Capitol Update: Putting good policy ahead of politics with no vote on ‘Health Care Compact’

In an effort to keep our readers better informed about the state government actions that impact our communities, we will again be featuring regular update columns during the 2014 session from northeast Johnson County’s elected officials: Rep. Barbara Bollier, Rep. Stephanie Clayton, Rep. Emily Perry, Rep. Melissa Rooker and Sen. Kay Wolf. Rep. Rooker submits this week’s update:

Rep. Melissa Rooker
Rep. Melissa Rooker

The end of the 2014 legislative session is fast approaching, with regular committee work wrapped up for the year this past Friday. This week, we will work today, tomorrow and Wednesday on the floor of the House debating bills and working to conclude our business for the year. Next week will be devoted to conference committees which will meet to work out the differences between House and Senate bills and provide final bills for straight up-or-down “motion to concur” votes that do not allow for amendments from the floor. Anything that passes that process will end up on the governor’s desk for his signature.

While it is our hope to quickly and appropriately resolve the equity issues related to the Gannon school finance case, the first attempt filed in the House by the Appropriations committee, HB 2773, represents a breathtaking overreach by the chair of that committee and the House Education committee chair. The two of them colluded to pack the bill with school policy reforms that had failed to pass out of the House Education committee these past two years. An expansion of charter schools complete with an independent governing board not answerable to the State Board of Education, as well as the “scholarship” bill that we defeated on the floor of the House last year are but two examples. The Speaker of the House referred this bill to the Committee on Calendar and Printing, effectively killing it, and ordered an appropriations bill that does not include charters or vouchers. There is still a long list of education policy changes that will be included, therefore the constitutionality of changing policy via an appropriations bill is the key question I will be asking.

This morning, the House will be taking final action on HB 2553, the Health Care Compact. I will be voting no on this bill, and would like to ensure that you understand my reasoning. Many argue that this bill will never become law because it takes an act of Congress to approve, yet if the November election were to shift the balance of power in Congress the compact could become a reality. HB 2553 is billed as an antidote to Affordable Care Act, and we are consistently threatened with being linked to Obama during the election if we vote no on this bill. The danger inherent in the language of the compact is where it mentions Medicare dollars being administered by the state rather than the federal government. We discussed this bill last week at length and the proponents admitted that there is no plan in place to deal with Medicare administration should the need arise. I have no desire to jeopardize the healthcare and well being of our seniors to make a political statement. My vote on HB 2553 represents a commitment to putting good public policy ahead of my own campaign needs. I leave it to you, the voters of the 25th District, to decide if that is the type of representation you want, or if you prefer someone who puts politics first.

I appreciate the opportunity to represent you, and welcome you input. Please feel free to contact me with any questions, comments or concerns at Melissa.rooker@house.ks.gov