Education funding bill provides voting ‘pleasure’ for state representative

State Rep. Peggy Mast, District 76
Kansas House Speaker Pro Tem

020914_rep_mast_peggy_1Growing Jobs In Kansas

The unemployment rate in Kansas remains below 5 percent for the third consecutive month. This continued low rate represents the first time in five years that unemployment has been this low consistently. Additionally, the state has gained 12,200 private sector jobs in the past year.

Education Update

I had the pleasure of voting this week on a bill that not only funds education but also reduces property taxes. Also, included in this bill is the solution to the current ESU Apartment sale issue.

Creating a Pro-Business Environment

The Kansas House has passed HB 2576, a bill that would lower the unemployment tax by 15% for Kansas businesses. Unemployment taxes go to an unemployment trust fund in Washington D.C. This trust fund is used to pay benefits to Kansans who are out of work, but excess dollars never come back to the state. With the unemployment rate in Kansas at less than 5%, there is little demand on the trust fund and therefore little need for Kansas businesses to pay high unemployment taxes. By decreasing the unemployment tax rate, legislators have ensured that more money stays here with businesses in Kansas.

Healthcare Compact

The Kansas House has approved HB 2553; a bill that would allow Kansas to join eight other states in petitioning US Congress for full control and authority over federal healthcare dollars. However, the Compact would have to be approved by both houses of the US Congress before becoming effective. If approved, the Compact would give Kansas the ability to create their own rules for Medicare, Medicaid, and other government healthcare programs and circumvent the Affordable Care Act. Additionally, the Compact would allow Kansas to receive its proportional share of healthcare dollars and maintain autonomy over its own healthcare needs. Most importantly, this Compact would protect Medicare from future Federal cuts. More than $700 billion has already been cut from Medicare in order to pay for Medicaid expansions. Without the Compact, Kansas Medicare would see $4.8 billion in cuts over the next 10 years, with a projected 30,000 Kansans losing their Medicare advantage plan by 2017. This Compact would prevent those cuts and ensure that Kansas seniors continue to receive the benefits they have earned.

Autism Coverage

insurance companies to offer coverage for autism spectrum disorders. The goal of this bill is to help children achieve their full potential through early diagnosis and treatment. In order to achieve this goal, the bill will require insurance companies to provide applied behavioral analysis therapy for children. The bulk of treatment will come when the child is young, when therapy has been shown to be most effective. The coverage provided by this bill will include 1,300 hours of therapy every year from the time of diagnosis until age 4. After age 4, coverage will provide 520 hours therapy per year until age 12. The advancements made by this bill are the result of many hours of hard work and compromises between autism advocates, the insurance industry, and House members.

Taking Care of Those Who Serve

Both houses of the Kansas legislature have made veterans a top priority during this session. The House passed HB 2675, which will award at least 3% of state contracts to veteran owned businesses. As defined in the bill, veteran owned businesses are those where disabled veterans own the majority of the business or at least 10 percent of the employees are disabled veterans. On the Senate side, SB 263 establishes the military funeral honor fund. This fund will pay for the continuation of military funeral honors by the Kansas National Honor Guard.

Financial Literacy

Last week, the Kansas House continued to make Kansas students a priority by approving HB 2475. This bill will require schools to provide financial literacy training to all students before graduation. Financial literacy topics such as investing, saving, wealth building, paying for college, credit and debt, and consumer awareness will be incorporated into current math curriculum across the state. This bill will help prepare students for real world success once they graduate high school.

Do Not Call

Last week, the House approved a bill that will allow cell phone numbers to be added to the “Do Not Call” registry. The bill also increased the frequency of updates to the registry from quarterly updates to monthly updates. The “Do Not Call” registry is maintained by the Kansas Attorney General in cooperation with the Federal Trade Commission. If you would like to be added to the Do Not Call registry, you can visit www.donotcall.gov.

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