That neat Docking Institute of Public Affairs “Kansas Speaks” poll which sprang out of Fort Hays State University last week felt about right, didn’t it?
The 352 adult telephone-owners who participated in that poll generally found Kansas a good place to live — the state economy is generally good and getting better since Democrat Gov. Laura Kelly moved into Cedar Crest, the governor’s mansion, the majority said.
But … that poll which asked so many questions we have to wonder whether those taking the survey on their cell phones were checking battery levels about halfway through…also for political insiders the poll probably created some negotiating room on major issues coming up next legislative session.
Take an obvious question — expanding Medicaid, bringing 90 percent federal/10 percent state funded health care to about 130,000 people in the state who don’t have health-care coverage. Some 66 percent of those respondents say it would help rural hospitals, and 60 percent said those without health coverage “deserve this benefit from the state.”
Now, that’s a pretty strong level of support. But that strong support also makes it a debatable legislative issue. That’s Statehouse talk for if the program is that popular with a majority of Kansans, what can folks who aren’t fans of the expansion add to it and still see it passed into law? Remember, at some point the bill — one simple, straight-forward bill was introduced last week by Senate Minority Leader Anthony Hensley, D-Topeka, that is virtually identical to a measure passed 69-54 by the House last session and ignored by the Senate — will move into a conference committee.
That conference committee will negotiate over provisions so that both chambers will vote on an identical down-to-the-last-word bill. The conference committee? Three House and three Senate members — four Republicans and two Democrats — and it’s there that the Kansas-specific Medicaid expansion bill will be written.
So … it comes down to just what expansion supporters will accept for that final report. New work requirements? A $1 a pack hike on cigarette taxes? Or other limits on eligibility? That 60 percent plus of poll respondents aren’t likely to know about those provisions that conservative Republicans who will probably be needed to pass the measure want…they just hear Medicaid expansion and are happy.
See the negotiation room handed to conservatives who aren’t fans of Medicaid?
And, what if a heavily amended bill does get to the House and Senate and is so cluttered with conservative amendments that while the Legislature which stands for re-election next year will pass it, Kelly vetoes it? Imagine that. A governor who calls expansion her No. 1 priority has to veto a bill that includes that priority but which picked up objectionable provisions that she can’t allow to become law.
Do Democrats who support expansion have to override her veto? Vote against their party’s governor? Explain that to their party’s supporters?
For those who aren’t fans of Medicaid expansion, they could put the governor in a tough position that will resound through the remainder of her first term and possibly into a decision on whether to seek a second term in Republican-majority Kansas.
It’s one thing to read those polls and not see deep into the bowels of the Statehouse how public opinion can be nudged, pushed, detoured into results that while sounding poll-respondent, actually aren’t.
And yes, we’re wondering just how lawmakers will try to look poll-friendly even when the politics under the dome require them to accept amendments, or trade votes on issues.
Oh, and there are tax issues, spending issues, immigration and a gamut of others that the poll showed Kansans support. Wonder how those poll results will become yet another bargaining chip under the dome?
— Syndicated by Hawver News Company LLC of Topeka; Martin Hawver is publisher of Hawver’s Capitol Report — to learn more about this nonpartisan statewide political news service, visit the website at www.hawvernews.com