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. Cindy Neighbor, Rep. Brett Parker and Sen. Dinah Sykes are scheduled to send updates this week. Here’s Sen. Sykes’s filing:
With the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday and a delay due to weather on Wednesday, most of the legislative action was bill introductions and informational briefings. No action was taken on the Senate floor. This type of week is a normal occurrence as the legislature reconvenes and does the work necessary to move the session along.
I am pleased to be a co-sponsor of SB 43 which will allow same-day voting registration. We must continue to encourage voter participation and make sure that all qualified Kansans are able to participate in the selection of leaders.
On Thursday, I attended a ceremony where Gov. Kelly announced her Education Council. I am excited to hear what recommendations the group makes as it looks at issues from early childhood through higher education. I have spent much of the past year digging into the data and learning about strategies around early childhood and I am convinced that early childhood is an opportunity to wisely invest in the greatest resource our state has: our children. My hope is that the group crafts a strategic plan that will have a lasting impact on our state. Research shows that wise investments in early childhood education leads to strong returns by addressing systemic problems and helps avoid more costly interventions later in childhood and adolescence.
While it is important to look to the future, we must continue to address the immediate issues facing the state through our budget. I agree with our Governor that our approach to the budget must be cautious. First, our state is continuing to recover from the failed Brownback experiment that has left the state without the kinds of reserves it had in the past. Without those reserves, we could face significant troubles during an economic downturn. While predicting economic downturn is difficult, business cycles are a fact and it would be naïve to proceed as if economic expansion will continue forever.
Therefore, I agree with the need to address the most pressing needs facing our state while continuing to be as careful as we can in other areas. While I am open to determining the best way to strengthen our reserves while addressing needs, I think we must do a few things. First, we are very close to having the ability to end the Gannon case by addressing inflation in our school funding calculations. The legislature must find a way to provide these funds. Second, we must address issues related to the Department of Children and Families. Third, I think we must look again at Medicaid expansion.
I do think we will continue to make difficult decisions about priorities and the way forward. With so many things changing in our economy, in the country and our world, we must learn from past mistakes and focus on a strong and resilient future. The path to that strong and resilient future will come through research, careful decisions and caution. The danger I see clearly is the temptation to make decisions that will play well in the short-term but have dangerous long-term consequences.
I am hopeful that our state is better positioned to understand the distinction between the short- and long-term gains and is ready to take this opportunity to make wise investments. If we make wise investments in early childhood, the health of our citizens and education, Kansas will be well positioned for the future.