City of Lawrence legislative priorities include Medicaid expansion, housing, renewable energy
photo by: Mike Yoder
City of Lawrence leaders have approved their annual list of legislative priorities, which includes Medicaid expansion, efforts to address the housing shortage, and development of renewable energy.
The Lawrence City Commission voted unanimously as part of a meeting earlier this month to approve the priorities. The list was compiled with input from commissioners and city staff, and Commissioner Amber Sellers said she thought it spoke to policy and other concerns affecting the community.
The one-page statement includes six broad legislative issues, which is a change from past formats. For instance, last year, the statement was more than five pages and included 28 priorities. City Attorney Toni Wheeler told the commission that the statement represented a slightly different approach, with the idea being to provide a more streamlined and succinct statement. Wheeler said the city was recommending that the statement highlight a few issues and then reference the city’s strategic plan goals and express general support for the League of Kansas Municipalities 2023 Statement of Municipal Policy. The league’s policy statement is approximately 20 pages and covers dozens of issues.
The statement reads in part that the City Commission supports legislation, programs, and funding mechanisms at the state and federal level that further the city’s strategic plan and align with the League of Kansas Municipalities 2023 Statement of Municipal Policy. The specific priorities highlighted by the statement are as follows:
• We support legislation that helps low income and marginalized populations such as Medicaid expansion and increase in minimum wage.
• We advocate for state and federal programs and state and federal funding to help local communities address housing shortages across all segments of the community including low and moderate income housing and those who are unhoused.
• The city relies on a stable and high-quality workforce to deliver vital services. The city supports efforts to improve the competitiveness of public employment and benefits to attract and retain professional public servants and to support their physical and mental health. One example is: The city asks the Legislature to reduce the vesting period from 15 years to five years for public safety employees who participate in the Kansas Police and Fireman’s (KP&F) Retirement System Plan so municipalities can better attract qualified people for critical public safety positions.
• Programs and support to develop greater environmental resilience and sustainability and the development of advanced/renewable energy.
• Support policies and funding for economic development and growth. In particular tools and funding for extension of infrastructure for land development for workforce housing and industrial development; childcare.
• Increased funding and state-wide capacity for mental and behavioral health and treatment of addiction.
Wheeler said city staff would use the statement to inform its testimony for and against proposed legislation, which she said can sometimes come up on short notice without time for staff to go to the commission. She said in those cases, city staff would determine whether legislation was consistent with the city’s strategic plan and the league’s legislative statement.
The 2023 Legislative session begins on Jan. 9.