Rep. Ron Ryckman Jr., a Republican from Olathe, has been named chair of the House Social Services Budget Committee.
House Speaker Ray Merrick’s office announced the appointment late last week.
The nine-member committee — seven Republicans, two Democrats — is charged with assembling the budgets for the Department for Children and Families, Department for Aging and Disability Services, and the Division of Health within the Department of Health and Environment. It also has a hand in overseeing KanCare, the state’s Medicaid managed-care program operated by three private insurance companies.
Ryckman, 41, said his goal as chair was “…not to come in and find ways to slice and cut” spending. Instead, he said he hopes to find ways to “increase efficiency” and make sure the departments’ budgets are generating the “best services for the people of Kansas.”
He said he’ll also be looking for ways to “make KanCare work,” noting that he was aware of ongoing provider complaints about the complexity of the new system and the difficulties they’ve had obtaining treatment authorizations and timely payments from the managed care companies.
“When I talk to people about KanCare, the message I’m getting it that they realize it’s here and that they’re going to have to deal with it,” Ryckman said. “So the challenge now is: How do we make it better? How do we solve the problems we’re having?”
Ryckman, who’s still in his first two-year term in the House, is a member of the Robert G. (Bob) Bethell Joint Committee on Home and Community Based Services and KanCare Oversight. He also serves on the House Appropriations Committee.
In addition to his legislative duties, Ryckman serves on the Olathe City Council, a position he’s held for the past five years.
Ryckman said he expects much of next year’s budget deliberations to be driven a Kansas Supreme Court decision that could force lawmakers to spend an additional $500 million a year on public schools.
“As long as the ruling on school finance is up in the air, everything is in play,” Ryckman said. “It’s put me in a difficult position because I don’t want to see the court pit social services against education. But at the same time, I can’t assure people that it won’t happen because we’re in a situation where anything could happen.”
Rep. Barbara Ballard, a Lawrence Democrat and the committee’s ranking minority member, said Ryckman should expect a full agenda.
“There are so many issues to deal with, I wouldn’t know where to begin,” she said. “We have people on waiting lists for services, we have DCF (Department for Children and Families) making it more difficult for people who are truly struggling to be eligible for services, and KanCare has become a huge concern. We have all kinds service providers saying they aren’t being paid, and then we have consumers saying they can’t get services. So there’s a lot for the committee to talk about.”
Ryckman owns a residential and commercial roofing company in Olathe. He’s also a business consultant. He has a bachelor’s degree in business administration from MidAmerica Nazarene University in Olathe.
“I went to MidAmerica Nazarene on a basketball scholarship,” he said. “That’s what brought me here (Olathe) in 1990. I grew up in Meade.”
Ryckman and his wife, Kim, have three children.
His father is Rep. Ron Ryckman Sr., a Republican from Meade.
“As far was we’ve been able to find out, we’re the first father and son to be in the Legislature at the same time,” Ryckman said.
The elder Ryckman taught government at Meade High School for 29 years.
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