Government & Politics

Democrats in Kansas House try to revive Medicaid expansion and teacher protection bill

An effort to save a bill that would expand Medicaid is underway in the Kansas House, while an attempt to bring back a job protection for teachers passed an initial vote Tuesday.

Democrats used a procedural move to talk about both pieces of legislation Tuesday morning. The wrangling in the House comes as lawmakers debate more than a dozen bills as they prepare for a short break next week.

Because the bills were not “blessed” by House leadership or voted out of their committees, the legislation would effectively be dead for the rest of the 2017 session unless the majority of House lawmakers allow the bills to make it the floor.

“You all deserve a vote on Medicaid expansion,” said House Minority Leader Jim Ward, a Wichita Democrat who asked for the full House to decide the fate of the bill. “More importantly, the people of Kansas deserve a vote on Medicaid expansion.”

HB 2064 would expand KanCare, the state’s privatized Medicaid program, to thousands of low income people in the state.

House Speaker Ron Ryckman, an Olathe Republican, has said he will not bless the Medicaid expansion bill to move it forward.

“Long-standing bipartisan rules have governed the committee process in the House,” Ryckman said in a statement Tuesday morning. “When you trust the process, you trust the results, even though you may not agree with them.”

Gov. Sam Brownback has also said he is against expanding Medicaid in Kansas.

On the teacher bill, Democrats tried to bring back the proposal to provide due process for K-12 teachers by amending another bill instead of waiting to see if the House decided to bring the issue to the floor for debate later this week.

They succeeded by passing the new bill, which includes the amendment with the teacher protection restored, by an initial vote of 68 to 54.

The original legislation, HB 2179, would let teachers have a hearing if their contracts were terminated. That protection was ended after a school funding bill was passed in 2014.

Democrats and conservative Republicans clashed over the nature of the bill.

“It protects good teachers from unjust dismissal,” Rep. Jerry Stogsdill, a Prairie Village Democrat, said as he brought the amendment forward.

Other lawmakers, like Rep. Willie Dove, a Bonner Springs Republican, said the due process should be in the hands of local officials and not the state.

“Some individuals feel we don’t respect teachers,” Dove said. “That’s highly unlikely.”

A final vote is still needed to pass the House.

Hunter Woodall: 785-354-1388, @HunterMw