The third week of the 2018 Legislative Session remains fairly slow as it takes a little time to get the process moving, but committees are meeting and some are sending bills to the House floor. As we wait for more information to be assembled on education issues it is likely these other bills will be moved through the system. Friday the House worked a couple bills on the floor for the first time this session.
Quite a bit of information is being distributed and discussed regarding the education issue. The Special Committee on Education that met later last fall put together a stack of papers for us to read and digest. That committee did not make any specific recommendations to the Legislature because they thought it better to allow the larger body of legislators to consider what type of response is appropriate. So far, nothing has been specifically brought forward.
Legislative leadership has requested a brief study be done to confirm some of the constitutional and funding questions and to put numbers on those issues. That study is not expected to be finished until March 15 with a peer review after that. Time frames are very short, but are barely workable. In the meanwhile, we will work on some other legislation.
There have been some questions regarding the Deputy Commissioner of Education. A Legislative Post Audit report was presented in January that sparked some questions as to whether the transportation funding was being properly administered. We don’t know the answers to that question, but it is important to not jump to conclusions but rather wait and see as the report is investigated.
An item of interest to the medical community is that the Health and Human Services Committee plans to work a bill so Kansas can join the licensing compact with several other states. Joining the compact would allow individuals licensed in Kansas to provide medical services to take jobs in other states without having to go through the licensing procedure, and vice versa. This was done for medical doctors two years ago and seems to be working well, so expanding this eligibility to others in the medical profession makes sense.
Some of the bigger news of the week is that Gov. Sam Brownback has received his confirmation vote for Ambassador of Religious Freedom. His resignation is effective at 3 p.m. on Jan. 31. Lt. Gov. Jeff Colyer will be sworn into the Governor’s office shortly after at 3 p.m., with a reception to follow. A few of the questions are who the new Lieutenant Governor will be and what type of changes will he make to the cabinet and staff. Obviously, we will have most of those answers soon.
The House worked two bills Friday. Several of us found it more than a little ironic that one of the bills increased the penalties for irresponsible use of alcohol and the second bill loosened the hours when alcoholic beverages can be served, increasing alcohol availability. I certainly understand the issue of personal freedoms, but alcohol use and abuse has been the causes of so many social and family ills.
A report says Kansas is currently one of the hardest hit states for influenza. To my knowledge, as I write this, the hospitals in the area are all full of patients. Obviously the flu bug has hit very hard as I read articles of staff shortages in many places. Please be sure to take appropriate precautions so the bugs don’t spread unnecessarily.
Legislative coffees are being scheduled and are almost complete. The first will be in Halstead on Feb. 3 and Feb. 10 in Newton. I look forward to hearing from everyone on the various issues, especially schools and budgetary questions.
Don Schroeder is the Kansas House Representative for District 74, which includes Lindsborg.