for their health care needs,” Pilcher-Cook wrote in an email to KHI News Service.
House Minority Leader Paul Davis, a Lawrence Democrat who is running for governor, said Brownback should have killed the bill.
“Gov. Brownback has put his own politics ahead of Kansans yet again. I agree with Kansas seniors and our state insurance commissioner: the right decision was to veto this irresponsible health compact. We should not threaten the care of hundreds of thousands of seniors. In his effort to score political points, Gov. Brownback ignored these calls for common-sense leadership. That’s not the type of leadership Kansans – especially our seniors – deserve.”

The KHI News Service is an editorially independent initiative of the Kansas Health Institute. It is supported in part by a variety of underwriters. The News Service is committed to timely, objective and in-depth coverage of health issues and the policy-making environment. More about the News Service is at khi.org/newsservice or contact 785-233-5443.