Each legislative session, we provide Shawnee Mission area legislators the opportunity to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Rep. Stephanie Clayton, Rep. Cindy Neighbor and Sen. Jim Denning are scheduled to send updates this week. We’ll also be publishing a piece from Sen. John Skubal, who was scheduled for last week but was out of town. Rep. Neighbor’s column is below.
Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Last Monday, we celebrated the life and works of Reverend Doctor Martin Luther King Jr. Each year he is honored for his devotion and sacrifice in the name of equality and for the Civil Rights movement.
On Thursday, several members of the House of Representative led by Representative Barbara Ballard of Lawrence, presented a very moving presentation of a speech and song. All House members participated in singing together, and it was a very powerful time for all members to join each other in celebration!
A proposed amendment to the Kansas Constitution, HCR 5019, was heard in a joint meeting of the House Federal and State Affairs Committee and Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. The amendment would strip women of their bodily autonomy and could potentially open the door to a full ban on abortion in the state of Kansas. The hearing went throughout the entire day, with proponents and opponents testifying. On Wednesday, the amendment passed out of both committees, and was read into the Senate. Thursday, the amendment was read into the House. Thus far there is no word on when the amendment will be worked on either floor.
Thursday was Equality Day in the State House. Much of the crowd consisted of students coming from all over Kansas — many of whom it was their first time in the building. Speakers included Representative Brandon Woodard and Representative Susan Ruiz, the first LGBTQ state representatives to be elected in the state of Kansas; State Senator Barbara Bollier; and Tom Witt, the Executive Director for Equality Kansas. Among the topics mentioned by the speakers were amending the Kansas discrimination act to include Sexual Orientation, Gender Identity and Gender Expression; banning conversion therapy and more.
Appropriation Committee members hear from the Secretary of KDOT on future transportation plans. Past plans have focused on ten-year time periods and have had a set number of projects. The Secretary is proposing a new method which would be more flexible in its development. It would involve more local input, and projects wouldn’t be planned so far out in advance so communities could better adapt to changes in their growth. The new process also counts on a sturdier funding stream, meaning the Bank of KDOT would be closed and highway funding go to funding transportation. This funding stream will be a large issue for the legislature to grapple with.
The House Committee on Insurance heard House Bill 2053 on Wednesday, which clarifies the definition of short-term limited- duration health plans to a policy period less than one year with extensions allowed up to 36 months. The bill would also require insurance companies that issue these policies to disclose requirements in the Affordable Care Act regarding pre-existing conditions and minimum coverage. Opponents of the bill cautioned lawmakers these plans may lead consumers to lose coverage when the short-term plan expires leaving them unable to find coverage in the middle of their illness.
It is a special honor to serve as your state representative. I both value and need your input on the various issues facing state government. Please feel free to contact me with your comments and questions. My office address is Room 43-S, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612. You can reach me at (785) 296-7690 or call the legislative hotline at 1-800-432-3924 to leave a message for me. Additionally, you can e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also follow the legislative session online at www.kslegislature.org