Several years ago we published a story about "shenanigans" in the Kansas Legislature. We got some feedback that the word was... not dignified. And yet, after the start of this Kansas Legislative Session in 2020, we can't think of a word more appropriate to describe what has happened.

Leadership positions in the Legislature have a lot of power. Those few individuals can bless or kill bills, and when they do, there is not much recourse. They can also stack committees with lawmakers favorable to their aims, support or oppose amendments, keep floor votes open at length to sway the results, etc.

When Sen. President Susan Wagle introduced her amendment to strip women's rights from the Kansas Constitution, she repeatedly asked that legislators "Let Kansans Vote" on it, implying that only a ballot amendment would show the true will of the people. But then, during the debate on the floor of the Kansas House, one proponent said that the amendment, which would explicitly give lawmakers the right to legislate abortion rights, would allow Kansans to vote "through their elected legislators."

Then, when Kansans voted, "through their elected legislators," to prevent the amendment from going forward, their strategy changed. Now, Sen. Wagle and others in leadership positions are pulling out the stops to get their way, no matter the will of Kansas voters, expressed "through their elected legislators."

Here are just some examples of the undemocratic ways Leadership has tried to sway the results of the session. "Shenanigans," if you will.

Medicaid Expansion. There are a majority of legislators, both in the House, and in the Senate, who favor expanding Medicaid. There have been for several years. A majority of Kansans favor it. Last year, Leadership managed to stop expansion by one vote, Sen. Denning's pass. This year, Sen. Wagle has declared that expansion would not pass until her amendment (remember, now defeated by Kansans, through their elected legislators) was passed. Further, extreme conservatives on the committee overseeing the bill amended it with unacceptable provisions sure to sink it, just to ensure their obstruction of the will of Kansans.

Local Government Control. This past Friday, many moderate Republicans left the statehouse to attend the funeral of former Rep. Greg Lewis. Leadership took the opportunity to replace those missing members on the House Commerce Committee, in order to pass out the Kansas Chamber's pet bill, preventing Kansas cities from making ordinances around single-use plastic bags. Added to the Committee for Friday's session were Rep. Thomas (*M 0%), Rep. Resman (*M 7%), Rep. Sutton (*M 5%), and Rep. Owens (*M 8%).

Education. In education, leadership has shifted from the last decade's attempt to continue underfunding public schools to now hamstringing districts with undue reporting and restrictions, and stealing tax funds to give to private and parochial schools through vouchers. Just before the deadline, several voucher bills, all very similar, were introduced, inducing a lot of head scratching as to motive. But beyond any ulterior motive, on the surface these bills are simply another way to give tax funds to private or parochial schools not subject to the same reporting or standards as public schools.

Let us know what shenanigans you've seen at the Kansas Legislature.

Do more than vote.

- Danny Novo
  Communications Director

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