The pace of legislative action at the Statehouse picked up considerably this week, only to be interrupted by the welcome snow storm Thursday. Getting this greatly needed moisture in our state was the highlight, for sure!
There was a great deal of work done in various budget subcommittees this week, most of it very positive for KU and higher education. The House Education Budget Subcommittee recommended full funding for the budgets at both KU and KUMC, including the enhancement funding for the Health Education Initiative at the medical center. This key project is vital to our efforts to graduate more physicians for Kansas and elevate the rankings at the medical center. Next to moisture, most folks agree that more doctors in our state is of critical importance to our state’s future. The next step is for the full House Appropriations Committee to review the recommendations for our budget Monday. We are encouraged by the positive comments we’ve received from many members of the committee.
The House Appropriations Committee has also agreed to fully fund the grant program that helps support the KU Cancer Center. This $5 million annual funding stream is leveraged many times over as the cancer center generates in excess of $50 million each year in externally funded research.
Meanwhile, the Senate Ways and Means Committee is still searching for ways to slash budgets and hasn’t yet arrived at a way to restore the funding for the KU Medical Center project. Subcommittee Chair Tom Arpke, R-Salina, has led an effort to cut the budget in that chamber.
This led to a swift response from other legislators and Governor Brownback who restated his full support and commitment to the KU Medical Center budget and expansion program. The subcommittee actions are but the first step in a multi-step review of the state’s overall budget. Rest assured, the university and advocates in communities throughout the state are “tuned in” to the matter and will continue working overtime for a successful resolution and the restoration of the funding.
There have been a number of other key policy issues on the legislative agenda of interest to the university. HB 2055 regarding firearms in public buildings, such as university campuses, will be heard in the House Federal and State Affairs Committee. As currently drafted, the measure puts the Kansas Board of Regents in the driver’s seat in developing policies for firearms on Regents institutions property.
Also, HB 2253, which addresses abortion restrictions, has been drafted so as to not trigger accreditation issues for the training of our OB/GYN residents at the medical center. That measure was heard earlier this week in the House.
We’re watching over 100 individuals bills at this stage of the session, including HB 2366. This measure would prevent KU or any public entity from “expending any funds” on sustainability. I want to assure folks if the goal was to get people’s attention, mission accomplished! But there is NOT sufficient support for this measure to advance.
The week ahead will be a full one, as all measures (other than budget & revenue) must have cleared their house of origin. That will mean long hours spent debating lots of individual bills on the floor of both the House and Senate.
Director of State Relations