The Pitch has partnered with a local political awareness organization called Loud Light. Their goal is to engage and empower individuals from underrepresented populations to build community power. And impact decision-makers. Each week of the year that the Kansas statehouse is in session, they release a short video recapping what the legislature is up to. Knowing the nitty-gritty of what’s happening with your representatives is the only way to stay involved with the way local government affects your life. Here is this week’s video and video transcription:
We’re Transforming Kansas: voter registration, informative videos, coalition building, civic engagement, youth voter turnout.
Hey I’m Davis Hammet with Loud Light. Here’s what happened in the 4th week of the Kansas legislative session.
Marijuana & Medicaid Expansion
Gov. Laura Kelly (D) has proposed a bill to legalize medical marijuana and use the tax revenue to fund Medicaid expansion. These are two of the most popular policies in the state. Kansas is one of only three states that maintains a full prohibition on marijuana. Support for medicinal legalization has been high for years, and the Kansas Speaks survey found that now over 2/3rds of Kansans support the legalization of recreational marijuana too. It also found over 63% of Kansans support Medicaid expansion. Only a dozen states are still blocking Medicaid expansion and Kansas has forfeited over $4.5 billion in federal health care funds as a consequence. While a supermajority of Kansans support these policies, they have been blocked for years by the Republican supermajority in the state legislature. House Majority Leader Dan Hawkins (R) called the new proposal “high hopes and pipe dreams.”
Transgender Services Criminalization (HB2210)
In 2019, Rep. Garber (R), Helmer (R), and Rhiley (R) introduced a slew of bills laying out a conspiracy that same-sex marriages are parody, LGBTQ people are mythical, and abortions are a religious practice. This week they introduced a bill to make it a crime for doctors to provide medical services to transgender youth including hormone therapy. The chair of the health committee said it’s unlikely the bill will get a hearing this year.
Energy Discrimination (SB24)
The utilities committee chairman Sen. Mike Thompson (R) runs an organization dedicated to opposing renewable energy development. On Thursday, he carried a bill dubbed the Kansas energy choice act which would ban local governments from “discriminating against” a utility service. The bill aims to preemptively block cities from phasing out fossil fuels specifically it aims to protect the natural gas industry. The bill passed the Senate along party lines.
School vouchers (SB61 / HB2068)
House and Senate committees held hearings on bills to expand tax credits for private school vouchers. Proposals to require the private schools to be accredited before receiving state money were voted down in both committees. The full Senate and House could pass the voucher bill as early as this coming week.
Vaccine Resolution (SR1707)
On Thursday, the Senate passed a nonbinding resolution criticizing Gov. Kelly’s vaccine strategy and praising former Pres. Trump’s administration’s strategy as a “triumph of American ingenuity.” The resolution urges the Governor to remove prisoners from phase 2 so that “law-abiding citizens” can get the vaccine before them. Prisons are extremely susceptible to the spread of the virus and States that have not prioritized prisoners are facing lawsuits. On Tuesday, an Oregon federal judge ruled that delaying the vaccine to prisoners is unconstitutional cruel and unusual punishment under the eighth amendment.
Over 400 bills have been introduced this year and we can expect many more to be read in before the deadline which is on Friday. Most bills need to pass either the Senate or House before March 5th to stay alive for the year. Kansas Interfaith Action is holding an advocacy week with virtual opportunities to meet with legislators, attend workshops on state issues like one on voting rights by Loud Light, and hear from speakers such as Wyandotte’s District Attorney and the Governor.
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