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Monday
August 15th, 2022
L&T Opinions Page

shannon francis mugGUEST COLUMN, Shannon Francis, 125th District Representative

 

 

Last week was turn around week. Nonexempt bills cannot be passed out of the legislative body of origin after this. Most of January and February my time is spent in committee hearing and working bills. This week, we were on the floor passing the bills we had heard in committee. When we return, committee work will start up again and we will focus on the bills the Senate passed. Below is a little bit about some of the more important bills we passed. They still have a long way to go and may never become law or they may change quite a bit, but they have the opportunity to make an impact.

 

Telemedicine

The House passed HB 2674 on Thursday, which would create the Kansas Telemedicine Act, to establish coverage parity between in- person and telemedicine-delivered healthcare. Under the provisions of the bill, telemedicine must meet the same standard of care as an in-person interaction and would increase access to healthcare services for patients in both rural and urban areas.

Not only would patients have increased access to services that aren’t readily available to them in their community, but also affords them greater convenient access, which may reduce long term health care costs associated with treatment due to a lack of services. In addition, HB 2674 provides coverage parity because the healthcare services provided could not be denied for reimbursement solely because of having been delivered via telemedicine or based on the lack of a physical location. Physicians, physician assistants, advanced practice registered nurses, and licensed mental health professionals alike would be able to dispense their services via telemedicine to patients in a more convenient manner, thereby improving the health and lifestyle of many who have difficulty accessing immediate healthcare. The bill also prohibits any authorization of delivery of any abortion procedure via telemedicine, and such language in the bill is nonseverable.

 

Swatting, body CAMERAS, compensation for the wrongfully convicted

This week, the House passed three corrections-related bills that present commonsense solutions, including harsher penalties for those who make false 911 calls, require the release of law enforcement body camera footage to those who are involved, and to provide monetary compensation to individuals who have been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned. HB 2581, also known as the “swatting” bill, was originally drafted in response to the rising frequency of false 911 calls resulting in the unnecessary deployment of swat and law enforcement, but more specifically due to a death last year in Wichita. A California resident named Tyler Barriss disguised his phone number and called the authorities of Wichita, and claimed he was armed and dangerous, and resided in a Wichita household. Swat members were deployed under such impressions, and a resident named Andrew T. Finch was killed at the scene. This bill would significantly increase the criminal penalties for individuals who make these prank calls. Should such calls result in a fatality, the sentencing level would be a severity level 1, person felony, the harshest penalty on record in Kansas.

Additionally, the House passed HB 2571 which would require a law enforcement agency to allow designated individuals to hear or view any audio or video recording made by a body or vehicle camera within twenty days of receiving a request for information. Such designated individuals include the subjects of the recording, a parent or legal guardian of a minor who is involved, a legal heir to those involved, or an attorney representing any of these individuals mentioned. Lastly, HB 2579 entitles individuals who have been wrongfully convicted and imprisoned to receive $80,000 for each year of imprisonment, as well as $25,000 for each additional year served on parole or post release supervision. Claimants would be entitled to receive reasonable attorney fees and costs incurred as well, and such wrongfully convicted crimes would be expunged from their records.

 

Statewide Broadband Expansion Task Force HB 2701

The mission of the Task Force would be as follows:

  • Work collaboratively to evaluate the broadband needs of Kansas citizens, business, industries, institutions, and organizations;
  • Consider any recent actions by the FCC relating to broadband services including, but not limited to;

○ The 2018 Broadband Deployment Report;

○ Recommendations of the Broadband Deployment Advisory Committee; and

○ Any actions to implement broadband initiatives using the Connect America Fund Phase II or the Remote Areas Fund; and

  • Identify opportunities and potential funding sources to:

○ Expand broadband infrastructure and increase statewide access to broadband services;

○ Remove barriers that may hinder deployment of broadband infrastructure or access to broadband services; ○ Enable the creation and deployment of new advanced communication technologies; and

○ Prioritize expansion of broadband services first to unserved areas of the state and then to underserved areas of the state.