Memorial to fallen deputies to be dedicated Wednesday

A memorial to fallen Wyandotte County Sheriff’s deputies is scheduled to be dedicated at noon Wednesday, June 1, in front of the Wyandotte County Courthouse, 710 N. 7th St., Kansas City, Kan.

The memorial project is a joint effort of the Fraternal Order of Police and the sheriff’s office.

After the unveiling and dedication, the FOP Lodge No. 40 will hold a fundraising lunch on the grounds of the Wyandotte Court Courthouse to benefit the family of Detective Brad Lancaster, a Kansas City, Kan., police detective who died May 9 in the line of duty.

Analysis: Wichita Republican quietly spearheaded major health legislation

by Andy Marso, KHI News Service

Kansas lawmakers will reconvene Wednesday at the Statehouse to officially end the 2016 session with the traditional “sine die” ceremony.

Since the dust settled on the frantic few days of the veto session in early May, it’s easier to appreciate the job done by Rep. Dan Hawkins, the Wichita Republican who serves as chairman of the House Health and Human Services Committee.

Hawkins salvaged some substantive public health legislation this year despite challenging circumstances, including a shakeup of his committee membership, turmoil in the Senate health committee and an 11th-hour rules dispute over an anti-abortion provision that threatened to scuttle several health reforms.

Hawkins was the driving force in surmounting those obstacles to pass legislation that:

• Bans tanning salons from serving Kansans under 18.
• Allows Kansas to enter an interstate licensure compact for physicians and other medical providers.
• Requires that acupuncturists be licensed.
• Expands the authority of nurse midwives to operate independently of physicians.
• Allows medical professionals to earn continuing education credits by providing charity care.

To do it, he had to navigate some choppy waters.

Turmoil before session

The challenges for Hawkins began a couple months before the session, when House Speaker Ray Merrick removed three members from his committee because of their support for Medicaid expansion under the federal Affordable Care Act.

The ouster of Rep. Barbara Bollier, a physician, Rep. Don Hill, a pharmacist, and Rep. Susan Concannon, the former director of a regional medical foundation, left the committee without their health-related expertise.

With the Legislature in the middle of a two-year cycle, it also meant Hawkins had three new members to get up to speed on the bills sitting in committee.

About a month into the session, the politics of the ACA struck again, with the removal of Sen. Mary Pilcher-Cook as chairwoman of the Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee after she tried to force a floor vote against Medicaid expansion.

That left the committee led by Sen. Michael O’Donnell, the interim chairman who held the position throughout the session, even after a slim majority of his fellow Senate Republicans signed a petition urging Senate President Susan Wagle to reinstate Pilcher-Cook.

The changes put some health-related legislation in limbo.

The tanning ban was the top initiative this year for the lobbying wing of the American Cancer Society in Kansas. But it faced skepticism from some free-market advocates who wanted a parental-permission exception.

In the waning days of the session, the bill still lacked Senate approval.

Hawkins played hardball, suggesting House members on the health conference committee might withhold their support for Medicaid “step therapy” and welfare restrictions coveted by senators until the tanning ban passed.

After the tanning ban bill gained approval near the end of the session, the American Cancer Society called Hawkins “our champion” on its Facebook page.

Last-minute salvaging

The acupuncture requirements, interstate licensure, midwives changes and charity care provision were bundled in one conference committee “mega-bill” that seemed non-controversial heading into the veto session.

Then the other shoe dropped.

Anti-abortion activists, including Pilcher-Cook, insisted on adding an amendment emphasizing that midwives cannot legally perform abortions, although medical groups said that already was the case.

Inserting that provision meant the bill ran afoul of House rules spearheaded by Rep. John Rubin that stipulated language inserted into conference committee bills had to have passed at least one chamber.

Rubin, one of the House’s most vocal abortion opponents, nonetheless balked at breaking the rule, and the House voted to send the bill back to conference. He eventually softened his opposition, allowing the conference committee report to come up for a vote — although he voted against it in protest of the rules violation.

Hawkins found himself shuttling back and forth between interested parties and calling several conference committee meetings in quick succession with the clock ticking.

Rep. Jim Kelly, a Republican from Independence, nervously watched things unfold. He strongly supported the interstate licensure bill as a way to help his area maintain medical care after the closure of a local hospital.

“When you’re at that point, it would be: They all go or none of them go,” Kelly said. “As it turned out, I think the chairman did a lot of effort there in the last day or two and the package of bills was approved, which I greatly appreciated.”

Getting the word out

In addition to pushing for the tanning ban and the bundle of licensing bills, Hawkins drew praise from disability advocates for forming a subcommittee to review the Brownback administration’s plan to combine Medicaid support services for Kansans with disabilities.

And illness advocacy groups lauded Hawkins’ efforts with the step therapy bill for Medicaid drugs.

Kari Ann Rinker, a lobbyist for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, said Hawkins “has always been willing to lend an ear and listen.”

Rinker said given the Senate’s push for the step therapy bill, Hawkins was under pressure to rubber stamp it and keep it moving. But he took the time to have hearings to, as Rinker put it, “help get the word out.”

“He wanted to create a level of transparency on the issue,” she said. Then, with the bill in conference committee and the session winding to a close, he held out for more revisions to protect patients.

“The way I saw them dig in on the Senate side, I thought we were sunk when it came to the conference committee process,” she said. “But Rep. Hawkins led the way to build in some patient protections.”

Rep. John Wilson, a Democrat from Lawrence, said he would have preferred that Hawkins also champion Medicaid expansion.

But Hawkins’ legislative accomplishments in an election-year session filled with intraparty conflicts surrounding that issue are a reflection of his ability to foster personal relationships and build consensus under the dome.

“I think a driving factor here is his personality and his work ethic,” Wilson said. “If that’s matched with the right policy idea, then we see the results of that.”

The nonprofit KHI News Service is an editorially independent initiative of the Kansas Health Institute and a partner in the Heartland Health Monitor reporting collaboration. All stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link back to when a story is reposted online.

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Students of the month recognized

Recognized as students of the month for May were, back row, left to right, Cynthia Botello, 12th-grader, Schlagle High School; Anthony Goodwin, seventh-grader, West Middle School; and front row, Anthony Jenkins, fifth-grader, New Chelsea Elementary School. (Photo from Kansas City, Kan., Public Schools)
Recognized as students of the month for May were, back row, left to right, Cynthia Botello, 12th-grader, Schlagle High School; Anthony Goodwin, seventh-grader, West Middle School; and front row, Anthony Jenkins, fifth-grader, New Chelsea Elementary School. (Photo from Kansas City, Kan., Public Schools)

The Kansas City, Kan., Board of Education recently recognized students of the month for May.

The students of the month, recommended by Superintendent Cindy Lane, included Anthony Jenkins, fifth-grader, New Chelsea Elementary School; Anthony Goodwin, seventh-grader, West Middle School; and Cynthia Botello, 12th-grader, Schlagle High School.

The nomination letter for Anthony Jenkins from his teacher, Shannon McBroom, at New Chelsea Elementary:

“Anthony Jenkins, 5th grader from New Chelsea Elementary is a child who has had some problems but this year has made some big changes. Anthony became involved in the music program where he played the role of Mick Jagger. He loved it so much, but I told him he had to do his work or he could not continue to be in the program. As a result Anthony has not been in recovery since he began working in the musical! He tells me ‘music is my thing’! He has been doing his work and turning in assignments. He also just recently did a really heroic thing. Our school bench was stolen from our playground at school. We were very sad because we liked to watch moms sit on the bench and visit after they dropped their kids off. Anthony loves to ride his bike after school and seemed to be the eyes and ears of the neighborhood. He found the bench in an old vacant house. He then returned to school and informed Mrs. Searcy (our recovery teacher) and told him to get Officer Blunt. He and Officer Blunt went to the vacant house and retrieved the bench and came proudly walking up the sidewalk of our school carrying it. I know Anthony has not made straight A’s but he has made many improvements and has such a wonderful heart.” Sincerely, Shannon McBroom, teacher, New Chelsea Elementary

The nomination letter for Anthony Goodwin from Caitlin McCollum and the seventh-grade team at West Middle School:

“Anthony Goodwin, 7th-grader has been selected as our student of the month at West Middle School. All of his teachers describe him as a diligent student who always works hard to get his work turned in on time and to the best of his ability. Anthony gives an outstanding effort and consistently asks questions of his peers and teachers when he needs support. Further, Anthony’s maturity and respectful attitude are demonstrated by his cheerful attitude both in and out of the classroom. Anthony acts as a positive leader and role model for his peers by avoiding conflict and promoting learning through positive peer interactions. Anthony is deserving of being recognized as student of the month because he is an excellent model for his peers and a pleasure to have in class every day!” Sincerely, Caitlin McCollum and the seventh- grade team

The nomination letter for Cynthia Botello of Schlagle High School from a teacher:
“Cynthia Botello, senior, is a rock star! I truly admire her hard-work and perseverance! She is an exceptional student because she refuses to give up. If there is something put in front of her that may initially overwhelm her, she asks the questions she needs to ask, buckles down and works her heart out until she has arrived as conqueror. I appreciate and admire her heart to move in excellence! She will graduate this year and I am very proud of her. Cynthia rocks it” Sincerely, Raneka Truelove, English language arts teacher

Students of the month for April recognized

Honored as students of the month for April were, middle, back, Grace Wright, Schlagle High School; front row, from left, Carolina Lozano-Perez, Quindaro Elementary; Jamielynn Renova Parra, Morse Elementary Childhood Center; and Por Choua Lor, Central Middle. (Photo from Kansas City, Kan., Public Schools)
Honored as students of the month for April were, middle, back, Grace Wright, Schlagle High School; front row, from left, Carolina Lozano-Perez, Quindaro Elementary; Jamielynn Renova Parra, Morse Elementary Childhood Center; and Por Choua Lor, Central Middle. (Photo from Kansas City, Kan., Public Schools)

The Kansas City, Kan., Board of Education also recently honored students of the month for April. They include Grace Wright, Schlagle High School; Carolina Lozano-Perez, Quindaro Elementary; Jaimelynn Renova Parra, Morse Early Childhood Center; and Por Choua Lor, Central Middle

The students were recommended by Superintendent Cindy Lane.

The nomination letter for Jamielynn Renova Parra from her teachers and staff at the Morse Early Childhood Center:

“Jaimelynn is one of those students that just brightens your day! She enters the school building each day with a smile on her face and a willingness to learn. She gets along with all her peers in the classroom and has made many friends this year. If she doesn’t understand something, she will ask questions. One of the most endearing qualities about Jaimelynn is her capacity to help out her fellow classmate and her care and concern for her peers. She invites peers over to play with her at the dramatic play and engages them in dramatic play roles. She also has a very unique quality about her for our students with disabilities. She provides encouragement to her peers when they get a piece in the puzzle correctly. Jaimelynn displays a love of learning and we appreciate you honoring her for student of the month”. Sincerely, Jami Dodig, Jennifer Bruns, Alicia Salazar-Neupane, Yogi Guess, Manisha Tatum, Erika Salazar and Carlie Thomas, all from Morse ECC

The nomination letter for Carolina Lozano Perez from Nichole Heier at Quindaro Elementary School:

“Carolina is an exemplary student and role model for others. Academically, she is at the top of her class, consistently receiving all ‘A’s’! Her school takes part in a Character Plus program focused on student success through character development. Each month the students are focused on a different character trait, such as courage, respect, integrity and compassion. She has a number of leadership roles in our school. She is a member of the school’s Young Leaders of Tomorrow group, a service-learning group, a service-learning and character-building program. Their project this year was in support of the Make-A-Wish Foundation. This has contributed to her compassion and giving spirit. Most recently, she cut off more than 15 inches of hair to donate to Locks of Love. Carolina is a true leader, mentor and good Samaritan!” Sincerely, Nicole Heier, teacher

The nomination letter for Por Choua Lor from Kristy Poplau at Central Middle School:

“I had the privilege of teaching Por Choua Lor in summer school this past year. Wow! What a joy! He attended summer school so he could learn more and speak more English. He gave 150% to everything we did. I am very impressed by his dedication to learning. He should be given every opportunity within our grasp, as he will strive to achieve his goals. Por Choua is an extremely likeable, high character student with true moral values. He is hard working, dependable, and truly cares about others. He patiently helps his peers when they need assistance without judgment and often with enthusiasm! He lives with the Golden Rule. I wish more adults could acquire traits such as Por Choua’s. He is a fine young man and I expect great things from him”. Kristy Poplau, teacher leader

The nomination letter for Grace Wright from Sara Cosse at Schlagle High School

“Grace Wright is a great representation of a wonderful student here at F.L. Schlagle High School. Grace is a 10th grader who helps other students with her positivity within the classroom. She is an active student in our school and is involved as a marching band flag dancer and with the KU Talent Search in our school. Grace has a strong future ahead of her marching band flag dance. Grace has a strong future ahead of her and works hard in all of her classes with mostly A’s and few B’s. She is a leader among others and she is responsible, respectable, and radiant!” Sincerely, Sara Cosse, family advocacy teacher