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OPINION

Kansas elected leaders are starting the 2021 legislative session. We have five topics they need to tackle.

By The Editorial Advisory Board
Kansas Statehouse

The Kansas Legislature returns to Topeka this week, and the state and nation in January 2021 looks nothing like the state and nation of January 2020.

Last year at this time, we had no inkling of the pandemic that would soon cast a cloud. We had no idea of the political disruptions that would eventually shake our country. No one knew, and indeed that’s the point. The months to come are a mystery, and while we can make some general predictions, who knows what’s really in store.

This all leads us to approach the topic of legislative priorities with humility. We forge onward, however, in the belief that state government can make a real difference for all Kansans.

First off, the Legislature should finally expand the state Medicaid program. We know legislator turnover makes that a tall order this year, but it’s simply the right thing to do for all Kansans. This last year showed us how important quality health care is, while at the same time showing how nonsensical it is for health insurance to be tied to employment. 

Staying in the health care field, legislators should take a stand against surprise medical bills. While we’ve seen federal movement on this subject, Kansas hasn’t taken action. We could strengthen new federal rules to make sure that no one receiving crucial care is walloped by an unpayable bill.

We need additional broadband grants to improve internet access throughout the state. Kansas currently has a  patchwork of programs, which are appreciated, but the results is that some areas have quality service while others struggle to simply meet basic needs. Our rural communities often cite housing, child care and broadband as impediments to their success. We need people living in rural Kansas, and the Legislature should invest there through improved broadband access.

Not having a National Violence Against Women Act has harmed Kansans. Our state should strengthen its laws to compensate for the federal lack. With the continuing challenges posed by the scourge of human trafficking, legislators should make sure to protect the state’s women and girls.

Finally, Kansas must strive to have the highest percentage of COVID-19 vaccinations in the country. For the past several weeks, we’ve seen our state lag in national reports of the vaccine rollout. Things have improved somewhat, but we could do so much more to ensure that every Kansas has the protection of an effective vaccine.

That’s our list. We’re sure you have ideas of your own, so don’t keep them to yourself. Make sure to stay in touch with your state senators and representatives, so they know what’s important to you as this year’s session begins.