Advocacy Activities as of December 1, 2018

Advocacy in Action

As a result of the election last month, there is new leadership in the governor’s office, as well as a number of new legislators.  In addition to those changes, there are also likely to be changes in leadership of state agencies and legislative committees.  The dynamics under the Kansas Statehouse dome and within state government will be much different when the 2019 legislature convenes January 14th.  Topeka Democrat Laura Kelly will be sworn in as Kansas governor replacing Republican Jeff Colyer.  Colyer, who served as lieutenant governor under Gov. Brownback, became governor in 2018 after Brownback resigned to take a position within the Trump administration.

Early indications are that the 125-member House of Representatives will be slightly more conservative than it was during the past two-year term while maintaining the previous 85 Republican/40 Democrat split.  The 2019 House will include 27 freshmen: 5 new Democrats and 22 new Republicans.

The 40-member Senate, which is on a 4-year cycle, was not up for re-election this year.  There was however one seat on the ballot due to a resignation earlier in the year retaining its 30/9/1 Republican/Democrat/Independent split.

The mid-term elections set off other domino-like legislative changes as three Senate incumbents were elected to higher office including Sen. Kelly; her running mate, Sen. Lynn Rogers (D-Wichita) and Sen. Vicki Schmidt (R-Topeka) who was elected Kansas Insurance Commissioner.  Rep. Vic Miller (D-Topeka) has been named to replace Sen. Kelly, and Mary Ware (D-Wichita) will replace Sen. Rogers.
No replacements have been named yet for the now open seats of Sen. Schmidt, Rep. Miller and Rep. Scott Schwab (R-Olathe) who was elected Secretary of State.

Another layer of changes has occurred as House members fill leadership positions.

REPUBLICAN
Speaker of the House: Ron Ryckman, Jr. (Olathe)
Majority Leader: Dan Hawkins (Wichita)
Speaker Pro Tem: Blaine Finch (Ottawa)
Asst Majority Leader: Les Mason (McPherson)
Majority Whip: Blake Carpenter (Derby)
Majority Caucus Chair: Susan Humphries (Wichita)

DEMOCRAT
Minority Leader: Tom Sawyer (Wichita)
Asst. Minority Leader: Valdenia Winn (Kansas City)
Minority Whip: Jim Gartner (Topeka)
Minority Agenda chair: Brett Parker (Olathe)
Minority Caucus Chair: Barbara Ballard (Lawrence)
Minority Policy Chair: Eileen Horn (Lawrence)

A new governor means most Cabinet agencies will see changes within leadership positions.  Gov.-elect Kelly has created a team to help her with her transition agency plans. Gov.-elect Laura Kelly has opened a website at www.kellytransitionteam.com for her transition. This website gives constituents a way to communicate with her staff. It also provides the option for interested persons to submit resumes. Persons interested in contacting her transition team can email: kellytransition@ks.gov or call: (785) 368-6500.

Amidst all of that change, KABC will be a consistent voice advocating for older adults. Our legislative efforts will focus on stopping the misuse and overuse of anti-psychotic drugs on older adults with dementia. While there has been a slight reduction in anti-psychotic usage in nursing facilities, Kansas still ranks 38th worst in the United States.  No tracking or reduction efforts are targeted to other care settings – assisted types or in-home.  We will continue to educate legislators and the new administration about the connection between facility under-staffing and the misuse of anti-psychotics.

Preventing elder abuse is always a priority for KABC.  We are targeting changes which will protect older adults from physical, financial and emotional abuse and neglect and are collaborating with community organizations, law enforcement, and financial institutions for better prevention and intervention.  There are a number of issues we will bring to the legislature in 2019.

KABC strengthens our impact by actively working with a number of coalitions on health and social service issues that impact older adults and other Kansans of all ages.  Coalition efforts include expanding Medicaid dental care for elders, growing an adequate and competent workforce to provide care for older adults and persons with disabilities, reforming and fixing KanCare, and expanding Medicaid to stop regional hospital closures.  We will keep you updated throughout the 90-day session. 

We encourage you to introduce yourself and your concerns about elder care to those elected officials in your community who legislate in Topeka and create the policies which govern long-term care.  Personal stories and direct communication from you and other constituents are invaluable to improving care for older Kansans and to support legislation or issues KABC brings to the 2019 Kansas Legislature.