Our first week back for the 2018 Legislative session kept me busy preparing several bills for introduction. One bill I continue working on is the home-owned amusement rides, agritourism activities and hope to have it ready to be read in this second week of session.

As we continue to work this bill, I will update you with changes to the legislation.

We also are working on legislation that will require municipalities that annex property outside city limits that are being served by rural electric cooperatives be compensated for their losses, electrical sales and infrastructure. This bill was read in and introduced this past week. As of now, a hearing has not yet been scheduled.

This year, I am serving on the same committees as last year. Agriculture and Natural Resources, vice chair for Financial Institutions-Insurance, Pensions and Benefits, vice chair for Ways and Means and chair for the joint committee on Buildings and Construction.

This week, the Senate president, majority leader, Senate Ways and Means Chairman, and Senate Public Health and Welfare chairman delivered a joint statement calling for the state to stop moving forward with their plan to make serious changes to the state’s Medicaid system called KanCare.

As many of you know, Gov. Sam Brownback gave his final State of the State last Tuesday. The governor spoke of his many dreams for Kansas and highlighted accomplishments within the state such as 17,000 fewer abortions in the past six years and a decreasing childhood poverty rate. The one point that received the strongest response was his proposal for Kansas to spend an additional $600 million on school funding during the next five years.

Brownback proposed adding a $16.5 million funding increase in two years to strengthen child welfare services at DCF. DCF has been affected by a wide range of problems, including children that have been taken into state custody involuntarily, children having to sleep in social workers’ offices because of a shortage of emergency-placement homes, as well as children in foster care that have been reported missing. The $16.5 million enhancement would come from a mixture of funding, including the state general fund and TANF dollars. This is one of the largest single increases in child welfare funding in Kansas history.

It was nice to have many of the superintendents in my district stop by my office this last week while they were attending the KASB meeting in Topeka. Thank you for stopping by.

Sen. Rick Billinger, R-Goodland, represents the 40th District in the Kansas Senate.