(Jan. 14, 2022) – At the beginning of every session, our state leaders convene for the annual State of the State address by the sitting governor. This event took place earlier this week, and we had the opportunity to hear firsthand Governor Laura Kelly's policy agenda for 2022.
As you might anticipate, Governor Kelly's speech touched upon the current health care crisis, and she expressed her appreciation for the dedicated and tireless efforts of our health care workers as we continue to endure the COVID-19 pandemic. Governor Kelly specifically recognized Whitney Freel, an ICU charge nurse from Stormont Vail Health in Topeka. She also urged the best way to support our health care system and minimize the severity of COVID-19 is to get vaccinated and boosted.
Governor Kelly noted a few other policy areas she would like to address in the coming year. She implored the Kansas Legislature to consider KanCare expansion as one way to improve the quality of life for many Kansans, as well as support our hospitals and health care systems. With the adoption of Medicaid expansion by our surrounding states, this policy may be more crucial than ever for our ability to maintain a viable, competitive health care system. While some may say KanCare expansion may be a long shot this session. I know from experience that you cannot count anything out until the legislature adjourns. I also applaud the governor's recognition that more must be done to support our mental health system in Kansas. This is even more evident as we have been living through the current pandemic. The governor’s proposal to add additional funding and mental health programs will continue us on the path to provide the needed support to our communities.
Besides the health care policies identified, the governor highlighted several non-health care-related initiatives she would like to pursue. These included cutting the sales tax on groceries, freezing college tuition rates and funding the state water plan. At first blush, it seems these policies should easily make their way through the legislative process. Unfortunately, it is never that simple. The 2022 Kansas legislative session will require our elected leaders to put aside partisan politics and commit to doing the right thing. As part of her remarks, Governor Kelly cited a well-known quote from the late Senator Bob Dole, "When it's all over, it's not about who you were, it's about whether you made a difference." These words continue to ring true today, and time will only tell whether we are ready to heed Senator Dole's advice.