Before we’re engaged in our 2nd week here at the Capitol, thought I’d bring you a brief update of our first week out the gate.
Before I get to the highlights of the week, wanted to let you know of my committee assignments this session. I am serving on Energy & Environment, Judiciary, and Health & Human Services (a change from Elections last session).
- This past Tuesday, efficiency study contractor Alvarez & Marsal presented 105 efficiency recommendations that would save the state $2 billion over five years if enacted.
- The recommendations cover a wide range of cost saving options that were developed using data and analysis.
- Legislators now have a variety of budget choices to examine through the legislative process.
- The House Appropriations Committee worked quickly to secure funding for the judicial branch. Last month, the Supreme Court issued an opinion in the Solomon case relating to the selection of chief district judges. The opinion used a separation of powers argument to retain the current method of selection of those chief judges (appointment by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court instead of election by peers). That opinion triggered a severability clause that would have voided the judicial branch budget in March.
- Republican leaders in the House placed a priority on ensuring Kansans have access to the court system, and that bill will now be up for approval by the full House.
Governor’s State of the State Governor Brownback focused on a number of policy positions in his annual State of the State address.
- Adjusting the property tax lid passed last session so Kansans will have the right to vote on potential property tax increases this summer instead of beginning in 2018.
- Increasing security at Kansas National Guard facilities.
- Working on a funding system for public schools that puts more money into the classroom and gives bonus pay for exceptional teachers.
- Ensuring no Kansas Medicaid funds go to Planned Parenthood.
- Installing a democratic method of judicial selection rather than leaving it to an attorney-controlled system.
- Continued opposition to the transfer of terrorist detainees from Gitmo to Leavenworth.
Governor’s Budget Proposal Governor Brownback also presented budget recommendations this week. Some of his recommendations include:
- Changing administrative oversight of the Children’s Initiative Fund from the Children’s Cabinet to the Department of Education, so the money is better integrated into early childhood programs already in place. The money currently designated for children’s programs (Such as pre-K, and Healthy Start) would remain available for those purposes.
- Reorganizing the structure of the Kansas Bioscience Authority so that it works in broader cooperation with the private market. (legislation is needed to enact)
- Implementing step therapy within the Medicaid system, so that patients try less expensive drugs first before higher priced options. (legislation is needed to enact).
That’s about it for week one. As always, it’s an honor to serve!