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Newsletter from Rep. Stan Frownfelter, D-37th Dist.
Committees: Utilities and Telecom, Commerce Labor and Economic Development, ranking minority, Insurance Financial Institutions, ranking minority
Week 5: Feb. 10-14
In this issue
• From the Statehouse
• Proposed Medicaid expansion
• HB 2234 Naming the secretary of transportation as CEO of KTA
• Higher Education Day at the Capitol
• HB 2210: Elections; changing of party affiliation
• HB2009 - Driver’s licenses
• Democrats introduce 'Working Families' legislative package
• Constituents in the Capitol
• Keep in touch
From the Statehouse: Week 5
This was a busy week at the Capitol, as Monday was the deadline for new bill introductions both committees and Wednesday was the deadline for bill introductions by individuals.
Democratic leadership introduced a “Working Kansans” legislative package that includes initiatives that support working Kansas families.
Complete daily calendars are available at www.kslegislature.org along with other useful information.
Proposed Medicaid expansion
Among the big decisions facing Kansas during the 2013 legislative session is whether to accept federal money to expand the state’s Medicaid program.
Medicaid is the state and federal program which currently provides health care to pregnant women, the elderly, the severely disabled, and very low-income Kansans. Under the current system, Kansas has one of the lowest levels of income eligibility in the country—a family of four must make below $6,000 a year to qualify for the program. Adults without children are not eligible for Medicaid in Kansas regardless of how much money they make.
If the state were to accept federal Medicaid funds to expand the program, it would allow individuals making up to $15,000 a year to qualify.
The federal government would pay for 100 percent of the expansion costs for the first three years and would permanently pay 90 percent of the new costs.
A study commissioned by Gov. Brownback suggests that if the state were to accept the Medicaid expansion, 150,000 additional Kansans would receive health insurance at an additional cost of $1.1 billion to the state. However, the study also estimated that the state’s healthcare costs will go up by $513 million even if it doesn’t accept the federal money. This means that the cost of accepting the money to expand the program would be $600 million over not accepting the money according to the study.
Kansas hospitals would specifically be hurt if the state decides to turn down the federal funds because the federal government will be drawing down payments to hospitals for treating large numbers of uninsured patients.
Democratic Rep. Jim Ward of Wichita has proposed a bill to accept the federal funds and commented, “No one will argue that people with health insurance live longer and healthier lives and Kansas taxpayers are already paying for the program when they send in their federal tax dollars."
HB 2234 Naming the secretary of transportation as CEO of KTA
Gov. Sam Brownback proposed merging KTA and the Kansas Department of Transportation in his State of the State address earlier this month. HB 2234 proposes to do that by naming the secretary of transportation as CEO of the Kansas Turnpike Authority.
Proponents argue that this consolidation will create $15 million dollars in saving by eliminating duplication of services that include operations, administration, infrastructure insurance and facilities.
Opponents of the proposal defended the business model currently in place at KTA and warned that subjecting it to the bureaucracy of KDOT could result in unintended consequences. Subjecting KTA to the whims of a particular governor or secretary of transportation could create uncertainty and instability in toll rate structures.
Higher Education Day
Tuesday in the Capitol was the 2013 Higher Education Day. This annual event gives legislators and lawmakers an opportunity to hear from student leaders of universities, colleges, and vocational schools in Kansas.
Higher Education Day always serves as a reminder that the decisions made in the legislature become the inheritance of the next generation of Kansas leaders.
HB 2210: Elections; changing of party affiliation
On Wednesday, the House Committee on Elections debated HB 2210, which proposes to restrict when a person can change party affiliation. Currently, a voter must file to change parties 14 days before any primary or general election. HB 2210 would allow a voter to switch party only until the primary filing deadline for candidates, usually June 1 at noon, and not until after the State Board of Canvassers certifies the primary.
The proponents of the bill frame argue it will prevent political gamesmanship. They stressed the point that only true party members should have a say in who is a party’s candidate for a general election. Deputy Secretary Bryant reported that party switches complicate the administrative side of elections. He reported that last year there were around 54,000 statewide party switches, amounting to 3.2 percent of the registered voting population.
Opponents argued that this bill restricts voting rights because people wouldn’t be allowed to choose their representative leaders. Also, that some voters would be effectively disenfranchised from the primary process because they might not realize they have to register with a party well in advance to vote in its primary.
The hearing on the bill was suspended when Rep. Dillmore, D-Wichita, called attention to the fact that the bill would treat unaffiliated voters and party registered voters differently. Under the bill, unaffiliated voters would still have 14 days before an election to switch to affiliate with a party to vote in their primary.
HB2009 - Driver’s licenses
HB 2009 proposes to allow a driver facing a license suspension for failing to comply fully with a traffic citation to submit a written request to the Division of Vehicles for restricted driving privileges. If the division finds the applicant to be eligible, the division could restrict driving privileges for up to a year, or until the person fully complies with all citations.
Proponents praised the proposal that would allow a person with a suspended license to drive only to and from work, while seeking new employment, in the course of employment, to and from an appointment with a health care provider, during a medical emergency, to and from schooling, to and from any place of worship, and to and from any place the person is required to go by a court, such as probation or parole meetings, or drug or alcohol counseling.
Democrats introduce “Working Families” legislative package
This week House MInority Leader Paul Davis and Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley introduced the “Working Kansans” legislative package. This pro-worker package include proposals to reinstate Prevailing Wage provisions and index the Minimum Wage to the Consumer Price Index. Two other proposals require, when possible, that the state of Kansas hire Kansans first and buy American for state contracts and projects.
I always enjoy seeing people from back home visiting the Capitol during the session to share their views on issues and to learn about the legislature and the history of our Capitol building. If you are going to be in the Capitol this session, I hope you will drop by my office.
Keep in touch
It is a special honor to serve as your state representative. I 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 561W, 300 SW 10th, Topeka, KS 66612. You can reach me at 785-296-7669 or 785-296-7648 or call the legislative hotline at 1-800-432-3924 to leave a message for me. Additionally, you can email me at email@example.com. You can also follow the legislative session online at www.kslegislature.org.