Hang on tight, it's turnaround

This week promises to be a roller coaster in the Kansas Legislature. Thursday, February 22nd is Turn Around Day, the day when (most) bills need to be passed by at least one chamber (the House or the Senate), to be considered this session. We say "most," because there are several exempt committees that can still introduce bills after this deadline, ostensibly to handle budget and appropriations issues that crop up towards the end of a session. But exempt committees have been known to introduce other bills, and the committee and floor amendment process can always resurrect "dead" proposals.

Still, this is the first of several "deadlines" that can spur increased action in the legislature, and we have a flurry of action on some bills.

School funding

That said, there is still no visible work being done on school finance, despite a looming deadline, suggestions from ultra-conservatives about the need to audit education funding, and complaints about education taking money away from other areas. There are studies ongoing, and lawyers have been retained by the Senate and the House, and behind the scenes, there is a lot of work being done. But no movement, or even much direction, has materialized yet. Friday should see the first commissioned report on how much it "should" cost to fund Kansas education.

Gun safety in light of Parkland school shooting

A bill to lower the age of concealed carry in Kansas to 18 (HB 2042), the age of many high school seniors, was quietly removed from the agenda for today's Senate Committee on Federal and State Affairs. No word on when, or if, it will return. The bill passed by a wide margin in the Kansas House, before the tragic events in Florida last week. Unfortunately, HB 2145, banning domestic violence perpetrators from owning firearms, was also removed from the agenda. That bill passed the House 120-0.

DREAMers under assault

A bill being heard this afternoon in the House Committee on Higher Education Budget (HB 2643) is egregious enough on the surface, removing undocumented Kansas foster children from a program that helps Kansas foster children attend in-state universities. But a single line near the end also quietly repeals in-state tuition for any undocumented Kansas student. For years now, Kansas has offered undocumented Kansas residents, children brought here by their parents, the same in-state tuition rates as other Kansas residents. The attempt to sneak this one past Kansans has failed however, with many advocates, including MainStream, testifying in opposition. The initial hearings on Thursday included Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, testifying in favor.

Women's health restrictions weigh down telemedicine

It started as HB 2512, a bill to encourage telemedicine across Kansas. But one arbitrary provision excluded any abortion or abortion-related medical advice, despite this being a legal medical procedure. Many advocates (and MainStream) testified against that bill, and it was dropped from consideration. A new telemedicine bill, HB 2674, was drawn up, without that restriction. But in committee, an amendment was added that re-introduced the restriction, and added that if this restriction were found illegal by the courts, the entire bill would have to be scrapped. MainStream continues to watch this bill (as well as a rumored Constitutional amendment banning abortion).

Health care expansion gets heard

Last Wednesday, on Valentine's Day, advocates jammed the hearing on KanCare expansion (SB 38), to hear passionate pleas for opening health care access to 150,000 working Kansans who do not have it. Over a hundred proponents submitted testimony in favor, including MainStream, and were opposed by just four organizations, all funded one way or another by the Koch brothers, their representatives flown in from elsewhere in the country. Earlier today, the bill passed out of committee unanimously!

There are a number of other bills and issues still seeking attention, including transparency bills and measures that would make government more accountable. If those and other bills don't get moved this week, they may still be presented as amendments to existing or appropriations bills.

Thank you for all that you do. Change begins with you.

It starts here. Do more than vote.

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