Turnaround week held few surprises as the Legislature finished business before a short break. It was surprising how many unanimous, or near unanimous, votes were taken in the House the last day. Hopefully that is something of a sign that we are working together well for the betterment of the state.
Having said that, there were still some fairly sharp divisions on a couple measures.
One of the more hotly debated issues was in the Senate where the poultry bill was on the floor for about two hours. The possibility of having a Tyson chicken processing facility in Kansas brought about the necessity of putting in place regulations, including setback and animal unit identification. Having livestock facilities in Kansas is nothing new, but is a matter of making sure they are in the right place.
Swatting is a relatively new term to many people, but that was done to a young man in Wichita with tragic consequences. Apparently some online gamers made a false call about an address that resulted in a young man being shot and killed by officers. The Legislature is working on stiffening penalties for false emergency calls to try to prevent calls of that type.
A bill establishing the telemedicine act in Kansas also passed the House. What is interesting about it is that telemedicine is already taking place in the state. What the bill really does is sets out parameters for hospitals, doctors and insurance companies and defines how everyone interacts and get reimbursed for services. Telemedicine is something that can benefit everyone, especially the rural areas that may be underserved. This can bring more specialized medicine to much of the state if used appropriately.
One more bill to mention would allow Kansas to join the nurse licensure compact. What that means is that nurses can move freely between compact states using the license they have and will not need to apply for a license in other compact states. This is especially helpful to those nurses living on the Kansas borders. The question came up as to whether nurses from other states will meet the qualifications Kansas has, but the licensing exam is already a standardized national exam, so all nurses already are tested over the same material.
Last week the House and Senate Education Committees were updated on the study and peer review being done by Dr. Lori Taylor. Taylor is a graduate of Salina schools and currently lives in Texas. The update she gave was more of an explanation of the methodology being used for the study. In a nut shell, she is using a cost study approach to quantify the amounts being spent for K-12 education.
Perhaps since she is a Salina product herself, she seems to understand that various inputs into education can vary greatly across the state. For instance, it is fairly common that teachers in the western part of Kansas are paid more than other parts. That is done simply to attract enough teachers to fill the needs of the schools. There are other examples of varying costs, but this is one that stands out.
The week after turnaround is often quite slow, and the final peer review on school funding is not expected until March 15. Until then, various committees will begin meeting again and take a look at bills the Senate passed over to the House. As Budget Committees meet and pass recommendations to the Appropriations Committee, the budget will be slowly assembled. Many budget committee recommendations are coming in close to the governor’s recommendation, although they vary somewhat up or down.
The regular Legislative session is scheduled to end by the end of March. Education Budget has been busy collecting preliminary information so they can act quickly once the studies and reviews are finished. The pace from now until the regular session ends will be fast and furious.
Don Schroeder is the Kansas House Representative for District 74, which includes Lindsborg.