The start of any Kansas legislative season brings out troves of wants like a child’s Christmas wish list.
Prior to Monday’s start of the session, already more than two dozen bills await lawmakers, and hundreds more are expected in the next several weeks. Thursday’s announcement of an agreement on Medicaid expansion is enough to whet the appetite of every Kansan hoping for a feast of lawmaking accomplishments.
We are hopeful that the leadership of Gov. Laura Kelly, Senate President Susan Wagle and House Speaker Ron Ryckman will deliver a few more gifts this year. Our wish list in no particular order includes:
• Asking for political peace is impossible, but the détente shown by Kelly and Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning is encouraging. We are not suggesting that Democrats and Republicans go to the sock hop together, however, we would settle for a few months of civility. It is OK to disagree. But can we please strive for a spirit of goodwill and compromise on behalf of the people?
• Attention to mental health. A lack of accessibility is making it difficult for families to find necessary care.
• Care of our kids. The instability of the state’s foster care system is deplorable.
• A fiscally responsible piggy bank. Tax reform and payments to the state pension and highway funds loom large. We advocate for a tight budget but one that shows compassion.
• Higher education is the key to development a strong, vibrant workforce. Affordable accessibility to our state’s four-year, two-year and technical colleges is key to economic development. Food for thought: The Lottery funds scholarships in at least seven states, including Arkansas. Missouri offers help through its A+ program.
• An energy plan. Kansas needs to find ways to be business competitive without putting an undue burden on consumers.
• Criminal justice reform. Tough on crime does not mean being unfair. We must find a way to reduce our prison population. An examination of prison sentencing guidelines for drug and non-violent crimes is long overdue. Many states are ahead of us.
• Resolving the future of the Docking building. We must agree on a plan for the building. It is time to stop analyzing options. We need to take action.