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Noonletter, Dec. 4, 2018

Crysta Henthorne
Kansas News Service

Leader talk

The newly elected and re-elected folks in the Kansas House got together on Monday to pick their leaders. Republicans, who hold an overwhelming majority, kept Ron Ryckman in the speaker’s chair. But they swapped out moderate Don Hineman for conservative Dan Hawkins.

Democrats replaced the sometimes-combative Jim Ward, who briefly flirted with a run for governor, for the more conciliatory Tom Sawyer.

In short, report Jim McLean and Madeline Fox, the choices reflected an increasing polarization in the Legislature and losses by moderate Republicans to both conservatives in their own party and to Democrats.

A few things lawmakers said about the changes:

“Both caucuses moved away from the center. … As someone who believes that a bipartisan, centrist approach is the best approach to governance I hate to see that. But it is what it is and we’ll work to make it work.”— Hineman
“We’ll look for ways we can work with (former state senator and Democratic Gov.-elect Laura Kelly). A majority of the state still believes in core Republican principles and we’ll continue to push those forward” — Ryckman
“The Democrats and more conservative Republicans, neither one have 63 votes. That’s what it takes to get business done here.” — Moderate Republican Rep. Russ Jennings
“Rather than take the approach of just being bomb-throwers and oppose everything, we want to be constructive and try to pass good legislation for the people of Kansas.” — Sawyer

Rollin’ in it

For 18 straight months — the longest stretch in more than a half-century — revenue to the state government in Kansas has actually run above projections.

For the first five months of the current budget year, the state’s income from taxes and fees ran more than $220 million ahead of expectations.

In November, it ran about $2.5 million above projections and nearly $39 million above the same month in 2017, said the Kansas Department of Revenue.

Location, location, health insurance

The farther west you live in Kansas, the more likely you are to rely on the government for your health insurance.

The Kansas Health Institute has broken down the types of health coverage, or the lack of it, by congressional district.

That view suggests that the more rural the area you call home, the greater the chance you count on programs such as Medicaid, Medicare or the Children’s Health Insurance Program to cover your medical bills.

Part of that stems from simple demographics. The elderly, for instance, make up a larger proportion of the population in less densely populated areas. And income in rural areas tends to be lower than in larger cities and suburbs.

In the state’s 3rd Congressional District, which covers the Kansas City suburbs, more than 67 percent of people were covered by private insurance and barely 24 percent relied on government coverage. In the large, western 1st Congressional District, just over 60 percent of people have private insurance and almost 31 percent turn to government coverage.

Statewide, about 9 percent of Kansans lack medical insurance of any kind.

Scott Canon is digital editor of the Kansas News Service, a collaboration of KCUR, Kansas Public Radio, KMUW and High Plains Public Radio covering health, education and politics. You can reach him on Twitter @ScottCanon.

 Kansas News Service stories and photos may be republished at no cost with proper attribution and a link to ksnewsservice.org.

As the editor of a statewide news outlet, I aspire to work with our reporters to give Kansans a clear-eyed view of the place they call home. That means delivering hard-hitting stories that expose those things that keep Kansas from being the most vibrant, healthy place it can be. You can reach me at scott@kcur.org or 816-235-8023.
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