GUEST COLUMN, Shannon Francis, 124th District Representative
The State of Kansas has mobilized the National Guard to support local health departments with COVID-19 testing. Guard members arrived in Liberal this week to begin training with local Health Department staff at our testing site. In addition to the extra staff, the state is supplying the county with saliva-based testing supplies to meet the recent increase in demand for testing.
The Seward County Health Department announced hours at the testing site, located at 712 N. Western Ave., will be from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. These new hours began Monday, and will remain in effect for the duration of the National Guard presence in Seward County.
The tests are saliva-based PCR tests. Samples will be taken at the testing site and shipped to labs at Wichita State University for processing. Results will be available within 48 hours. You may not eat or drink anything for 30 minutes prior to testing.
These tests serve as qualified COVID tests for employers or schools needing verification of results.
Legislature extends protections to keep hospitals, adult care homes staffed
Last week, the House sent HB 2477 to the Governor. The legislation deals with staffing shortages and the added stresses being placed on our healthcare workers. HB 2477 suspends some of the rules and regulations for health care providers and adult care homes so they can continue to navigate staffing issues related to COVID-19.
Our community at the Capitol
This is a busy week for Liberal, Kismet and Seward County at the State Capitol. Local community members will have multiple opportunities to talk about the issues facing us with legislators, State officials, and other communities. They will work on finding solutions and developing relationships with others in different meetings and often wearing different “hats.” It started at 7 a.m. on Monday, with Pancakes at the Capitol when local community members will spend the morning serving pancakes to legislators and state officials. It’s a great event and it’s focused on Liberal/Seward County only. It offers us a chance to talk about our issues when everyone is fresh and before the week gets hectic. It’s very popular at the Capitol.
Monday evening was “Southwest Kansas Night Out” in Topeka. Southwest Kansas Night Out focuses on all of Southwest Kansas and is sponsored by the Southwest Kansas Chambers of Commerce including Liberal’s. We always have a large group of our Chamber members attending and sharing our message.
Tuesday the Western Kansas county commissioners and economic development directors are in Topeka as well as county sheriffs and appraisers.
Wednesday it will be Farm Bureau, the Water Authority and Ground Water districts, city and county governments and the county registers of deeds.
Thursday the community colleges will have meetings with legislators.
It’s a busy week and lots of opportunities for us to share our message. It’s important to have broad diverse participation at these meetings as we work to develop relationships across the state. It’s much easier to develop a relationship when you discover you have a shared interest or issue. Broad participation on our part offers more opportunities for us to help our community grow and learn what others in the state are doing to grow and meet the needs of their communities.
Transportation and Public Safety Budget
I am beginning my fourth year as the Chairman of the House Transportation and Budget Committee. My committee reviews the budgets and makes recommendations to the House Appropriations Committee for the following agencies: Department of Corrections, Kansas Highway Patrol, Kansas Bureau of Investigation, Adjutant General/Kansas National Guard, Kansas Division of Emergency Management, State Fire Marshal, Department of Transportation, Emergency Medical Services Board, Sentencing Commission, Board of Indigent’s Defense Services, Commission on Peace Officer Standards (CPOST), Board of Technical Professions, Community Corrections, Juvenile Justice Services and Abstractors Board of Examiners.
Last week the committee began informational hearings. Because of COVID the Legislature has expanded streaming capabilities and the ability for you to watch and participate by using the internet. Tuesday’s hearing included a section on Community Corrections budget issues. Kayla Janko, the Director of our Community Corrections agency, provided written testimony and was able to watch the hearing live with her staff.