Daily Archives: April 27, 2012

Jayhawk basketball players mingle in the Statehouse

TOPEKA — Gov. Sam Brownback and state lawmakers took a short break from politics this morning to talk about something they all seem to agree on — their love of Jayhawks basketball.

Senators endorsed a resolution, Gov. Sam Brownback is set to sign a resolution and a basketball hoop is set up in the lobby on the first floor of the Statehouse. Meanwhile, players, including Jeff Withey, Travis Releford, Conner Teahan and Jordan Juenemann, signed autographs and shook hands while cameras flashed in the hallways.

“We are ecstatic with the performance of KU basketball — men’s and women’s — this year,” Brownback said.

Brownback attended the last three games the men’s team played, saying, like most KU fans, he enjoyed the Elite 8 victory over North Carolina the most.





Appropriations committee delays managed care for developmentally disabled

Hundreds of people with disabilities and their supporters on Wednesday urged legislators to delay a plan to bring developmental disability services under managed care.

TOPEKA – Long-term services for people with developmental disabilities won’t be included in Gov. Sam Brownback’s managed care plan until 2014 under a move approved by the House Appropriations Committee this morning.

Approval of the budget proviso follows months of protest from organizations that provide services to people who have significant disabilities, such as autism. The organizations and people who have those disabilities worry that the insurance companies bidding to manage the state’s new KanCare system may not have enough experience with long-term care services.

Brownback and other conservative Republicans stood by including those services in the managed care plan for months. But earlier this week, Brownback acknowledged the widespread concerns and endorsed the move to delay their inclusion in KanCare until Jan. 1, 2014, a year after most other Medicaid services fall under the management of three private insurance companies.

But several lawmakers voiced concern that the budget proviso wasn’t shown to the organizations that hope to be excluded from KanCare.

Rep. Jerry Henry, D-Cummings, questioned whether the proviso could allow case managers for the developmentally disabled to fall under KanCare. Rep. Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, assured him no one would be forced to change who their case manager is.

But concerns persisted.

“I have concerns that this hasn’t been fully vetted by everybody,” Henry said.

The budget proviso includes an option for providers of home and community based waiver services to join a pilot project to see how the managed care model could work. Denning said Brownback administration officials say some organizations are interested in “test driving” the program, but he declined to name those organizations.

Wichita Republican Rep. Jo Ann Pottorff sought to delay a vote on the proviso until someone made public the groups who want to join the pilot program. But a move to delay the vote until Monday failed.

Rep. Barbara Ballard, a Democrat from Lawrence, questioned why lawmakers would include the option of a pilot project when providers have clearly said they don’t want to be included in managed care.

“I can’t see anyone changing their mind because they didn’t want it in the first place,” she said. “They wanted to be outside of it.”



Lawmaker protests “damn ugly” district, but Senate redistricting map moves forward

TOPEKA — After a short committee meeting and an angry outburst from one member, the state Senate inched toward approving new districts for its members.

On an 8-3 vote, the Senate Redistricting Committee advanced new district maps for the Senate, House and state Board of Education.

But not before a tirade from Sen. Ralph Ostmeyer, R-Grinnell, who protested the large geographic size of the redrawn 40th Senate District in the northwest corner of the state.

Ostmeyer complained that it would take him 3 1/2 hours to traverse the 40th from corner to corner while other more urban districts are far more compact.

“Some of you are just picking up a precinct, you can walk across your damn district in a day,” Ostmeyer said. “I think my district deserves better from this committee. I am disappointed to think that anybody in this chair, and you can grin about it, try covering my district.

“I make the choice to serve that district, but to serve a district that damn ugly … I think is wrong.”

Ostmeyer declined to comment after the meeting.

The Senate is working to catch up to the House in the once-every-10-year process of redistricting. The Legislature and governor are required by the state Constitution to redraw district lines to reflect population changes in the Census and ensure equal representation across the state.

The committee made only slight changes to the Senate map, known as “Ad Astra.”

The changes included swapping numbers between a western Kansas area that is essentially losing a district because of loss of population and Johnson County, which is gaining one due to population increase.

Another change slightly moved a district line to avoid dividing the towns of Baxter Springs and Keats, a small community near Manhattan.

The committee also approved a map for the state Board of Education and “Cottonwood 1,” a House map that had been drawn by the House earlier.

Those maps are expected to come before the full Senate for a vote next week, said committee Chairman Tim Owens, R-Overland Park.

The Ad Astra map has been criticized by leaders in the House and some senators because it separates some Senate incumbents from challengers who have announced intentions to seek the seats.

In Sedgwick County, the Ad Astra map would put Sen. Jean Schodorf, R-Wichita, in a different district than a challenger, Rep. Brenda Landwehr, also R-Wichita.

It also would move businessman Gary Mason out of the district of the senator he wants to challenge, Carolyn McGinn, R-Sedgwick,

Owens said the Redistricting Committee will be called back next week to work on Congressional districts.

The Senate has already rejected the House’s first shot at a congressional map, which would have divided Topeka between two districts. It has also narrowly rejected a conservative-leaning Senate map proposed by Sen. Steve Abrams, R-Arkansas City, that would have put the challengers in the districts where they want to be.

Senate Democratic Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, said he has concerns about the Ad Astra map because it creates a head-to-head matchup in western Kansas between two sitting senators, Garrett Love, R-Montezuma and Allen Schmidt, D-Hays.

Although Senate leaders made it a priority to avoid districts pitting incumbents against each other, rural Kansas has to essentially lose a Senate district somewhere to accommodate a new district in growing Johnson County.

Senate Republican leaders have said it made sense to put Love and Schmidt in the same district, because both were appointed to fill vacancies and neither has had to face an election for his current seat.

Hensley, however, said he thinks some other part of the state should lose a district.

“Western Kansas took the hit 10 years ago and I’m not sure it’s fair that western Kansas should once again take the hit,” he said.

Hensley said he does not plan to offer amendments to the revised Ad Astra map and said he’s not sure whether Democrats will try to help pass it.

The Democrats on the Redistricting Committee, Hensley, Tom Holland, D-Baldwin City, and David Haley, D-Kansas City, all voted to advance the Ad Astra map to the full Senate.

Hensley did say that he thinks the Democrats will have a key role because of the division among the Republicans, who numerically dominate the Senate.

“I think there is a tremendous amount of conflict in the Senate map between the Republicans and I would view the Senate Democratic Caucus’ role as, well, we have seven or eight votes that are important in terms of getting to the constitutional majority of 21,” he said. “We have yet to really sit down as a caucus and visit about where we will be in the whole scheme of things, but I think we’ll play a very important role in terms of whether this map is actually going to end up passing.”