NEJC Capitol Update: ‘We are in a serious, if not crisis, situation’

To keep our readers better informed about the state government actions that impact our communities, we will be featuring regular update columns each Monday from northeast Johnson County’s elected officials: Rep. Barbara Bollier, Rep. Stephanie Clayton, Rep. Jarrod Ousley, Rep. Melissa Rooker and Sen. Kay Wolf. Rep. Bollier submits this week’s update:

Barbara Bollier
Barbara Bollier

This past week was one of my busiest ever in the legislature. At the beginning of the week the House voted on its rules for the next two years and multiple amendments were offered. I spoke in favor of limiting our hours to 8 AM- Midnight unless a special vote is taken. Studies show that without adequate sleep our brains are impaired and sleep deprivation can have a serious impact on other health issues including heart rhythm disturbances and diabetes. The House passed that amendment, along with a change to limit the number of bills that can be “bundled” in a conference committee report to two. These are much-needed changes to our rules and I was pleased to be supportive. (See https://johncelock.com/kansas-sleep-rule)

On Friday in Kansas City I held a press conference at the Jackson County Prosecutor’s office in Kansas City, Mo., with Missouri State Rep. Stacey Newman to announce our joint introduction of bills into our respective states for gun violence restraining orders. The Kansas bill would allow a hearing before a judge to determine if a person threatening gun violence against another or him/herself should have those guns temporarily removed by law enforcement. See shawneemissionpost.com’s coverage here.

Budget Challenges
In an attempt to get through the end of the fiscal year in the black, both the House and Senate budget committees began work on a revised rescission bill this past week. Both chambers added more transfers from the Kansas Department of Transportation ($150 million) along with nearly $200 million in cuts to finish the fiscal year. On Friday, Consensus Revenue reported a $47 million shortfall in January from predictions, thus creating an even deeper hole to be dealt with in the current fiscal year. Budget Director Shawn Sullivan told House Appropriations that the state may run out of money for the regular state aid payment to K-12 schools in mid-February. We are in a serious, if not crisis, situation, and the Governor along with House leadership continue to assert that all is well and we will be fine. I, along with many of my colleagues, am skeptical, and will continue to push for realistic changes in our revenue stream (a.k.a. the income tax formula).

Medicaid
The Vision 2020 Committee continues on its quest to formulate a Medicaid expansion bill (KanCare II) and heard extensive testimony these past few weeks on the issue. This upcoming week the committee will draft a bill that could possibly provide insurance coverage for 169,000 Kansans who are caught in the gap with no Medicaid expansion.

Education Funding
The Governor announced this past week that school funding should be tied to performance. This comes straight out of the ALEC playbook and seems ludicrous when analyzed alongside the “No Child Left Behind” fiasco. In the Education Budget committee we have been asked to suggest modifications to our current school funding formula. I am pleased that our input is being considered and will spend purposeful time on my recommendations.

Thank you for the chance to serve you and feel free to contact me!