Tuesday, October 21, 2014

JONES: Updates from the Statehouse playground

By KEVIN JONES, The Playground | 3/26/2014

Greetings from our Statehouse! I am writing you from a state library computer as I watch the beautiful snow fall on Topeka as we prepare to enter April. I actually like the snow, but much like our legislative session, it can overstay its welcome. During the next three days, we will be working bills on the floor of the Kansas House. Some of these could include House Bill 2227, which would change current municipality elections to odd-numbered years, keeping them non-partisan; House Bill 2383, which would work to divest our Kansas Public Employees Retirement System’s (KPERS) interests in Iran; and the Substitute for Senate Bill 298, which will phase out the Mortgage Registration Fee (MRF) for home buyers. Please continue to contact me on issues that concern you.

Coverage for autism

Greetings from our Statehouse! I am writing you from a state library computer as I watch the beautiful snow fall on Topeka as we prepare to enter April. I actually like the snow, but much like our legislative session, it can overstay its welcome. During the next three days, we will be working bills on the floor of the Kansas House. Some of these could include House Bill 2227, which would change current municipality elections to odd-numbered years, keeping them non-partisan; House Bill 2383, which would work to divest our Kansas Public Employees Retirement System’s (KPERS) interests in Iran; and the Substitute for Senate Bill 298, which will phase out the Mortgage Registration Fee (MRF) for home buyers. Please continue to contact me on issues that concern you.

Coverage for autism

On Friday, the House gave unanimous approval to a bill that will require health insurance companies to offer coverage for autism spectrum disorder. The bill requires insurance companies to provide applied behavioral analysis therapy for children with the bulk of the treatment coming when the child is young, when studies have shown therapy is most effective. Coverage will include 1,300 hours of therapy every year from the time of diagnosis up until age 4. After that, coverage will include 520 hours per year until age 12. The bill is the result of many hours of work and compromise between autism advocates, the insurance industry, and House members. The goal is to help children achieve their potential with early diagnosis and treatment. I voted for this bill.

Financial literacy

The House approved a bill (HB 2475) that will require schools to give financial literacy training in school before graduation. The financial literacy training will be incorporated into current math curriculum. Select literacy topics include investing and saving, wealth building, and paying for college, as well as credit and debt and consumer awareness. Money management and financial responsibility also will be covered. One of the goals is to help prepare young people for real world success when they graduate high school, both professionally and personally. I voted for this bill knowing that many of our schools already have some type of financial literacy training for students. I believe it is time that we admit our struggles with money at a personal, local, state, and national level, and take the steps to change the financial freedom in our lives.

Health care compact

HB 2553 just passed out of the House by an overwhelming majority. This is a Kansas solution, not an Obama solution, to the health care concerns facing Kansans. The bill will allow Kansas to join eight other states in petitioning the U.S. Congress for full control and authority over federal health care dollars. Before becoming effective though, the compact requires the approval of the compact by both houses of Congress. If approved by the U.S. Congress, the compact would give Kansas the ability to control the healthcare funding provided by taxpayers to meet the needs of its citizens. It also would allow Kansans to set their own rules for Medicare, Medicaid, and other government health care programs and circumvent the highly unpopular and ineffective Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). It mandates that all federal health care money must be designated for health care and that it cannot be siphoned off for other state spending. It would allow Kansas to continue to receive its proportional share of health care dollars adjusted for population growth. It also would allow Kansas to have autonomy over its own health care needs and spending, not be subject to federal bureaucracy and control.

Something to note: HB 2553 will not be a cut to Medicare, Medicaid, or other health care programs. In fact, it will protect Medicare and other health programs from future money grabs from Obamacare. More than $700 billion already has been cut from Medicare to pay for Medicaid expansion and other provisions of Obamacare. It allows Kansas and other states to shed the “one size fits all” health care model promulgated by the Obama administration. The bill will ensure that Kansas seniors continue to receive guaranteed benefits and protections that they have earned by paying taxes.

Listening sessions

The Legislature will not be in session for most of April, but we do convene again for part of May for our veto session. I am still open to having pages and would love to have you visit during this time.

I also will be attending a legislative coffee April 5 in Ottawa, as well as a legislative “listening session” April 19 in Anderson County. Please attend and share your thoughts. I look forward to seeing you.

Kevin Jones, R-Wellsville, represents Franklin County and the 5th District in the Kansas House.

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