Wrap Up Letter #3

Dear Friends and Neighbors,

Continuing the Wrap-up Review of the 2017 Session

Today’s summary contains a tribute to a wonderful colleague who passed away during the session as well as a final update on the issues of Medicaid expansion and Guns on Campus. I will have more information out later this week as we prepare for the final day of the session next Monday, June 26 (unless, of course, the Kansas Supreme Court declares the school finance bill inadequate and we are ordered back into special session, which a definite possibility).

A Special Note:

On Wednesday, June 7, the Democratic Caucus and the Kansas Legislature suffered a tragic loss with the passing of Representative Patsy Terrell. It was definitely the low moment of the entire legislative session. Her passing deeply affected members on both sides of the aisle.

Patsy was an excellent legislator and an even better human being. I was lucky enough to have spent about an hour talking with her the night before she passed away at a party celebrating the veto override of the Governor’s tax program. She was happy, she was proud that she was able to vote to override the veto and she was delighted that the new tax plan would help her constituents. Everything Patsy did was based on how it would help her constituents and the people of Kansas.

She was a true public servant who worked effectively and diligently with both Democrats and Republicans. Patsy was someone who everyone respected, who everyone enjoyed being around and she did her job as well as anyone in Topeka. We will miss her smile, her laugh, her insights, her courage, her dedication, her humanity, her humor and her leadership. I am happy and privileged to have known Patsy and she will most certainly be missed.

Rest in Peace, my friend.

Medicaid Expansion:

So close! Both the House and the Senate saw that expanding Medicaid in Kansas was the right thing to do for the people of Kansas and for the financial future of the state. Both chambers passed the Medicaid expansion bill and sent it to the Governor for his signature. The Governor had publicly said that he would let the Legislature make the decision on Medicaid expansion, but he quickly reneged on his promise (not surprising) and vetoed the bill.

The bill was returned to the House and the Senate for a veto override vote. The ultra-conservative Republicans in the House and the Senate were quick to rally their forces and by 2 votes in the House and 3 votes in the Senate they were able to defeat the override attempt. This was, in my estimation, absolutely reprehensible! This will have a devastating impact on 150,000 Kansans, including many children, who will now be denied affordable, available and appropriate health care. It will put many more hospitals at risk for closure and it will continue to redirect the tax money Kansas sends to Washington to other states that have implemented Medicaid expansion.

This makes absolutely no financial, humanitarian or healthcare sense for the state of Kansas. This unreasonable obstruction of Medicaid expansion is due to the unwavering support Brownback has given to Mitch McConnell and the ultra-conservatives in Washington. This is the same group which tried, from day one, to block any health care program proposed by President Obama, who had no healthcare program of their own and who are now working on a secretive and totally partisan program that will, according to most accounts, cost tens of millions of Americans their healthcare insurance. This is deplorable. I am sure we will be taking up this topic again in January.

Guns on Campus…and in Hospitals, Mental Health Facilities and Nursing Homes:

We scored a partial victory on this topic. Much to the irritation of the “guns everywhere” Governor, Secretary of State and the NRA, the House and Senate had enough sense to pass a bill that keeps guns out of our public hospitals, mental health facilities and nursing homes. Without this bill, guns would have been allowed in all of these facilities as of July 1, 2017.

Sadly, that same common sense did not apply to keeping guns off our college and university campuses. As of July 1, 2017, guns will be allowed on our college and university campuses. I have heard from a number of parents who said they will not send their child to a college or university that allows guns on campus. I know there are faculty, staff and students already enrolled at our colleges and universities who plan to leave and study or teach elsewhere. Not only is this a threat to our students and faculties, this type of “wild west” mentality will most certainly NOT help us in attracting new business to the state. This is another unnecessary blow to the national image of Kansas.

Even in light of overwhelming public opinion against “guns on campus,” the Republican conservatives refused to even bring this issue to the floor of the House or Senate for debate and a vote. Again, not allowing a debate on an issue this important was the responsibility of the ultra-conservative leadership in the House and Senate. They, along with their loyalists in both chambers, are dead set on getting guns on our campuses. What could possibly go wrong with that??

The really irritating thing about this to me is that not one college or university in Kansas wants this law implemented. Furthermore their top administrators have been gagged concerning this issue and their jobs placed in jeopardy if they attempted to testify against this issue in Topeka. I talked to administrators at every college and university in Kansas and NONE of them wanted guns allowed on their campuses, but, out of fear for their jobs not ONE administrator was allowed to testify in front of a House or Senate committee. I am checking on the constitutionality of such a gag order.

The legislators who supported this insane idea are most certainly in the pocket of the NRA which is much more concerned about selling guns and ammo than they are the safety, health and well-being of our college students. I have not talked to a single constituent who thinks “guns on campus” is a good idea. I will continue to try and get this law revoked but the gun lobby will be fighting us every step of the way.

Thanks for your continued support and, as usual, if you have any questions or suggestions for me please don’t hesitate to get in touch.