KS lawmakers outline key issues as 2020 legislative session kicks off

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TOPEKA, Kan. (KWCH) Kansas lawmakers returned to Topeka on Monday for the beginning of the 2020 legislative session. Big items on their agenda include proposed Medicaid expansion, the state budget and a possible constitutional amendment concerning abortion.

The amendment follows the Kansas Supreme Court ruling last year that the state's constitution protects a woman's right to end a pregnancy.

"Basically (what the amendment) does is it take it back to it was before the Supreme Court made their ruling. We want safeguards. We want to make sure abortions are safe and rare in Kansas," Rep. Renee Erickson (R-Wichita) says.

Rep. John Carmichael (D) Wichita, says he's encouraged with the upcoming legislative session, but hopes Republican leadership proceeds with caution as they look at a constitutional amendment regarding abortion.

Those in support of Medicaid expansion point out expected benefits for hospitals and ensuring Kansans receive healthcare at more affordable costs.

Kansans will learn what Gov. Laura Kelly is prioritizing with the state's budget when she delivers her State-of-the-State Address Wednesday night.

Those from Wichita and the surrounding area said one of the first issues they hope to tackle is helping out of work employees at Spirit AeroSystems and its suppliers.

Last week, the company announced 2,800 layoffs as a result of The Boeing Company suspending production of the 737 Max.

Kansas representatives said they're relieved that the state is taking an interest in what is happening to those workers.

"I worked for Boeing for years and it's just very terrifying. Particularly, at the time, I was a single parent and just the thought of being able to lose your job during a time, this is when people need to get a boost," says Rep. Gail Finney of Wichita.

Rep. Renee Erickson of Wichita said she believes workforce development is the key to keeping employees who may lose their jobs afloat.

"Making sure that we match people with the skills they have in already open jobs. I hear constantly from businesses in Wichita that we need skilled workers, so maybe retaining those that we can," said Erickson.

Rep. Stephen Owens of Hesston said he hopes to work with Kansas representatives in Washington, D.C. on the issues.

"Working with our federal delegation to see what we can do to ensure that the necessary repairs and the necessary things are done with the 737 Max to get them back into production," said Rep. Stephen Owens for Hesston.

Rep. John Carmichael said it's critical that some type of solution can be found for the workers and company especially with aviation being the predominant role in Wichita's and the state's economy.

"If this is over within a couple of months it may not have a major effect for Spirit employees but the machine shops, the fast-food shops around Spirit," he said.

Lawmakers said they're the suspension of the 737 Max is a short-term issue for Boeing, Spirit and the other local manufacturers. One main goal is to make sure those employees impacted don't have to resort to leaving the state to find other jobs.