In just a month, Kansas legislators will head back to Topeka and tackle a variety of issues facing the state.
Marshall Christmann, representative for the 113th District that includes Pratt, said he was expecting several topics to be hot button issues this session.
Funding education is always a top issue because it gets the lion's share of the budget. Right now the Kansas Supreme Court is deciding if they will uphold a lower court decision that Kansas legislators are not following their oath to uphold the state constitution that requires them to fund education equal to the amounts of their own studies.
Exactly what action the Legislature will do will depend on the Kansas Supreme Court decision but it will definitely be a top issue.
Besides education, health issues are also going to get a lot of attention in 2014.
Getting payments from KanCare has become a serious challenge for some hospitals. Some times hospitals are not receivingpayments at all, some haven't received payment in nine months, sometimes they have received payment but then KanCare takes the payment back, said Christmann who has visited all but one of the hospitals in his district to gather information.
Hospitals report it is very difficult to contact KanCare. They often get voice mail and no one contacts them later.
Some hospital budgets are built around receiving KanCare payments. Some receive 20 percent or 30 or 40 percent. Pratt Regional Medical Center gets about five percent from KanCare.
Conditions are so bad about getting payments that one hospital may have to cut back services while another said they exist paycheck to paycheck.
Last session Christmann sat in on a KanCare oversight committee and the committee had concerns that things were not going as planned.
"It's just not working as promised," Christmann said. "This really needs to be fixed because it's hurting our hospitals."
Three private insurance companies, Amerigroup, Sunflower and United, administer KanCare.
Another topic that should get a lot of attention in 2014 is the death penalty in Kansas. A movement is under way to strike down the death penalty. Discussion started on this before the last session ended and legislators should be prepared for this to come up again.
Christmann doesn't think it would ever pass but it is gaining momentum.
The death penalty is a very personal issue for Christmann. His uncle, also named Marshall, was working in a convenience store to put himself though college. A man came in and had him empty out the cash register then shot him in the back of the head.
Christmann doesn't oppose strengthening the evidence necessary for the death penalty but he wishes it were something that would be passed over.
"We don't need to touch the death penalty. It think it's just fine," Christmann said.
On the legal front, Christmann expects debate on requiring lawyers to take constitutional law or a continuing education class on the matter because some lawyers are not aware the federal law doesn't always trump state law on gun laws and that states have the right to secure their own laws.
Also coming up for debate will be a company's right to maintain the legal ownership of their intellectual property. For example, if a company manufactures a computer chip used in car they don't want it available to just anyone because the technology could be stolen.
However, others argue that when a person buys a car, that chip becomes the owner's property and they need to have access to that information if the car needs to be repaired.
Christmann expects some very interesting discussion on this issue.
Term limits will probably also be on the legislative agenda this year. Christmann said he was in favor of term limits of eight years for both the House and Senate.
He was concerned that the longer a person serves, the more likely they would start showing favoritism to lobbyists instead of to the constituents that voted them into office.
Christmann said he has nothing against lobbyists and the majority is very good. They are a good source of information.
But he insists on keeping his office door open when a lobbyist comes for a visit so no one can claim anything improper took place.
Christmann serves on several committees in the House: Judiciary, Health and Human Services, Vision 20/20, Energy and Environment.
To follow Christmann's activities, friend him on Facebook.