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:
Hey, I’m Davis Hammet with Loud Light. Here’s what happened in the 5th week of the Kansas legislative session.
Tax Bill (SB22)
On Tuesday the Senate debated a large tax cuts bill that would cost the state about $175 million in the next year. The bill was quickly amended to include several more tax cuts and exploded to a price tag of half a billion dollar just in its first year. Sen. Tyson (R) said the cobbled together package meant “there is something in this bill for everyone now.” Sen. Longbine (R) called it “deja vu” of the Brownback Tax Experiment which the Senate passed in a similar manner in 2012. The price tag on the bill is roughly the size of the state’s reserve funds meaning it could cause immediate budget constraints and even a budget crisis. The state is still working on a multi-year plan to reach a level of school funding considered adequate after the legislature unconstitutionally underfunded schools to finance their previous tax cuts. The bill passed 24-15 and is headed to the House.
Private School Vouchers (SB61)
Thursday the Senate debated the school voucher bill which would give tax dollars to private school donors. Several amendments were blocked from being added to the bill, and in its current form private schools that receive the public money may be unaccredited and discriminate against students. The bill passed 23-14 with 4 Republicans voting no. It’s now headed to the House. If it passes and Gov. Kelly (D) vetoes the bill then it would take 3 Republicans in either chamber to sustain her veto.
Transgender Girls Sports (SB208)
A bill was introduced that would force all public schools and colleges to block transgender women and girls from playing on women’s sports teams. It does this by allowing anyone to dispute a girls sex and then requiring the girl undergo sex verification by having their genitals inspected. The language of the bill is identical to an Idaho law passed last year which was quickly found to be unconstitutional. The court found that the law subjected all girls, but no boys, to an invasive sex verification procedure, and its only purpose was to exclude transgender girls. Additionally, the law prevents schools from taking any action to try to prevent students from using the sex dispute process as a way to embarrass, bully, and harass each other. In November, Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt joined Idaho’s effort to appeal the unconstitutional ruling. Schmidt is arguing the bill doesn’t discriminate because it only discriminate against transgender girls and not transgender boys. Senate Majority Leader Suellentrop said a large segment of the Republican caucus is interested in the bill.
Gov. Kelly has nominated Jacy Hurst to the Kansas Court of Appeals. If she is confirmed by the Kansas Senate, she will become the first woman of color to serve on the state’s appeals court.
On Saturday morning Dodge City Sen. Bud Estes (R) passed away after decades of public service. Estes had been absent this legislative session as he struggled with an extended illness that required hospitalization. Estes was the first Senator to publicly share that he had contracted COVID-19 nearly a year ago, but said he had recovered within a month. The details around the cause of death are not public.
Sports Betting (SB84 / HB2199)
The Kansas legislature has been struggling to legalize sports betting as they weigh competing interests. One of the biggest divides is if the state casinos or state lottery or both would facilitate the gambling. Other concerns include financial liability, revenue sharing among different levels of government, gambling addiction prevention and treatment, and animal rights concerns related to greyhound racing. The Senate opened a hearing on a casino side bill this week and the House begins hearings on a lottery side bill this coming week.
Stay warm, stay tuned, stay engaged, and until next time, thank you so much Kansas
You can donate to support Loud Light’s work by clicking here.