Committee of City and County Natural Resources Relations
At Boy’s State, communication is key. The underlying foundation of a successful State lies within the communication between you and your peers. A Committee for City and County Resource Relations may be formed to reach out to the state and county entities to inform the officials of the opportunities they have available to them through the Department. The Department of Natural Resources gives, approves, and funds grants to those who wish to use natural resources to produce goods and provide services that are vital to the smooth and safe operation of facilities. This committee would oversee that the information of available grants by the Department of Natural Resources be spread to all cities and counties to create a better relationship between the counties and the Department.
ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY AND BEEF-PACKING
Beef packing plants and the feedlots that accompany them are a driving force of the local economies of many counties across Boys State. They contribute millions of dollars to the communities they are located in and have grown so much as an industry that now ¼ of all beef in the nation goes through the packing plants that speckle the state. However, there are major issues plaguing the cities they choose to locate in and even affect the environments in rural areas where the feedlots dot the rolling plains. Multiple tax breaks and incentives have been given to the companies that choose Boys State for their processing plants. A blind eye has been turned to their multiple violations of environmental codes and disregard for the local environment. The companies and feedlots state that they are up to code and say that environmental protection laws are too strict and should be relaxed to allow for more autonomy by the private sector. They also say that internally funded environmental impact studies have shown that they create a net benefit for the land in the surrounding area due to the manure that is produced by the cattle. Companies state that increased enforcement will drive down profit margins and force them to adjust in other ways including reducing benefits, lowering wages, and slow down on hiring new workers which will negatively impact the Boys State economy. Local residents have different thoughts on the matter. They’ve grown angry at the disregard for the environment and the unforeseen impact the beef packing plants are having on their communities. Many complain about the awful smell that engulfs their cities after the wind picks up even a little bit. Residents also point to prior and potential future contamination of groundwater with dangerous bacteria. Contamination of groundwater is of particular concern to communities that rely on the resource as the only locally-available source of drinkable water. Residents have asked for stricter enforcement of guidelines already in place as well as environmental studies funded by potentially responsible parties and conducted under Department of Natural Resources oversight to determine the true impact of packing plants on land–soil, surface water, groundwater–and air quality. They also demand that solutions to existing issues must balance the needs of the industry with the needs of the people.
WATER TREATMENT INFRASTRUCTURE
Across the Boys State of Kansas, stakeholders such as local government, corporations, and citizens have raised concerns about the future of water resource infrastructure in the state. Cities in the Boys State of Kansas have been struggling to maintain their aging water treatment systems. As more time passes, the problems will continue to compound. A common issue is aging infrastructure leading to leaks, breaks, inefficiencies, increased costs, and rare (though debilitating) system failures. For many cities and counties, the cost to modernize an existing system or to build a new system is beyond their funding scope without causing a significant, untenable, cost burden to their citizens. To pay for the necessary system improvements, the Cities would have to drastically raise rates above what they currently are. The increase would result in water bills almost three times the average user rate for Kansas Boys State. The stakeholders, therefore, request that the Department of Natural Resources should consider addressing this issue at a State level.
Groundwater is a valuable, essential natural resources to the people and economy of Kansas, especially in rural and agricultural communities without access to surface water. A major source of groundwater in Kansas is the Ogallala aquifer. Groundwater is a non-renewable resource, on a human time scale, and has been steadily declining in Kansas, especially in areas with high agricultural industry and little available surface water. While technological advances have been made to conserve groundwater (efficient appliances, crops with lesser water demands, etc), behavioral challenges have limited their effectiveness. Some farmers do not want to change the processes and crops by which they have been successful for years, generations even. Others fear that by voluntarily reducing their water consumption, they will lose the rights to access the quantity of water they currently use should future need arise. These rights, once conceded, are difficult to regain. Yet others are concerned that voluntary experimentation will turn into mandated conservation. Other various reasons and factors not to change behaviors also exist. The Boys State Department of Natural Resources should consider what steps, if any, should be taken to encourage or mandate or not to encourage or mandate groundwater conservation.
FLUID-INJECTION INDUCED EARTHQUAKES
Over the past several years, multiple earthquakes have shaken various counties across Boys State. Seismologists largely attribute widespread earthquakes in southern Kansas and northern Oklahoma over the past several years to fluid injection (injection of extracted oil field brine deep into Earth’s crust). Recently, however, the frequency of earthquakes has increased significantly in areas of Kansas well beyond the initial, high-seismicity zones near injection wells. Most induced earthquakes are too small to be felt. However, if a fault of sufficient length is subjected to the right stress conditions, the potential exists for triggering an earthquake with ground motion large enough to cause damage. This potential is a concern for both the public and the state agency that regulates injection wells. 
Concerned citizens have requested that stricter regulatory measures and restrictions be placed on the oil and gas industry and other industries that inject large volumes of fluid into the ground. The oil and gas industries have argued, however, that they are major economic drivers of the local and state-wide economies. These regulations and restrictions would have an impact on their business ventures–and the tax dollars they generate for the state. The industries also argue that most of the earthquakes are small, almost completely unnoticeable. Even the biggest ones only damage a few homes. Comparing the economic advantages to the minor, localized disadvantages, increased regulations would have a disproportionate financial disadvantage to all parties and sectors of the state. Others, from both industry and citizens groups, have noted that it may not matter what the Boys State of Kansas does. If the Boys State of Oklahoma does not enact similar regulations and restrictions, high volumes of injected fluid in Oklahoma may induce earthquakes in the southern sections of the counties in the Boys State of Kansas.
The Kansas Department of Natural Resources, as the chief regulator of natural resources and fluid injection wells, should consider what measures to take and suggest to the Boys State legislature or if the issue warrants any new or further measures.
 https://eos.org/features/fluid-injection-wells-can-have-a-wide-seismic-reach. More information on induced seismicity can be found in the linked article.
RURAL HEALTH PROJECT
Rural communities face many unique social and economic challenges that determine health outcomes for people in rural areas, including higher percentages of uninsured people than in urban areas and aging populations with more chronic conditions. Moreover, attracting and retaining healthcare providers to practice in rural communities can be difficult, and many rural areas suffer shortages of physicians, nurses and other professionals. 
Citizens across the Boys State of Kansas have requested that the Department of Human Resources, Bureau of Health, work with their local leaders to consider programs and infrastructure to improve access and support quality healthcare for rural Kansans.
Additionally, current medical facilities in the Boys State of Kansas lack modern healthcare technologies. Combined with aging buildings and an aging population, this has put a strain on current medical facilities. Huslig Health, a citizens rural health group, has lobbied for new hospitals to be built in the Boys State of Kansas. A new hospital would enable health organizations to provide services to meet patients’ needs in a safer environment without the concerns of poor building conditions.
There are numerous problems facing the population with Kansas healthcare. Listed below are a few issues that you may choose to address. However, if you are passionate about a certain healthcare issue then feel free to address that. The Boys State of Kansas, although not the most unhealthy state in the US, but it is still plagued with issues of obesity. Kansas’s adult obesity rate is currently 32.4%, up from 19.1% in 2000 and from 12.2% in 1990. Kansas is currently ranked 18 out of 51 states recorded. With over 25% of the youth being overweight this issue is beginning to affect people’s ways of life. Obesity is a far reaching issue that has effects including; diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and multiple bone issues. The projected number of diagnosed cases of hypertension is predicted to be in the 700,000s by 2030. Cancer and other preventable diseases like type 2 diabetes can be caused by obesity. Heart disease is also another disease that can be caused by obesity. With cases of type 2 diabetes projected to be around 330,000 by 2030 and heart disease projected to be 770,000 cases per year by 2030. Since taxpayers contribute to the state funded medicare and medicaid, these issues could cost taxpayers in Kansas hundreds of millions of dollars if not addressed in the near future. Another issue facing health in kansas and the world is the recent backlash against vaccinations. Although science has proven that vaccinations are completely safe and effective, there are people that cling to problematic studies about vaccines and refuse to vaccinate their children. This could cause issues in public environments like schools and could cause outbreaks of previously eradicated diseases that have since mutated. Herd immunity is the resistance to diseases within a population if the majority of the population is immune (vaccinated). Unvaccinated children directly compromise herd immunity by introducing diseases into the population, and this is specifically dangerous for kids who have weakened immune systems, such as children who are undergoing chemotherapy or people with with autoimmune diseases that cannot be vaccinated. Here’s a link with some helpful information on vaccines:
The Role of the State in K-12 Education Across the United States, education is typically a state issue. Within Boys State of Kansas, the power to fund education is held by the state legislature, but beyond that, the power to enforce educational laws, set educational standards for teachers to meet, set graduation requirements, etc. is held by the Department of Humanities. The information below is provided to assist the Department of Humanities in carrying out such duties.
Socioeconomic Status (SES) SES varies widely in Boys State of Kansas. One poverty institute reported that over 14,000 state citizens are enrolled in TANF and that 137,000 children come from families receiving SNAP benefits. The number of citizens enrolled in CHIP, EITC, and Medicaid exceeds 200,000 per program. (Many of these citizens, it is worth noting, are enrolled in multiple of these programs.) This, of course, has significant impacts on education by influencing the ability of children to attend school well-fed and well-rested, as well as their ability to access basic school supplies, toiletries, and technological devices (an increasingly necessary tool for 21st century students). As they look to the future, these students must also plan for challenges in paying for a college or a technical education, should they so choose.
Real World Preparation Whether or not schools adequately prepare their students for the real world is a continuous source of contention. According to the College and Career Readiness standards, 93 percent of middle school students reported wanting to attend college, but only 44 percent end up enrolling. Out of those 44 percent of student who enroll, only 25 percent go on to graduate from college. English language learners (ELLs) are believed to face some of the largest challenges. ELLs often find it difficult to develop English proficiency while trying to meet academic standards, and because they often have to attend classes with no language support, long-term ELLs often lose their motivation in school. Overall, ELLs are twice as likely as their peers to dropout of high school. According to research, over 80 percent of “21st century jobs” require some postsecondary education. A significant number – though certainly not all – of jobs in today’s society require a bachelor’s or a master’s degree. Adults with a postsecondary degree are statistically more likely to be hired than adults without a degree. This, of course, leads many to argue that the primary focus of high school should be preparation for postsecondary education
Funding and Teacher Exodus Recent administrative and political decisions by previous legislative sessions have caused a unique problem for Kansas schools – teacher retention. Funding cuts to schools and districts and the increased pressure they place on educators have prompted many teachers to either exit the state or even the education profession entirely. Prior funding models have been based on Base State Aid Per Pupil (BSAPP), a model that directs funding to districts based on student population. Recent funding has come in the form of more equal block grants levelling the monies received by high-population urban districts and lower-population rural districts. When the block grants are broken down by student to provide a rough estimate of BSAPP given to each district, the amount comes out to about $3800 spent per student. Counties, of course, have no ability to control the funding provided by the state, though they can play a role in the property taxes levied to assist in the funding of schools and can also develop other methods for funding. Districts consistently express concern about the availability of funds to provide new and relevant technology, fund extracurricular activities, maintain schools, etc. They are also increasingly concerned with the loss of quality experienced teachers, although the new openings do provide employment for recent college graduates looking for teaching jobs willing to take employment wherever it is available. Administrators who have welcomed new graduates have admitted to experiencing an influx of new ideas and methods that revitalized parts of their schools.
Patriotic Curricula In 2015, some legislators in Oklahoma attempted to remove AP US History from state public schools due to perceptions that the College Board’s inclusion of some aspects of American history taught students to be “unpatriotic.” This ban was ultimately defeated, but the conversation about where or not schools should foster patriotism or even American exceptionalism has not been absent from midwestern and southern legislatures, including Boys State of Kansas. In a statewide survey last year, 89 percent of Boys State citizens said they believed it was the responsibility of schools to foster citizenship, and 78 percent believed schools should teach students to be patriotic. Of those asked, 54 percent of citizens believed American exceptionalism should be an aspect of social studies curricula.
School Choice and the Public Education Monopoly As mentioned earlier, school funding continues to be a contentious statewide policy challenge, and multiple funding formulas have been adopted in the state at different times to address this issue. Regardless of the funding plans adopted, however, some public schools continue to underperform in comparison to other schools, although the causes (funding, unqualified teachers, etc.) remains open to debate. Until this problem can be addressed, however, the question remains about what to do about students who live within the boundaries of underperforming school districts. Several arguments have been made. Many insist on the need to increase funding and support for struggling schools. Others make an economic argument, stating that public schools currently maintain a monopoly on education in the U.S. and therefore do not perform to their fullest potential; therefore, they argue, state and local governments need to encourage competition with public schools to force them to perform better or lose their students. The concept of school choice is one proposed solution – that parents and students can choose to attend any public, charter, magnet or private school regardless of where they live. Some take this argument further, suggesting that the state should provide money to families via vouchers to help fund a change from local public schools to private schools, magnet or charter schools, or distant public schools. Opponents of school choice have made several counterarguments:
- They believe schools will never be able to function or compete as businesses, nullifying the monopoly argument.
- They believe that personal funds/vouchers would allow families to direct public money to private schools, including religious schools, which many argue stands in violation of the First Amendment of the Constitution.
- Forcing students in underperforming districts to travel away from their homes to acquire a quality education is still inequitable.
PRISON AND REHABILITATION
Recidivism and incarceration both pertain to those in prison or have been through the system. The definition of recidivism is “the tendency of a convicted criminal to reoffend”. In the last century, several bills have been put in place to make changes to the the corrections system. Prison reforms in countries overseas have turned to focusing inmates’ time and energy into becoming productive members of society with social reintegration programs. Others have increased the punishments of crimes as a deterrent to breaking the laws of the country. Putting in procedures for giving ethical and humane treatment to prisoners has also been effective. As of 2013, Norway has a 20% recidivism rate in a period of 2 years, the lowest in Europe, compared to the UK (England/Wales) which has a rate of 59% in the same period. Norway has prisoners live in a village-like setting where they’re expected to work to earn their keep, only given one cooked meal and a food allowance to buy groceries for their own cooking needs. The prisoner are also allowed relative autonomy within the prison, a replication of life outside of incarceration. England however leans more toward the ‘standard’ prison system of heavy monitoring and treating inmates as ‘children’.
Boys State is encountering the same issues that many others states are facing, where students are finishing K-12 and instantly joining the workforce as opposed to pursuing higher education for a variety of reasons. While this may not be a bad thing, Kansas has many jobs in need of educated workers. One of the reasons graduates opt out of higher ed is because the facilities and trade schools needed simply do not exist. There are many other competing factors as well; be it tuition costs, lack of interests, or even having to provide for their low income families. If something is not done to find ways to increase higher ed enrollment and educate workers for these jobs requiring these skills, Boys State fears companies will close down and move to competing states or overseas where their labor requirements can be met. At the previous session of the Boys State legislature; a resolution was passed to explore the needs of the State for a new State College. Current institutions within Boys State, while having done an excellent job of educating Boys Staters for generations, are relatively limited in capacity and the idea of a new college is not a new one. While there are many suitable locations within the State for such an endeavor, this contentious issue has never been resolved. Many people attribute the lack of resolution to the ideas that state funds should be allocated to more dire needs, that trade schools would better help Boys State due to their blue collar driven workforce, and even tension between countries fighting for the university being placed in their borders.
Welfare is currently defined as any program put on by the government to help low income families and households protect themselves from poverty. Prior to 1965, welfare was primarily a function of private charities and local governments. However, efforts to aid the poor were often limited by a lack of funds, coordination, and expertise. The continued lack of progress in alleviating poverty eventually brought a Federal Boys Nation Government intervention as they took over funding and program design from the Boys States. The intervention required State Agencies to administer a federal program that offered direct payments to any person who made less than the poverty level, with the poverty level being established as the cost of living. In addition, those who made the poverty level were eligible for free health care. However, many Staters still want the State to expand coverage to go beyond the poverty line. After 15 years of federal welfare programs, however, little progress had been made in alleviating the stressors of poverty. In fact, rates in poverty, homelessness, and teen pregnancy have all increased. Recently, the Federal Boys Nation government has announced that they are handing the responsibility of welfare back to the state. With Boy’s State being in poor shape, the Department of Humanities must try and come up with efforts to proactively and efficiently alleviate the stress low income households are facing. This has caused backlash from taxpayers to accuse the state of just throwing money at a problem instead of trying to find the underlying issues leading to a need for welfare. Some things to consider is that welfare goes beyond Medicaid, it also includes housing aid, family and child assistance, unemployment, and workers comp. Current Poverty Rate: 12.3% Current Unemployment Rate: 4.0%
SOIL EROSION AND LAND MANAGEMENT
In 1985, the United States Congress adopted the Food Security Act. The act authorizes most farm subsidies, including provisions for the reduction of soil erosion and the protection of fragile ecosystems. In response to criticism of these programs, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has written new regulations which allow for states to opt out of the soil protection programs if the state can implement alternative methods of soil conservation. Boys State of Kansas has not as of yet opted out of these programs, although it could do so if deemed necessary by the Governor.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture surveys and classifies all agricultural land in the United States. The land is classified as agricultural land, sod land or wetlands. Agricultural land is land the U.S.D.A. considers appropriate for agricultural purposes. The department classifies land with sandy soil or land that lies exposed to wind as sod land. Wetlands lie along natural water drainage routes and where water collects after heavy rains. The U.S.D.A. considers sod land and wetlands highly erodible and unsuitable for agricultural purposes. The U.S.D.A. surveys and updates soil classifications every three years based upon the actual erosion patterns since the last survey.
Many farmers dislike the soil conservation programs because they attempt to limit crop production on highly erodible soil. The programs offer penalties and incentives to encourage farmers to let thousands of productive acres lie unplowed. Farmers who do not comply with the soil erosion program rules lose eligibility to participate in all federal farm subsidy programs. In the average year, Boys’ State farmers rely on federal subsidies for up to 40% of their income.
As an added incentive, farmers that choose to participate in the soil erosion programs receive a percentage of the value of the crop that could have been produced on the unused land with a maximum subsidy of $300 per day. Many farmers believe the penalties are heavy handed and the incentives are insufficient.
Recently, the 1985 Farm Bill has been scrutinized. Just prior to the last reclassification of land by the Department of Agriculture, Boys State experienced heavy rains which caused damaging floods. The flooding caused extensive soil erosion and changed water drainage patterns. When the U.S.D.A. conducted the survey for the land reclassification, large tracts of land once considered appropriate for agricultural usage were reclassified as either sod or wetlands.
The land use changes angered farmers who claimed the erosion was unusual and likely to stop once the flood ended. The U.S.D.A. ignored complaints and issued new maps and rules which ordered farmers to stop production on the land or surrender participation in all agricultural programs.
Additional information about the conservation programs available in the United States can be found at this link for the National Agricultural Law Center.
ENERGY AND POWER MANAGEMENT
Energy is produced in several ways to help power the world, especially through electricity. For several decades, most of this energy is generated through the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal, natural gas, oil, and other such non-renewable resources. The output of such activity is energy powering the state, but it also produces greenhouse gases, which are gases that trap in heat generated by the sun. However, in recent decades, there has been stronger pushes for more environmentally-friendly, renewable resources. Common renewable resources include solar, hydro, tidal, wind, geothermal, and nuclear power. In the state of Kansas, the largest source of renewable energy has been wind power, using wind turbines, which are more exclusively found on the high plains of Kansas. With the high amounts of sunlight throughout the year and the River of Democracy running strong through the state, there might be some untapped resources yet to be touched. Standing in the way of these new energy resources, however, is the economically-unfriendly approach. It is possible that it is still cheaper to burn fossil fuels and keeps the economy strong. Fossil fuel burning corporations keep pressure on politicians, so they are able to continue keeping money strong to help sustain several low skill jobs to many people, at the expense of the environment.
Public Workers and Collective Bargaining
Collective bargaining has been in the public discourse over the past few years. Mostly notably in the near lockout of the NFL season, significant political debate in Wisconsin that caused massive demonstrations, and is even still ongoing in Kansa.. Collective bargaining is a process of negotiations between employers and a group of employees aimed at reaching agreements that regulate working conditions.
Representatives of a trade union to which the employees belong commonly present the interests of the employees. The collective agreements reached by these negotiations usually set out wage scales, working hours, training, health and safety, overtime, grievance mechanisms and rights to participate in workplace or company affairs.
The Boysʼ State Coalition for Taxpayersʼ Freedom is advocating for a bill that would effectively end collective bargaining rights for all public workers, expect police, firefighters, and Highway Patrolmen. In addition to eliminating collective bargaining rights, the legislation also would make public workers pay half the costs of their pensions and at least 12.6 percent of their health care coverage. Joe Montaldo, founder of the Coalition, said the increases are “modest” compared with those in the private sector. Montaldo further argued “many collective bargaining rights long enjoyed by the public employee unions are expensive and prohibited. Eliminating them would make it easier for state and local governments to make work-rule and other changes to cut costs and save taxpayers.” “Most people … mistakenly think worker rights come from collective bargaining,” Montaldo said, “When you alter collective bargaining, it doesn’t alter workers’ rights.” Boysʼ State is trying to narrow a budget deficit totaling $10,000.
Americans strongly oppose laws taking away the collective bargaining power of public employee unions, according to a new USA TODAY/Gallup Poll. The poll found 61% would oppose a law in their state similar to such a proposal in Boysʼ State, compared with 33% who would favor such a law. Pro-union protesters have been assertive in refusing to accept passage of the controversial legislation as the last word in the matter. Many schools in the state are on the verge of closing because so many teachers have called in sick “in protest.” Organized labor advocate, Cesar Maldonado, points to the fight as one of the best motivational tools it’s had in recent years to fire up its members and the public. “The right to stand for our power to bargain collectively. It is our right to assemble. It is our right to collective work to defend our current rights and our future rights. It is an assault on the working person. It will leave them unprotected and more vulnerable to attack.”
Child Labor Laws in Agriculture
The federal Department of Transportation is seeking feedback and comments from persons and agencies that will be affected by recent proposals. The department has recently proposed new labor safety standards relating to agricultural businesses, such as: grain silos, corporate farms, family farms, and ranches.. Their intent is to create uniformity in how federal safety regulations are carried out across America, as there is currently very little safety regulations relating to any farm labor. The DOT’s concern comes from the inherently dangerous nature of a lot of farm work. The regulations would prevent children under the age 15 from the riskiest work, like driving tractors or working atop tall ladders. The regulations relate specifically to children who are under an employee relationship with the farm owner, unless they are working on a family farm. Children working for on a neighbor’s, private, uncle, or grandparent would be protected by these regulations. Many of the new proposals relate specifically to the use of motorized vehicles that are used on the farm. Some of these regulations include:
○ Obtaining a CDL (Commercial Drivers License) in order to operate any motorized farming equipment.
○ Maintaining detailed logs for all drivers – hours worked, miles traveled, etc.
○ Inspections of motorized farming equipment.
○ Drivers would need to pass a physical as well as a drug test every year.
○ More vocational agricultural programs offered at local colleges.
Many farmers and farming groups oppose any changes in statutes or regulatory authorities. They argue farming communities would feel this change differently and that it is impossible to create effective and fair national regulations. Agencies argue that the DOT is placing significant regulatory pressure on small farms and family farms across Boys’ State.
In recent years, job growth in Kansas has not kept pace with neighboring states during the long economic recovery since the 2008 recession. Industrially focused counties in Kansas Boys State were hit particularly hard in these years as they struggled to regain the jobs they lost and attract new jobs and industries to the state. In the past, the Department of the Economy helps cities attract and retain industry. Before now their effort consisted of assisting cities that requested help, these included developing economic plans that covered zoning changes, business incentives, to networking with corporations to attract opportunities.
Last session, the Secretary of the Economy determined that the Department should take a more active role in assisting city governments as cities with struggling economies were the least likely to request assistance and faster growing cities were often the only ones organized enough for such efforts.