Legislative Update 3/4/19

“Turnaround” is the date by which a bill has to pass one chamber to remain on the docket for the rest of the session. Exceptions to this are myriad, but suffice it to say that Turnaround, which was last Thursday, is when things in the legislature get a little more focused. I want to give you an update on where things are with various bills or issues that we’re following. Today is Medicaid expansion; other issues will follow in a subsequent letter.  

The other thing that needs to be said by way of introduction is that even for someone used to the slow pace of the Kansas legislature, this year has been particularly glacial. Legislative leadership seems more interested in preening and challenging the governor than they are in actually legislating. You almost wouldn’t know that the Kansas government is in an advanced state of disrepair by the way legislative leadership is behaving.

Where this is most clear is in the case of Medicaid expansion. Conservatives in the legislature have staked a lot on standing athwart Medicaid Expansion saying no; there has been zero action on this in the session. This week in the House Health Committee there will be what the chair is calling a “roundtable discussion” of the issues involved. It’s not a hearing; it will be extremely limited in scope and in the number of participants. The Medicaid Expansion folks are taking it seriously because they have to, but I consider it a dog-and-pony show to give the illusion of a legislative process.

This single issue has stymied the entire legislative process; there hasn’t been meaningful legislation on anything having to do with health care for years now because conservative leadership wants to keep bills off the floor that might be considered liable (“germane”) for amendment to include Expansion. A colleague of mine had a bill about a health care issue that had broad support and should have sailed through, but it got killed because it might have been germane for expansion.

That’s because they know it would pass. Expansion would win a floor vote; we have a friendly governor; we have the support of 70% of Kansans, according to polls.

There are four people stopping this from happening: Reps. Ron Ryckman and Dan Hawkins, and Sens. Susan Wagle and Jim Denning. Astonishing that we have a system of government where four people can stop not just one bill but any bill because of their opposition to a piece of legislation that, lest we forget, would give health insurance to 150,000 working Kansans and bring millions of dollars of tax money back to the state. Absolutely terrible process, with an immoral result, and these “leaders” must be held accountable.

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