Archive for Monday, February 26, 2007

Capitol Briefing

News from the Kansas Statehouse

February 26, 2007


Health care frustration

Republicans and Democrats seeking legislation aimed at getting health coverage to some of the 300,000 uninsured Kansans say their attempts are being frustrated by the insurance industry.

"We need everyone at the table giving a little in order for Kansans to win big," said Sen. Jim Barnett, R-Emporia, who is a physician and chairman of a Senate committee and task force focused on health care reform.

Barnett has proposed a "connector" model that he said would allow a person to buy insurance with tax-free dollars, and take that policy with them should they change jobs.

Major insurers have testified against the plan, saying it will increase the cost of coverage. Barnett has asked the insurance industry to provide alternatives if they have any.

Meanwhile, House Democratic Leader Dennis McKinney of Greensburg said proposals offered by Democrats also are getting shot down. Those include guaranteeing health care for children from birth to age 5, and helping small businesses purchase plans for their workers.

"We appoint task forces and still do nothing. It's always wait until next year," McKinney said.

Lawrence senators energized

At the midpoint of the 2007 legislative session, Lawrence Sens. Marci Francisco, a Democrat, and Roger Pine, a Republican, said the Legislature has made some progress on energy legislation.

Both serve on the Senate Utilities Committee, and pointed to advancement of Senate Bill 128 as positive for the state.

The bill, sent to the House on a 40-0 vote in the Senate, requires electric utilities to provide information to consumers on the best way they can conserve energy.

"That's a good education program for the general public that could be beneficial for all of us," Pine said.

Secret of budget profiles

When lawmakers argue against the size of a certain expenditure or tax cut, they usually claim that the cost will harm the state budget in future years.

They provide a "budget profile" that shows how the state's ending balances will fall to dangerous levels.

But when confronted with "budget profiles" that show Republican-supported business tax cuts will break the budget, House Speaker Melvin Nefueld, R-Ingalls, stated: "I can show you a budget profile that is going to show you whatever I want to show you."

Garden City casinos

Senate President Steve Morris, R-Hugoton, explained last week that he used to be opposed to expanded gambling in Kansas, but sees the benefits casinos are having in other states.

A recent explosion in the number of casinos in Oklahoma is helping its budget, and Morris points out that thousands of Kansans go to other states to spend their money on gambling.

The point is always brought home, he said, when he flies into Garden City and sees a sign for "casino parking." Those lots are reserved for travelers departing on chartered flights to Las Vegas and other casino destinations.

"To me that says a lot," he said.

Quote of the week

We've given a lot of attention to the issues affecting the biggest corporations in Kansas, and we've done very little for working families in Kansas."

- House Democratic Leader Dennis McKinney of Greensburg, summing up his view of the first half of the legislative session.

What's next

9 a.m. Thursday: Hearing on House Bill 2526 that deals with monitoring and analysis of mercury samples in Kansas, before the House Energy and Utilities Committee.


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