Capitol Update: Kansas has a ‘long way to go’ on transparency issues, says Rep. Cox

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Each legislative session, we provide the Shawnee Mission area’s elected officials with the chance to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Melissa Rooker, Rep. Tom Cox and Sen. John Skubal are submitting updates this week. Here’s Rep. Cox’s filing:

As we closed the first week of the 2018 legislative session, our priorities became clearer while the path to them remains unseen. Let’s discuss some (not all) of the major issues we will be working on this legislative session:

School Finance: Last session we passed a new school finance formula, adding nearly $400 million in new funding over the next two years. However, as many of us predicted, the Supreme Court found our formula to be inadequate to fit the needs of our schools. As we begin this session, we will attempt to solve the issues raised by the court and work together to do what is best for Kansas schools across the state.

Many were surprised to hear Gov. Brownback call for $600 million in additional funding phased in over the next five years while declaring no budget cuts or tax increases to do it.

Though we are glad to see the Governor embracing the need of additional funding for K-12 education, we remain skeptical of the motive. The budget he presents allows us to fund the first two years of increases and then leads us back into the red to provide the additional funding for the last three years of his plan. Many of us fear he is trying to pit other government agencies against K-12 when seeking funding in the near future.

KanCare/Medicaid: Our state’s Medicaid program is in distress and a considerable amount of reform is needed. The Governor’s office created KanCare 2.0 to address some of the issues, however, many feel the changes create new problems while leaving too many issues unresolved. Current implementation of 2.0 has been halted during further review.

Additionally, many believe the intellectually and developmentally disabled (I/DD) community needs a special exemption to cover non-medical service needs. The I/DD community has been disproportionately negatively impacted by KanCare’s failings and a bi-partisan group is working hard to solve those issues.

Transparency: There is no doubt Kansas has a long way to go regarding transparency and ease of accessibility to the public. Last year, we passed a number of measures to open up public record requests as well as making it more difficult for state boards to go into private meetings without disclosing the topics. This session we are making live-streaming of both chambers and committee meetings fully available to the public via the legislature’s website. To view a specific committee, click on that committee’s page here.

Though these are steps in the right direction, they do not go far enough. Many legislators are working on additional steps such as: Requiring a bill’s sponsor be attached to the bill but allowing for removal of the name if the bill is changed beyond its original intent, recording committee votes and changes affecting the executive department and non-legislative boards and committees.

These efforts have been and remain to be bi-partisan across the board. As someone who believes the government belongs to the people you will always find me supporting making our process more transparent. The best example of transparency is being accountable to voters by email, text, phone, and in-person at my monthly town hall meetings. There’s nothing more transparent than me standing right in front of you, responding to your questions and answering for each vote I take.

To solve many of the issues ahead it will take bi-partisan collaboration, setting ideologies and partisanship aside and focusing on solutions that work for all Kansans.

I would love to hear from and engage with you during the session. Please email me at Tom.Cox@house.ks.gov, or follow me on Twitter/Facebook @tomcox4ks. For more frequent updates, please subscribe to my e-newsletter, the Cox Chronicle, by emailing me.