The 2020 legislative session was like many before it. Republican leadership bottle-necked good ideas in favor of political posturing and ideology.
Health care for needy Kansans was again a victim of blatant partisanship, in spite of overwhelming support by Kansans and a persistent plea for its passage from all corners of the state, Democrats and Republicans alike.
Yet no action was taken to advance the bill on sine die. “The rules wouldn’t let us do it with only one day back,” was a similar refrain heard by those who asked. It’s a hollow excuse.
Sine die gave way to the passage of several ideas in bill form that had never been vetted by the full body in either chamber prior to May 21. In contrast, expansion has had dozens of hearings in committee in addition to floor debate. There was even a bipartisan bill this year that had 22 senators as sponsors, more votes than you need to get a bill out of the Senate.
Yet, the sun rose on May 22 and legislators drove home without giving the laid-off workforce who now don’t have health insurance the ability to see the doctor when they get sick.
It didn’t have to be this way. Republican leaders have the power to move the levers and expedite the process. They didn’t want to in this instance.
In the face of massive layoffs in the south-central region because of market changes related to Boeing’s inability to return to the air its 737 Max, legislation was introduced in January that would extend unemployment benefits from 13 weeks to 26 weeks and remove the one-week waiting period.
For weeks, the bill didn’t move. Recognizing that thousands of Kansans were soon to be unemployed and would need additional financial support until the pandemic passed and the economy stabilized, legislative leadership was finally impelled to do something to help folks losing their jobs. The bill extending benefits had hearings and passed both chambers in one day.
The same could have been done Thursday for Medicaid expansion. After all, a new bill giving blanket immunity to businesses and limiting the governor’s powers passed in one day on sine die.
Yet nothing came out of nearly 24 hours of legislative meetings to help the men and women that are now out of work and needing help. They’ve lost their jobs because of a pandemic and with it the insurance that afforded them the ability to manage their diabetes, heart disease, cancer treatments and more.
This is the failure of the 2020 legislative session. When politicians seek your vote in the coming months, ask them what they did for Kansans who need health insurance and let that guide your vote.
We must do better, Kansas.