Kansas Governor Jeff Colyer says that February 8th will be the day that the Kansas Legislature opens up.
In a joint address to the legislature on Wednesday, Colyer said he will sign 4 executive orders on Thursday “that take important steps to make Kansas Government more transparent.” Those include no longer charging fees to Kansans for open records requests less than 100 pages. Colyer went on to say that another order will ensure that state business is conducted using official email accounts. His third order will implement metrics for Cabinet Agencies so people can see how they perform and finally Colyer says a website will be launched “to serve as a one-stop shop for Cabinet Agencies to post open meetings, locations and materials.”
One of his major announcements was about the workforce in the state of Kansas. Colyer said that if you travel around to smaller towns you find people who say they want to hire people they just can’t find them. “We have jobs looking for people,” said Colyer. “My (Re) Employment Plan will provide, free of charge: a skills assessment, resume, interview and networking assistance, and labor market information highlighting current in-demand jobs.” He added that within his budget proposal there will be “significant investments in career and technical education.” Colyer plans to give high school students the opportunity to learn technical skills while they’re still in school. Just today Procter and Gamble announced they would be closing their KCK plant by the end of 2020 putting even more people into the workforce pool in the Sunflower State.
Another topic on Colyer’s list is the Department of Children and Families. Prior to Colyer taking office, Gina Meier-Hummel replaced Phyllis Gilmore as the Secretary for DCF. DCF was audited last year and found to be severely lacking in many areas. Colyer highlighted four goals he has for DCF. First he wants to hire additional child welfare field staff, which was a major point of the audit last April. He wants to start emergency placement options so kids are not sleeping in offices. He wants to form an investigative staff to track down missing kids and finally he wants to invest in ‘community-based family preservation and family-strengthening programs.’
Governor Colyer’s speech went on to cover KanCare, Kansas’ program to provide Medicaid. His priorities are to “Improve patient outcomes; bend the cost curve down; fix the eligibility system; draw down additional Medicaid funding for patients receiving treatment for substance abuse or mental illness; and to support work opportunities for able-bodied adults.” You might remember that KanCare was extended to the end of 2018 by President Trump’s administration. A similar request was denied by President Obama’s administration in his final month in office. Colyer is quoted to have called that move by President Obama “an ugly parting shot.”
Colyer’s final piece of his message on Wednesday concerned school financing, but unlike his other topics of the day he did not give any sort of decisive action plan along with it. Instead his talking points were things like “Keep schools open!” and “End school finance lawsuits for good.” Colyer did suggest a multi-year approach but did not go into further detail. Just before he resigned as governor, Sam Brownback called for an additional $600 million in funding for schools.
In his address Colyer also addressed abortion, sexual harassment in the legislature and the opioid epidemic. You can read a full transcript of the governor’s address here.