Capitol Update: Rep. Woodard says too many bipartisan solutions left on table this session

Rep. Brandon Woodard, Democrat of House District 30. File photo.

Each week, we provide Shawnee Mission area legislators the opportunity to share their thoughts about what’s happening in the state capitol. Reps. Brandon Woodard and Mari-Lynn Poskin and Sen. Kellie Warren are scheduled to send updates this week. 

Below is the submission from Democratic state Rep. Brandon Woodard of House District 30, covering parts of Lenexa and Olathe. 

This year’s legislative session in Topeka was a whirlwind, filled with constant anxiety about the potential of a COVID-19 outbreak that could bring our work in the statehouse to a screeching halt.

Fortunately, due to the measures put in place by our legislative leadership and the cooperation of the majority of my colleagues, our work was not disrupted for public health reasons, which is great news.

The bad news, however, is that several bipartisan solutions to issues facing Kansans were among the casualties of the pandemic legislature, as they remained unresolved when the Legislature adjourned until January 2022.

Here are our greatest missed opportunities:

Sports wagering:

For the past three legislative sessions, I have worked with stakeholders to bring Kansas into the 21st Century by legalizing sports wagering. Unfortunately, those efforts were stalled once again by the stubbornness of the House and Senate negotiators’ inability to compromise.

This year, the Senate passed a bill that was described by some as a “handout to the casinos” in Kansas. I believe that we should allow for our casinos, retailers, and the Kansas Lottery to all have expanded access to sports wagering in any solution going forward.

This issue is likely to come back up during the 2022 session and will generate necessary revenue to help the state of Kansas fund our core services, while offering a modern approach to gaming in our state. 

Medical cannabis:

Kansas remains one of the only states in the United States with no legalized version of medical cannabis, where even states like Missouri and Oklahoma have at least taken steps to allow for medicinal use of cannabis.

While I personally would prefer to see our state legalize adult-use, recreational marijuana and benefit from the regulation and taxation of it, the realistic approach is to start with medical cannabis.

In committee, we heard testimony from compassionate parents and caregivers who are desperate to help their loved ones struggling with certain chronic conditions. Kansas, being an agricultural state, must reform our laws to allow farmers and businesses to cultivate and dispense this common-sense therapy for Kansas consumers. 

Expanding Medicaid:

The most frustrating experience throughout my tenure in Topeka has been the Legislature’s inability to get expanding Medicaid across the finish line.

Every step of the way, this common-sense solution for our healthcare system — which is overwhelmingly supported by the people of Kansas and the stakeholders involved — has faced political and legislative roadblocks along the way.

To date, Kansas has forfeited more than $4.8 billion in federal tax dollars that we are sending to other states that have expanded. Expansion not only helps the more than 150,000 Kansans that would qualify under this plan, but it creates more than 13,000 jobs in our state.

We cannot build the future workforce of our state without Kansans contributing to our communities and being able and healthy enough to work. 

If you feel strongly about these issues, the time is now to contact your members of the Legislature to urge them to advance these bills next year.

You can find their contact information at www.ksleglookup.org.