Weekly Rundown #45

Friday, January 31, 2020

Welcome to the KDP Weekly Rundown – the Kansas Democratic Party’s update of the biggest things going on in the state party and the state government. What are we focused on this week? A new energy department, more Medicaid expansion hearings, and the Senate GOP’s approval of an anti-abortion amendment.

ENERGY OFFICE CREATED

  • What’s happening?

Gov. Laura Kelly notified the Kansas Legislature Tuesday that her administration is making the Energy Office in the Kansas Corporation Commission its own separate, independent entity. The move seeks to build on Kansas’ status as a national leader in renewable energy by expanding the office’s authority into energy planning, policy development, and stakeholder outreach.

Gov. Kelly: “I cannot stand by and watch as a blatantly political attack is waged on women’s rights. I was elected to be the governor of all Kansans, and that includes Kansas women…This would throw the state back into the dark ages. Legislators in Topeka with no medical training have no right to make a woman’s medical decisions.”

The governor’s office said in a statement that it would release additional details in the months to come. As long as the Kansas Legislature declines to object in the next 60 days, the intragency action will go forward on July 1.

HOUSE AWAITS SENATE-PASSED ANTI-ABORTION CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT

  • What’s happening?

The Kansas Senate on Thursday approved a GOP-backed constitutional amendment eliminating the right to an abortion from the state constitution, meeting the two-thirds majority needed in the chamber. The amendment goes to the House, where observers see a much steeper climb to the same supermajority requirement.

The Kansas Supreme Court ruled in 2019 that access to abortion is a “fundamental right” under the state’s Bill of Rights. The fury the ruling inspired among conservative Republicans was on full display Wednesday as GOP Senate President Susan Wagle led debate on the Senate floor that stretched into the evening. The Senate-approved amendment does not provide exceptions in cases of rape, incest, or when the mother’s life is in danger.

Gov. Kelly in a Thursday press conference slammed the amendment.

Gov. Kelly: “I cannot stand by as a blatantly political attack is waged on women’s rights. I was elected to be the governor of all Kansans, and that includes Kansas women.”

Governors are not able to approve or veto proposed constitutional amendments, so if the measure is passed by two-thirds of the Kansas House, it will proceed to a statewide vote during the traditionally low-turnout primary election on August 4.

Sen. Wagle warned lawmakers that a catalog of restrictions on abortion in Kansas could be overturned because of the Supreme Court ruling.

Find your representative’s phone number at KSLegLookup.org and demand they oppose the proposed amendment!

Click here

MEDICAID EXPANSION HEARINGS CONTINUE

  • What’s happening?

The Senate Public Health and Welfare Committee throughout the week continued hearings on the bipartisan Medicaid expansion compromise announced before the 2020 legislative session by Gov. Kelly and GOP Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning.

Beginning on Tuesday, neutral experts and opponents of the policy testified as observers crowded into the hearing room. Among the opponents who testified was Repubican Congressman and U.S. Senate candidate Roger Marshall, a rare move for a federal officeholder.

GOVERNOR’S TAX COUNCIL INTERIM REPORT

  • What’s happening?

Kansas should implement a targeted food sales tax rebate and reinstate a state law providing sales tax collections to localities to encourage lower property taxes, the Governor’s Council on Tax Reform on Monday recommended in its interim report. The final report is due before the 2021 legislative session.

Gov. Kelly: “I tasked the Council with an in-depth study of our tax structure. I am pleased with the diligent work the Council has done to research the current tax and budget situation in Kansas, and make sound recommendations that would return the state to a balanced approach of sales, income and property taxes. There’s a need for tax reform designed with adequacy, equity and stability in mind, and I welcome the Legislature’s consideration of the Council’s recommendations.”

HEARING ON ANTI-HAIR DISCRIMINATION LEGISLATION

  • What’s happening?

Democratic State Sen. Oletha Faust-Goudeau on Tuesday testified to the Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee in support of legislation outlawing discimination based on hairstyles “historically associated with race,” such as braids, locs, and twists. The push, which is occuring in state legislatures across the country, advocates for policies banning bias in housing, employment, and public accomodations.

Senate Bill 250, titled the CROWN Act (Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural hair), follows the enactment of similar legislation in California, New York, and New Jersey in 2019. The Kansas Legislature is one of 20 state bodies in which the policy has been proposed this year.

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