Health at the Capitol, Episode 4: First Adjournment

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Join us for Health at the Capitol, a Kansas Health Institute webcast focused on health-related policy discussions and action at the Kansas Legislature.    

The latest webcast includes a discussion about  health-related bills signed, vetoed or allowed to become law by Gov. Kelly between April 10‒24.


Theresa Freed 0:00
Each legislative session, KHI is hard at work keeping you informed on the latest health policy discussions from across the street in downtown Topeka. Health at the Capitol is a KHI production, a monthly recap with our legislative monitoring team offering you a closer look at policy work happening now in Kansas and coming up. Here’s a look at topics from our latest episode.

Thanks for joining us for Health at the Capitol. My name is Teresa Freed. I’m, the director of strategic communication and engagement at the Kansas Health Institute. And I’m joined by Linda Shepherd. She is our strategy team leader, so also leader of our legislative monitoring division. And we also have a new panelist with us. And Shelby, you’re also new to the organization. So I’m going to have you go ahead and introduce yourself. Tell us a little bit about what you do here at KHI and then also where it came from.

Shelby Rowell 0:55
Absolutely. My name is Shelby Rowell. I’m an analyst here at KHI. So I work on the market innovations team, as well as the population health team. So I work with Linda on legislative monitoring. And then I also do work on the PHIG TA hub. So those are my two primary projects right now. I came from the Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, where I was a senior analyst and worked on community health worker portfolios as well as rural health.

Theresa Freed 1:28
Okay, so lots of experience in the health world, of course, legislative session also, of course, no stranger to that. You worked previously at KDHE as well,

Shelby Rowell 1:37
Correct. Yes.

Theresa Freed 1:39
Okay. So interesting session we’ve had so far. So we’re going to start talking a little bit about what this part of the session is. What first adjournment means. So Linda, do you want to kick us off by just telling us a little bit about that?

Linda Sheppard 1:52
Right. So first adjournment occurred on April 5. So the legislators finished up that day, the work that they’ve done up to that point, and then went on this break, and they refer to that is first adjournment, and then they are, will be returning on Thursday, the 25th of April to do the veto session. So having that opportunity to respond to bills that the that the governor addressed during the time that they were gone. And then also to finish up some budget matters as well.

Theresa Freed 2:27
Okay, so this has been a very active time, especially for the governor’s office. They’ve been carefully reviewing those, those bills and making decisions about what, you know, the governor supports and what should be vetoed. So talk us through a little bit about some of those bills that will become law.

Linda Sheppard 2:42
Yeah. So she did have a number of health-related bills that were sent to her after they left on the fifth. And your, as your, as you said, she’s been working on those, working through them. Signing some, vetoing some and then, at least one health-related bill that she did allow to become law without her signature. So there, she’s done a little bit of everything during that period of time. So bills that she, bills that she did sign, I think you know, one of the ones that that people have been very interested in is, as you know, there’s a lot of concern about having enough health care workers, so the workforce in Kansas, and so two of the bills that were presented to her involved having Kansas get involved in these interstate compacts that allow, in this case, dentists and dental hygienist, as well as some social workers, to be able to apply for licensing in the state of Kansas, you know, through this multi state process. So that, that certainly does open a little bit of that opportunity for more workers to become licensed in Kansas to participate. Also, one of the bills that that I think is, is gotten a lot of attention as well. And it’s sort of in this child welfare. And actually, there were a number of bills that that touched on child welfare that she has addressed. But there was a bill that was addressed that what we refer to as the SOUL the SOUL bill that was going to provide some children in the foster care system who are age 16 or older, to give them a chance to pick somebody that they had a relationship with, and to not necessarily be a be a blood relative or a family member, but to have that person who is willing to step into their lives at that point, and maintain a long-term relationship with them to help them work through, to go into their adult their young adulthood. So I think the the, the young folks in Kansas who worked on putting that bill together, are very, very proud of that coming together. There was a child welfare summit that was held last week that was hosted by the judiciary here in Kansas. And some of those young people were panelists during that. A very impressive young group of people who worked on that bill and brought that. And so Kansas is the first state to pass that kind of a bill, to ensure that these young people have somebody who’s in their corner for them during this time that they’re moving into young adulthood.

Theresa Freed 5:16
Right? That’s so important. Previously, having worked for DCF, you certainly hear a lot of stories about how children age out of the system, and they don’t have that support, and then fall into some of the same scenarios that they came from, in some instances. So that can be a difficult time. So that’s good news for them, that they were able to be successful in their efforts there. So, along those lines of child welfare, we now have a particular office that is independent of the other state agencies and is investigating or really exploring some of the the concerns that people raise. So can you talk about that new position?

Linda Sheppard 5:54
Sure. So the the Office for the Child Advocate. That originally, that office, as it currently exists, had been created by executive order by Governor Kelly. And so it was it was part of her administration. And there had been these efforts in the Legislature to make that a whole separate agency all of its own. And so that did happen this year, that bill was signed by her. So that office, I think, you know, will operate pretty similar maybe to the way that it has been, and but I think that that there are some some specific authority that it’s been given during, through that bill, that’ll allow it to do some things that maybe it wasn’t able to do before. But yeah, that was certainly a major accomplishment in the child welfare area.

Theresa Freed 6:40
And there’s more legislation that has become, or signed by the governor, which is relevant to transparency of childhood investigation. So.

Linda Sheppard 6:49
Yes. So the, one of the things that that we had mentioned before, during some of our meetings was that there were, there had been these requests. And anytime that there is a situation that arises where a child has had physical abuse, particularly in those unfortunate situations, when when there’s a death that occurs with a child, there were a lot of rules and regulations and requirements in place that really made it impossible for DCF and some of the other agencies that do those investigations for those situations to release any of that information publicly. And so there were, there were complaints of there being transparency about about those. So there, there were at least two bills this year that were signed by the governor that really open that up, and so gives DCF some additional authority to release some of that information much earlier than they typically would in the past before even though the full investigation is completed, and also for the child death review board, also to have an opportunity to release some of that additional information that they have not been allowed to do so in the past. So those those are both going to open up some of those, respond to some of those requests for information that have come each time one of those unfortunate situations occurs.

Theresa Freed 8:07
It’s kind of interesting on the Child Welfare legislation, there tends to be in some cases, pretty good bipartisan support. So is that what you’ve seen this session as well?

Linda Sheppard 8:18
Yeah, certainly, certainly, some of the bills that we’ve seen this year, they’re, you know, the ones that especially obviously, the ones that the governor has, has gone ahead and signed, there was this good, strong support. And definitely in this child welfare area, there has been great bipartisan support for getting some of these things done.

Theresa Freed 8:36
All right. And Shelby, you want to touch on any any legislation that’s in front of the governor?

Shelby Rowell 8:41
Absolutely. So this year, the governor also signed the Uniform Vital Statistics Act, which would expand the different health care professionals who could certify causes of death for people who have passed away within the state. So previously, it could only be physicians who could certify deaths. Now, physician’s assistants, advanced practice registered nurses, and then various types of corners, district corners around the state, could now certify deaths. This is especially important for rural communities, who often see delays in certification of death, which can cause, you know, a lot of struggles for families who are, you know, wanting to respectfully move forward with their families, taking care of their family members, throughout that that transitional period. So it’s incredibly important for supporting those families and something that we also saw, have bipartisan support during the legislative session as well.

Theresa Freed 9:47
Now, that’s one of those issues you don’t typically think of until it becomes very necessary and I’m sure you know, people in Kansas rural communities, they faced, you know, workforce shortages in a number of ways that can impact the timeliness of some of those services. So talk about any other or maybe maybe legislation that might impact our communities in a positive way.

Linda Sheppard 10:11
So as I mentioned that one of the one of the bills that the governor allowed to become law without her signature was this bill that was going through that was, was going to, to put into law, some requirements for making sure that that when young people are going on certain websites that there that there is verification of age. And so that is one of those, one of those bills that she she just let it go and become become law. And obviously, there’s been a lot of concern of this, I think, certainly at the state level, but even at the federal level, these concerns about the websites that children are allowed to get to. And it’s not always really clear that those age verification processes work the way I think that people intended or hoped. So I think it’ll be I think part of the reason why she allowed it to just become law was, it’s still not clear how that’s going to really work. And I think she she recognized that, you know, there may be some uncertainty about how that can actually be implemented. But but it’s certainly well meaning and something worth trying.

Theresa Freed 11:14
So when when the governor allows something to become law without officially signing it, is that still a form of endorsement? I mean, how should people interpret?

Linda Sheppard 11:23
So I think typically, I mean, she, you know, it’s like, she signs things, obviously, that she feels very positive about, and really supports in a real meaningful way. You know, obviously, she vetoes the things that she does not think are right for the state. And that’s how she handles it. In those cases, where a governor takes that approach of just letting it become law, it really is a situation where it’s like, I’m not, I’m not really opposed to it, but maybe I’m not really sure exactly how this is going to work. And don’t feel strongly enough about it to be able to actually sign it. So, you know, when she gets, you know, they have 10 days from the date that the bill is presented to them, and they can they can let that day come and go and it becomes law at that point.

Theresa Freed 12:06
Okay. So another topic that has received attention is controlled substances. So do you want to talk a little bit about action there?

Linda Sheppard 12:14
Yeah. So there was a there was a bill that made a lot a number of changes to the, to our Controlled Substances Act, added a lot of bills, removed some things as well, that, that again, you know, that typically, I think, when the changes are made to that, a lot of times that’s in response to something that happens at the federal level, so they make changes to their Controlled Substances Act, and then the states try to come into compliance with that. And so that happened. They also threw, there’s also a little bit of something that got added at the end of that, that talked that is talking about things that happened in school districts and related to health care. So that that was something that was sort of thrown in the bottom but became part of that bill as well.

Theresa Freed 12:59
Okay, any others that you want to highlight

Shelby Rowell 13:02
Going to the controlled substance act, if I recall correctly, previously, they presented that bill every single year, which meant less amendments or less changes every year, but now they’re trying to do that less often, which means that there’s going to be more changes on a less-often basis. So that’s why we saw a lot of changes this year, that perhaps legislators weren’t as used to seeing

Theresa Freed 13:31
Gotcha, okay, very good. Well, you know, there’s sometimes political tension between the governor’s office and the Legislature. And so some of that plays out during the veto session. So the governor’s office has taken a position on some legislation, not favorably. So can you talk about the vetoed bills?

Linda Sheppard 13:50
Yeah, so the, one of the vetoed bills was there were bills that were introduced, and were considered by the Legislature this year related to abortion. And again, one of those that I think we’ve talked about in one of our earlier episodes was the bill that would, that would require a woman to be asked to provide the reasons why she’s making the decision to have an abortion. And as you can imagine, there, there was a lot of difference of opinion about whether or not that was a good thing or a bad thing. And so she did veto that bill. And, and, again, the veto session starts tomorrow. We’re recording on the 24th. So it starts tomorrow. And that’s certainly one of the ones that that I expect that the Legislature might want to consider whether they want to override that, because I think there was there was some strong support for that.

Theresa Freed 14:40
Okay, other vetoed measures?

Shelby Rowell 14:43
Along the same lines. We also saw a abortion-related bill that was also vetoed. So like the previous bill, this this bill had strong legislative support. So I’m sure that this is going to be one that will be considered in veto session, pretty heavily as well.

Linda Sheppard 15:02
Yeah. The other the other big bill that I think will be looked at closely is the bill that was that was introduced, very, very lengthy bill, had a lot of provisions in it primarily related to medication and treatment for gender dysphoria. And so there were a lot of provisions in there talked about certain certain agencies, certain state employees that could not take certain actions related to encouraging children, this was specifically focused on children, to take those kinds of actions. Also put some prohibitions on health care providers, and, you know, with with an outcome that they could, that that would be viewed as a violation of their their licensing, potentially put their license in jeopardy, and also created would create a cause of action for those situations. So there, there are just a number of issues related to that, to those treatments that were being prohibited. And again, the Governor vetoed that one, and that one did get a lot of a lot of attention and a lot of discussion among the Legislature. So I expect it could be an override as well.

Theresa Freed 16:14
Okay. And so, you know, the lingering topics that we’ve talked about through all of our episodes here, I touch on Medicaid expansion. We’re still hearing discussion of that, is it a completely dead issue at this point? Or is there still an opportunity there?

Shelby Rowell 16:30
So currently, for Medicaid expansion, there’s a motion on the floor of the Senate, that would allow Medicaid expansion to be brought to the Senate floor. So essentially, this motion would allow the Senate to consider Medicaid expansion. 24 votes would bring it out of out of committee, and then 27 votes would bring it above the line, which would give the Senators the opportunity to vote on the bill.

Theresa Freed 17:01
Okay, so that’s why we’re still hearing conversation happening. And so it’s not over till it’s over. Right.

Linda Sheppard 17:06
That’s right.

Theresa Freed 17:07
Okay. So walk us through the rest of session. We’ve got Veto session, then we’ve got what left?

Linda Sheppard 17:14
Yeah, so that’s really pretty, pretty much it. So they will return tomorrow. It was interesting, because they were originally under the original schedule, were not scheduled to come back till Monday.

Theresa Freed 17:24

Linda Sheppard 17:24
And then it got moved to Friday, and then it can now it’s moved to Thursday. So again, as I mentioned earlier, part of part of the work that they’ll be doing is the omnibus omnibus budget bill, that is also being worked on. So the both the Senate and the House Budget Committees will be meeting tomorrow as well to sort of work work out those issues. And then so they’ll they need to finish that up. They will be considering any overrides of any of the vetoes that that the governor did. And then Shelby and I were just talking, you know, they, they, everything we’re hearing is that they’ll be out of here, by the end of the day on Tuesday, the 30th. And then after that, I mean, it’s really over at that point. And so we won’t, you know, there wouldn’t be any, any additional activity after that. And as far as KHI is concerned, we’ll, we’ll start putting together then our final recap issue brief that takes the look at the whole session and everything that was considered or finalized, in this case related to health. So we’ll have a lot to talk about in the recap.

Theresa Freed 18:33
Yes, we will. And of course, you know, we will have this episode, but then also our blog series, which is Health at the Capitol and you can get more information about the topics that we discussed here today on our website at Please subscribe to our emails. You can do that also on our website. That way you get the latest information from the Kansas legislature. Thanks for joining us.

Transcribed by

Health at the Capitol Production Team

Theresa Freed, M.A., Host, Producer, Editor

Stewart Cole, Editor, Multimedia Specialist

About Kansas Health Institute

The Kansas Health Institute supports effective policymaking through nonpartisan research, education and engagement. KHI believes evidence-based information, objective analysis and civil dialogue enable policy leaders to be champions for a healthier Kansas. Established in 1995 with a multiyear grant from the Kansas Health Foundation, KHI is a nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization based in Topeka.

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