April 22, 2014

INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR AUTISM

The Senate passed legislation requiring any health insurance company providing coverage in Kansas to include coverage for autism spectrum disorder, specifically coverage for Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) therapy. HB 2744 would establish the criteria for the diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder as well as the licensure requirement for those who administer ABA therapy.

ABA therapy is a growing and effective treatment prescribed for children diagnosed with autism. If provided at an early age at an intensive level, it has shown to greatly reduce the effects of autism. This bill would allow for 1,300 hours per year of intensive ABA therapy to be provided for the first four years after diagnosis, up to age five. After the initial four years of intensive therapy, the bill provides for 520 hours per year, up to the age of 12.

ABA therapy has allowed children with autism to become more successful in the classroom and ultimately helps them to become active members of society. HB 2744 is fiscally responsible legislation because it would help to keep these children from being reliant upon state services for potentially their whole lives. The fact that 36 states currently require insurance coverage for autism is an indication of the success of the therapy in treating autism. Requiring insurance coverage for autism therapy would afford children with autism in Kansas the opportunity to one day have a successful career and be essential contributors to the state's economy. HB 2744 passed the Senate on a vote of 38-2. The governor has now signed this bill into law.  

I was glad to support this bill.


PROPERTY TAX REFORM

The Senate passed legislation clarifying the legislature's intent that machinery and equipment be exempt from property tax. The legislature enacted in 2006 a property tax exemption for certain commercial and industrial machinery and equipment. HB 2643 would codify in statute that machinery and equipment constitute a specific sub-class of personal property and a statement of intent that they are exempt from property tax. This bill would also put into statute the guidelines of the Property Valuation Division (PVD) regarding classifying personal property.

HB 2643 represents a broad solution to the ongoing difficulties associated with appraisal of business machinery and equipment. This bill would essentially set the default classification for the appraisal of machinery and equipment as personal property unless proven otherwise by the facts as applied by the three part PVD test. The clarifying language contained in this bill would help prevent Kansas business from paying exorbitant property taxes due to misclassification of their machinery and equipment.


CONCEALED CARRY LICENSES

SB 447 passed the Senate by a vote of 34-2. The bill creates new provisions regarding weapons, specifically to employees with Concealed Carry licenses. Employees would not have to disclose they possess this license to their employers. The bill also covers new posting requirements for municipal buildings that prohibit the open carrying of firearms. Ultimately, SB 447 produces uniform laws throughout Kansas for concealed carry permit holders. A citizen would no longer have to worry about varying weapons laws if they were crossing cities or county lines with firearms, knives, etc.


PRO-LIFE PROTECTION ACT

The Senate discussed SB 448, which covers some major provisions of the Pro-Life Protection Act. The first provision requires any organization providing an abortion must link to the Kansas Department of Health's "Women's Right to Know" website on their homepage. Previously, abortion clinics would make it impossible to find the link on their website. This provision will allow for individuals seeking information to read from the "Women's Right to Know" provided by the state health department. SB 448 would reduce this to one click.

The second provision involved is the definition of "medical emergency" that is currently in place. The definition was found to be confusing and misinterpreted. The language was clarified in 448 to ensure clarity. SB 448 was passed on a vote of 33-7.

I voted for this bill.  


SCHOOL FINANCE BILL

In the final week before first adjournment, we took up the debate on the school finance budget. Many grueling hours were spent to come up with a plan that could get 63 votes in the House and 21 in the Senate. Two of the biggest items were how much new money would be spent and how many policy additions would be offered. There were also several reductions to district budgets like transportation and weightings to help pay for the full funding of Capital Outlay and the district's LOB.

The House initially passed a bill with 91 votes that met the equalizing requirements and had no policy additions. The Senate then added policy requirements concerning property tax reductions and corporate income tax credits as well as common core language and finally tenure. I voted NO on the Senate plan as I felt it was irresponsible to add provisions that never were passed or even heard in any Senate committee or conference committee. The bill went to conference and some changes were made, but the House rejected that version, too. Conference committees again met, and HB 2506 emerged with some dollar changes and still contained corporate tax credits and teacher tenure. There were many questions on the teacher tenure part of the bill, which is one of the reasons I voted NO on this bill. HB 2506 did pass the Senate with 22 votes and the House with 63.


HAPPENINGS AROUND THE DISTRICT

This past week started off with a legislative breakfast near Colwich at the farm of Susan and Dennis Gruenbacher. Sedgwick County Farm Bureau hosted the event, which featured topics like precision farming, chemical use and practices, and GMO seeds. They also demonstrated farm equipment, soil stewardship, and the demand for food products and resource conservation for the next generations. Everyone enjoyed getting outdoors for the event. 

I also attended the awards presentation for Eisenhower Middle School and Apollo Elementary School in the Goddard school district. Both of these schools received the Governor's Achievement Award for being in the top 5% of schools in the state of Kansas. The students from both schools put on a program of singing, dancing, and celebrating their success. It was very entertaining and a compliment to the teachers, parents, and staff at both schools. In addition to these schools, Garden Plain High School was also once again awarded the Governor's Achievement Award. I am very pleased to have such outstanding schools in the district to represent.

On Thursday, I attended the Seismic Task Force conference at Newman University. It featured the Kansas Geological Survey, Kansas Corporation Commission, and Kansas Department of Health and Environment. They showed data and information on seismic activity with the intent to continue increased monitoring for Kansas.