So Much To Do, So Little Time
Hello everyone!

There are only two weeks left in the regular session of the legislature which means the final bills of the session will be debated this week in our committees, and on the Senate floor. The timeline is growing short for getting things done, and it is frustrating as there are so many pressing issues that need to be addressed, and a 90 day timeline for getting these things done is just too short. I know...that sounds crazy...and before I became a Senator and understood the process, I would have scoffed at the previous sentence. But, it is true. We are off during the month of April, then return for a short veto session in May.

The Federal government is doing so many bad things at such a high rate of speed, that it's overwhelming the state level government's ability to respond. For example, I have a bill designed to push back against the ESG (Environmental, Social and Governmental) scores that will not be heard. I have a bill that would protect property values for those who are forced to live near industrial wind and solar facilities that will not have time to be heard. And there are many other bills designed to protect our freedoms with regard to personal choice for health care that are hanging in the balance...and I hope these bills will be debated and passed.

The American system is designed to be slow and deliberate...and that is a good thing 99% of the time. But sometimes, the solution to a problem is clear, but legislators stand in the way who are either hesitant, apathetic, or deliberately obstructive, and it bottles up the works. That is what frustrates me the most...and I am sure it does you as well.

With that, here are some of the hot topics we have before us as this session begins to wind down.
Supreme Court Justices - Appoint or Elect?
Last week, we heard testimony on two bills that would change the way the State Supreme Court Justices are selected. If passed by a two thirds majority of the House and Senate, one of these would go on the August ballot for you to decide!

They are SCR 1621 and SCR 1622. The current system was implemented in 1958 and involves a nominating commission (of lawyers) that selects three judges to be considered by the Governor for approval. While it may sound benign to some, one of the conferees, Professor Stephen Ware describes it this way:

“Currently, no one can become a justice on the Kansas Supreme Court without being one of the three finalists chosen by the Kansas Supreme Court Nominating Commission. The Commission is the gatekeeper to the Kansas Supreme Court. However, the Commission is selected in a shockingly undemocratic way. Most of the members of the Commission are picked in elections open to only about 10,000 people; the members of the State Bar. The remaining 2.9 million people in Kansas have no vote in these elections.”

In my opinion, the current system is severely flawed and needs to be changed so that the consideration of qualified candidates for the Supreme Court would be expanded beyond the confines of those who are "inside favorites" within the Bar Association community. Right now I see the process as more of an echo chamber than a broad search for someone who will follow the constitution of the state and keep their ideological tendencies in check.

These resolutions would change that, and give Kansans a say in the process by either providing for a confirmation process through the Senate, as is the case in the U.S. Senate…or through direct elections…as is the case in 7 other states including Texas.
Here is the link to Professor Ware's testimony that provides much more detail.

The problem is that these justices sometimes can, and do, legislate from the bench, and often in extremely impactful cases, such as Hodes & Nauser vs the State of Kansas which, regretfully, made Kansas the most abortion-friendly state in the union.

On Wednesday, we debated these resolutions in the Senate Judiciary Committee and both passed out and are now heading to the Senate floor where I expect a robust debate. If I were to place a bet, I would expect that SCR1621 has the best chance for passage as it is allows for your voice in the process through your elected officials. The concern with SCR1622 is that if Supreme Court nominees ran for office, big money lobbying would come into play and special interests could buy a position on the Supreme Court..although there are 7 other states that do it that way.

I look forward to this debate and hopefully we can get this through both chambers and out to your for your consideration in the August elections.
This week the Senate passed Senate sub for HB2279, the Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) bill.. The bill allows APRNs to prescribe certain drugs and to practice without a collaborative practice agreement signed by a doctor. This bill gave me a lot of indigestion and sleepless nights.

On one hand, I worry that attracting doctors to rural areas will become impossible with this bill in law. But, at the same time, doctors, in general, have been driven out of private practice intentionally by the policies set forth in the Affordable Care Act...and the chance of attracting them to small towns has become difficult.

The cost of becoming a physician is astronomical, and we need to find a way to attract new doctors to the state. I worried that this bill might make it tougher. But, in the real world, many small towns in Kansas have no doctors and the APRN fills the gap, and I would hate to restrict access to care for rural areas of the state.

The other issue is the huge difference in training requirements between doctors and APRNs. The rigorous regimen necessary to become a physician is there for a that you can be assured that your are getting the best trained and prepared person possible to answer your health care needs. There is also a difference in the amount of training that exists among APRNs...some are very well trained and educated, and some have far less training and experience.

I worry that we are accepting expedience and inconsistency of care just to solve the access to care issues in rural Kansas. The reason APRNs are required to have a collaborative practice agreement (CPA) now, is to put them under the supervision of a doctor to ensure that their diagnoses were vetted. Yet, I heard from people across the state who were in favor of this bill as they were satisfied with the level of care they received from APRNs and felt this bill was necessary so that they could have SOME care instead of driving 50 or more miles to see a doctor.

Another issue surrounds malpractice insurance. Currently APRNs under collaborative practice agreements can get a less expensive malpractice insurance policy as the risk is placed on the supervising physician. If this bill becomes law, the APRNs who do not operate under a CPA will find that their malpractice insurance costs will skyrocket to the levels paid by doctors and that will cause them to raise their fees to patients to stay in business. There are only two insurers who will write malpractice insurance for physicians in this state, and it is very expensive,which is why we have a Healthcare Stabilization Fund in help ensure physicians have access to that insurance. Now, we may have to do the same for APRNs, and that may increase the costs to the state for helping provide access to insurance.

After weighing the options, I reluctantly voted yes on the bill as I worry that rural access to health care is not going to improve in the current environment. Obamacare made sure of that. This was not a decision made lightly. I am very supportive of our physicians and want to do everything in my power to make sure they can practice medicine the way they see fit, without fear of retribution. During the pandemic I was thankful for the America's Frontline Doctors and others here in Kansas that stood against medical tyranny. Will the APRNs join in that stand? I hope so.

I am sure you are familiar with the phrase "be careful what you wish for". I hope, for the sake of the APRNs, they don't end up finding out in the future that they regret ever fighting for this bill. e Public Health and Welfare Committee 01/26/2022
Other Legislation
Senate Confirmations:

Janet Stanek - This week, the Kansas Senate confirmed Janet Stanek as Secretary of the Kansas Department of Health & Environment. During the confirmation process, Secretary Stanek reassured Senators she would not close churches. Her willingness to continue communication with legislators is a marked improvement over her predecessor, but I felt she was unwilling to consider any guidance other than the CDC which led us astray frequently during the pandemic. I spent over an hour asking her questions in my office about this and was not satisfied with her answers. She was confirmed on a vote of 32-5-1. I voted No.

Angela Coble – This week, the Kansas Senate confirmed Angela Coble to the Kansas Court of Appeals, in a process that demonstrated that the ‘federal model’ of judicial selection works. After a deliberative process in which she demonstrated her qualification, Judge Coble was confirmed on a vote of 38-0. Unfortunately, this confirmation process does not currently exist for the Kansas Supreme Court, demonstrating the need for judicial selection reform. Ms. Coble also spent time explaining her judicial philosophy to me in a meeting in my office, and in Judiciary Committee, and I was very happy to hear her responses that centered on looking to the constitution for guidance in tough decisions. I was unhesitant in my vote for her confirmation.

Health Freedom:

Over the past two years, we have seen our freedom to make personal health decisions eroded by government over-reach and tyrannical decisions made by unelected and unaccountable agencies. As a result, our children were masked, some were forced to take a jab against their will to keep their job, and we are now seeing a proliferation of vaccine passports in many states. This troublesome trend will not stop just because the pandemic has come to an end. As a result, there are number of bills that we heard in both the Public Health Committee and in the Judiciary Committee that are designed to prevent these types of intrusions into our liberties in the future. The most important, in my opinion is Senate Sub for HB2280 which allows doctors to prescribe off-label FDA approved drugs without fear of retribution. This bill is still in committee and hopefully will be passed soon so as to send it to the Senate floor. This bill is crucial, as it sets a precedent for pushing back against future tyrannical medical declarations by un-elected governmental agencies.

Meeting our Debt Obligations

It is fiscally responsible to use one time money to pay off debt. Given the influx of federal funds, Republicans are leading the effort to reduce the state’s debt and meet our obligation to retirees. SB 523 would authorize the transfer of $1.0 billion from the State General Fund (SGF) to the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System (KPERS) Trust Fund in four scheduled payments. Of that amount, $600.0 million would be transferred in FY 2022 in two installments—$300.0 million on the effective date of the bill and $300.0 million on June 1, 2022. The remaining $400.0 million would be transferred in FY 2023 in two installments, both subject to approval from the State Finance Council—$200.0 million on October 1, 2022, and $200.0 million on January 1, 2023. SB 523 passed the Senate 28-12. I voted Yes.

Other Legislation:

Dozens of other bills passed though the Senate Chamber since my last newsletter update. Rather than flood you with all of these right now, I will provide a comprehensive list of the good, the bad, and the ugly after we get past this week of committee meetings, and final action in the Senate before we go to a week of Conference Committees and the negotiations with the House on controversial bills.
Energy & Utilities
As chairman of the Senate Utilities committee, I invited Ed Cross, President of Kansas Independent Oil and Gas Association (KIOAGA) to give us a briefing on how the tragic situation in Ukraine is affecting energy prices here in the United States. He said we all feel the effects of rising energy prices, and the Russian invasion of Ukraine only adds to our current concerns and heightens the importance of the role of United States energy policies.

He described how the European Union has been scaling back on fossil fuel production in favor of renewables, and now are not able to meet the baseline demand for energy. They turned to Russia to help meet that demand, and now that supply is threatened with the Ukraine invasion. "President Biden should heed this as a warning of what his energy agenda will bring if he continues his war on American oil and gas."

He explained how U.S. energy policies that restrict domestic production, and the closing of the Keystone pipeline, force our country to seek relief from foreign suppliers of energy, undermining our energy independence. 

His closing point was President Biden and all federal and state policymakers should prioritize advancing American energy leadership with policies that encourage development of responsibly produced energy here at home. "These policies should recognize the volatile world we live in and the long-term impacts of returning to the days of foreign energy dependency." You can view his remarks here, starting at the 6:14 minute mark: Ed Cross (KIOGA)

This week in Utilities, we had a hearing on, and passed out to the Senate, House Resolution 5023, which denounces price gouging and market manipulation in the natural gas marketplace and supports investigations into the extraordinary price increases of wholesale natural gas during the extreme cold weather event of February 2021. Natural gas prices in Kansas reached an all time high of $622.00 per MCF during last year's Winter Storm Uri, and left many cities struggling to pay enormous bills. State Treasurer Lynn Rogers supplied a list showing the current balance of loans to the state which were issued to cities to help them pay these bills. A total of 54 cities and 1 municipal energy agency submitted applications and $78,409,646.79 in loans were approved and funded. At this time, 4 cities have repaid their loans in full.

We also heard a bill, SB478, to help out rural residents who are suffering from continuous red blinking lights in the nighttime sky from wind turbine facilities. The bill would require wind developers to install radar activated aircraft detection systems that would turn the lights on when an aircraft is within a set distance of the turbines. Currently, the lights blink continuously. With one of these systems installed, the lights would remain off 97% of the time, and restore the beauty of the Kansas night sky for those living and driving through the footprints of these massive wind "farms". One proponent of the bill who testified before the committee stated, "As I am driving home in the evening, I can see a bank of large, bright, flashing red lights stretching across the horizon. My heart is in my stomach because I know that that is where I now live, and I don't want to go there." You can view the hearing here, which includes a video showing the lights surrounding one proponent's home on three sides, and the written testimony here.

During this session I have had residents from many parts of the state come to testify on the negative impacts that these massive industrial scale wind turbines are having on their lives. These people took days off from work and spent their hard earned money in filling up their gas tanks to come speak to us and beg us for help through various bills I had crafted in an attempt to keep rural Kansas from becoming one giant industrial scale wind farm.

There are already nearly 4,000 turbines in Kansas, with another 6,500 scheduled for installation in various phases. You are also going to see a massive push for more solar installations across the state as well. Contrary to popular belief, these installations are causing electrical rates to rise...and have been doing so since 2002.

Now that Federal policies on energy are creating massive inflationary increases due to their push to replace fossil fuels with wind and solar, it is even more important to find ways to ensure that our energy sources are protected, abundant, and affordable. I urge you to become educated on these topics. It's essential that you understand the important contributions our oil, gas, nuclear, and yes...even coal...plants play in keeping our economy afloat.

I know...some will argue we have to go "green" to save the environment. But wind and solar are NOT GREEN! They require electricity and fossil fuels to operate. They contains tons of rare earth minerals, some of which are toxic to the environment. They contain all sorts of lubricants. They cannot be constructed without coal. They don't provide a reliable source of energy. They will cost us billions to decommission...and there is currently no plan on how to pay for that. They are driving residents out of rural Kansas and making it harder for our farmers to provide food for our tables. Plus they require massive subsidies through your tax dollars to even be a viable business model. We made a big mistake by ever being so welcoming to these industries.

The Green New Deal is very much alive and well in Kansas, and if we don't wake up will be too late! That means that large corporations, financial institutions, and everyone in between needs to realize that these ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) scores already being used to push investors away from fossil fuels, will destroy America. They create a structure in which our economy becomes a centrally planned tyranny similar to what is happening in China. If a few oligarchs can control our energy supplies...they can control us. That is already happening with our gas prices. How much longer will this last? Until Americans make hard choices and reject voting for people who either don't understand what is happening, or refuse to become educated about it. I see too much complacency for my taste...and I am very worried about out future!
Forecasting the Future
There will be bills on election integrity issues voted on this week, including one bill that requires verifiable and secure paper ballots! I love that!

I am also testifying before the committee on Assessment and Taxation to try to end the property tax exemption for wind and solar installations. These facilities receive subsidies and tax abatements 4 different ways before they ever produce a kilowatt of electricity. Yet our Kansas oil and gas producers are taxed 5 times on each barrel of oil they produce! Wind and solar are depreciated on an accelerated basis while your property taxes keep climbing! If these so called "renewable" sources of energy could stand alone on their own without subsidies, contribute to the reliability of our grid, and lower electrical rates, I might be all for giving them these tax breaks. But the truth is quite the opposite. In fact YOU are paying dearly so that multi-national, multi-billion dollar "green energy" corporations can get tax breaks that you and I will never have access to. It makes zero sense, and I want it to end in Kansas! SB374, which is a piece of legislation I crafted, will do that...if we can get it passed.

The next couple of weeks will be busy.

I encourage you to follow the happenings at the statehouse in the following ways:

YouTube Streaming:

I look forward to reporting on our progress again very soon. 

Your Senator,

Mike Thompson