Last week saw a new day in the Kansas Legislature. No, there were no landmark bills passed, no rolling back of ultra conservative policy. In fact, the Governor vetoed tax reform, ultimately sending the legislature back to the drawing board. But there were a set of significant turns that show how far we have come from just last year.
In the span of one week, the Kansas House and Senate passed comprehensive tax reform, signaling the imminent end of Brownback's reckless tax experiment. The Kansas House also reinstated due process for public school teachers, a right that had been stripped away two years ago in an early morning vote engineered by Brownback's anti-education allies. And the House passed health care expansion, overturning the Governor's refusal to accept Federal dollars to give more Kansans access to health coverage. In fact, in what might be the most telling instance of the Legislature's about face, an amendment to that health care bill, designed to defund Planned Parenthood, was defeated 72-49!
These votes would never have happened if it had not been for you. The work we all did, voters, organizations, volunteers, interns, it paid off in a Kansas Legislature that voted for fiscal sanity, respected our teachers, and recognized that access to health care is a right, not a privilege. We worked to elect these new legislators, and they are delivering. But your work did not end in November! Last week, you made thousands of emails and phone calls to Topeka on these same issues! Legislators were inundated with Kansans asking to be represented. Your voices were definitely heard.
Not done yet
It is a different Legislature, to be sure.
Some things haven't changed, of course. Hardliners continue to rail against any sort of tax as "theft," while still driving on public roads. Some still vote to raise sales taxes that impact low and middle income Kansans, but refuse to restore income taxes rates that would hit high income Kansans hardest. (See: "These are the tax hypocrites in the KS Legislature") Legislative leadership continues to work the rules to their advantage, in one instance last week cancelling and refusing to hold committee meetings to avoid advancing bills they did not like (but teacher due process got its vote on the floor anyway).
And there is still work to be done. As you know, the Governor vetoed the tax reform package, and though the House overrode that veto in another Topeka-shaking vote, the Kansas Senate fell three votes short. The Governor's budget plans are being moved forward now, ostensibly to show him how little support they have, but they still bear watching. Public education funding still has not received much attention from leadership, and looms large in the next few weeks, overshadowed only by the pending court decision on school finance. And both due process and health care expansion bills have yet to get their day in the Senate.
We will keep you informed
MainStream will keep you informed of what is happening, and where—and when—you need to make your voice heard. Be sure to subscribe to this newsletter, or follow us on Twitter or Facebook. Check our KS Legislative Tracker, updated regularly, and follow our Twitter list (no Twitter account required) for up to the minute coverage from the Statehouse reporters.
Remember to do more than vote: listen, learn, engage, and speak out.