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VALLEY FALLS, Kan. - On Sunday, March 7, our next governor, Tom Holland, spoke to a group at The Barn Bed and Breakfast Inn, Valley Falls. I think Sen. Holland is precisely who we need to lead our state through the difficult times we are in. Don't write him off. That was the mistake made by the last two Republicans he ran against. Both were incumbents; first in a state House race, then a state Senate race. Both districts were conservative. Sen. Holland is a very pragmatic and formidable candidate who will pull no punches in the race against Sam Brownback.

TOPEKA, Kan.- Last Friday, the Kansas Coalition for Workplace Safety held a rally in the old Supreme Court chambers at the Kansas State Capitol. The rally was well attended by many of us who want to see injured Kansas workers given a fair shake for a change.

Rep. Paul Davis, the House Minority Leader and Sen. Anthony Hensley, the Senate Minority Leader gave a run down of Kansas' failing public policy concerning the treatment of workers injured on the job by no fault of their own.

Workers who have been victimized by our workers compensation system showed up to have their stories heard as those of us who attended saw real life examples why we need to ramp up this fight. We are among the worst in the nation, folks, and it is time we get this backwards mess straightened out.

TOPEKA, Kan. - I'm glad they're taking a stand on this. I can't see how denying Kansans health insurance makes anyone more free. Such a problem to have; being all tied up with health insurance. Here's the press release:

The Topeka Branch NAACP and the Kansas State Conference of Branches NAACP will hold a Press Conference on Wednesday, February 24, 2010 at 3:00pm at the Docking State Office Building opposing the Kansas "Health Care Freedom" Amendment. This proposed amendment would block the implementation of any Federal Health Care Reform legislation here in Kansas. With over 300,000 Kansans uninsured, we can't afford to play these partisan games. Join us as we call on the legislature to reject this partisan anti-reform measure and to work for real health care reforms to provide quality and affordable health care for all.

For further information, please contact Rev. Ben Scott at the Topeka Branch NAACP, 26-NAACP (785-266-2227).

TOPEKA, Kan. - The caps for permanent and total disability payments in Kansas haven't been adjusted for inflation since 1987, remaining at only $125,000. As a state, we are among the worst in the nation when you look at workers' compensation policies. Reform on a large scale is needed, but there's one common-sense measure that we can take now to improve the system on our way to economic justice. That measure is Senate Bill 258.

SB 258 adjusts the permanent and total disability caps to account for inflation. Currently, that would put it at a level greater that $300,000. Workers disabled on the job by no fault of their own deserve more than that, but it is better than $125,000. In addition, this bill takes future adjustments for inflation out of the political process.

TOPEKA, Kan. - There is one bill sitting in Conference Committee in the Kansas Legislature that actually does something to promote clean indoor air for Kansans, and that's HB 2221. It's ironic that HB 2642 is called the "Kansas Non-smoker Protection Act." It actually weakens many local ordinances already in place by preemption.

Today at a press conference, Dr. Jason Eberhart-Phillips, Director, Division of Health at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment gave the Top Ten Reasons Why HB 2642 is Bad Policy for Kansas. Here they are:

Number 10: It's called the "Kansas Non-smoker Protection Act," but it actually does the exact opposite.

Number 9: It boldly encourages restaurants, bars and other establishments to buy their way out of their obligation to provide healthy environments for their workers and patrons.

TOPEKA, Kan.- The Kansas State Nurses Association (KSNA) will hold its 34th annual public policy day on Thursday, February 11 at the Topeka Performing Arts Center. Over 1,000 nurses and nursing students from across the state are expected to attend. Kansas Governor Mark Parkinson will welcome the group and provide opening comments at 9 a.m.

The purpose of the day is to discuss policy issues that impact the practice of nursing and the delivery and financing of health care. Andrew Allison, PhD, Acting Executive Director of the Kansas Health Policy Authority, will be the keynote speaker at 11:15 a.m. The Kansas Health Policy Authority is the principal health care agency for the state of Kansas. Established in 2005, KHPA serves as the single state Medicaid agency in Kansas, administering the medical portion of the Kansas Medicaid program, as well as the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP, also known as "HealthWave"); MediKan, which provides coverage for certain low-income, disabled Kansans; the State Employee Health Program; and the State Self- Insurance Fund (SSIF), which provides workers compensation coverage to state employees.

Lighters Are Tools, Not Toys

TOPEKA, Kan.- Last week, I submitted the following written testimony in support of Senate Bill 342, which was introduced before the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee by Senator Oletha Faust-Goudeau of Wichita.

This bill would ban the sale of novelty lighters that resemble popular toys and entice children to play with fire, leading to deaths, injuries and property damage. Adults have sustained first-hand injuries form these lighters, too. They are manufactured haphazardly overseas, and have been subject to a multitude of recalls over the years. Other states have taken action on this, and I think Kansas should follow suit.

Gay Rights Are Civil Rights

TOPEKA, Kan. - Equal rights for gay and lesbian people are very important to me. As an unmarried person at age 31, people sometimes assume that I am gay because of my fervent support for these issues. It's at times like these that I remind people that civil rights aren't just about us as individuals, but all of us collectively as a society. The world will judge us on how we treat fellow members of our society, as it should.

Lately, I have been very disappointed in referenda across the United States. In 2004, we had the Constitutional ban in Kansas, even though gay marriage was already illegal. Oh, the things the right does to whip up their base. Then there was Proposition 8 in California, supported by voters at the time they selected our nation's first African-American president. A tad bit of irony there. Most recently, we had Question 1 in Maine. It was a relatively close vote, but a failure nonetheless. I see myself as a strong populist who values democracy, but I think certain measures are too sacred to be placed on the ballot. Civil rights is one of those measures. We might not have made the progress we did if civil rights were placed on the ballot in the 1860's or in the 1960's. Same thing with gay rights today.

TOPEKA, Kan. - American Nurses Association (ANA) President Becky Patton sent a letter to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on behalf of the nation's nurses strongly supporting HR 3962, the Affordable Health Care for America Act. ANA has always been and remains committed to "the principle that health care is a basic human right and that all persons are entitled to ready access to affordable, quality health services." One of the chief roles that a nurse has is that of patient advocate, so it is no surprise that nurses support this legislation on behalf of the people we serve.

As a registered nurse and a member of the ANA in Kansas, I am proud that the primary national professional organization representing our nation's 2.9 million registered nurses has taken a stand on what is clearly an essential component of reform, the public option. Nurses are the largest group of clinical health care professionals that exist in our system, so Congress should listen to us when we step up in support of legislation that is vital to the well being of our patients. The public option is the only reasonable approach to ensure choice and competition. Anything less is a facade.

TOPEKA, Kan. - If we are serious about growing our community and changing the prevailing images that weigh us down, we need work toward a paradigm shift and shed the cow town mentality that is enemy number one to progress. It won't work anymore to fix things on the cheap, put things off and take shortcuts. If we are serious about attracting individuals who have good jobs to offer and the ability to solidly contribute to our tax base over the long haul we need to transcend the here-and-now in our planning.

To do this, we start with small things. Small feats often have more of a positive psychological impact on a collective than you might think. When we begin to achieve progress on small levels it empowers people; it sets the wheels into motion as a segue to additional substantial positive changes. To change a community, you have to first begin to improve the perceptions of it from within. Little by little community image improves, people feel empowered and take a more active role in their government. Pretty soon, people start to actively shape the future of their community by demanding progress. They realize that it is much more powerful to stand with ideas rather than let other people come up with them first and oppose.

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