We Can Do Both

When the Kansas Legislature comes back into session on Wednesday, they will confront several thorny issues. At one point, we expected them to just have to handle budget issues. However, their break has been eventful, and now we expect them to tackle abortion rights and health care expansion, along with the expected budget issues. More importantly perhaps, they will tackle the issue of how to govern effectively while also working for constituents. That's not a trick question, however. They can do both.

In fact, government isn't a zero sum game, where if one side is winning, the other has to be losing. We believe that the issues before the Legislature this week can be approached in a way that all Kansans can benefit.

Women's health or Reducing abortions

As you likely know, on Friday the Kansas Supreme Court ruled that the Kansas Constitution protects a woman's right to determine the fate of her own pregnancy. Reaction has been swift from the Pro-Life movement, calling for an amendment to the Kansas Constitution. You can read MainStream's official position on reproductive health here, and our opposition to such an amendment here. but it is important to reiterate two aspects of our position.

First, we categorically reject the characterization of "pro-abortion" language. Nobody is in favor of abortion. To say so is both disingenuous and harmful. MainStream stands strongly for the rights of all people to determine their own futures, and that extends to women, and in matters of health. Second, we are strong supporters of lowering the number of abortions in Kansas.

We believe that we can do both.

How? We support policies that have been shown to reduce abortion rates. Fact-based sexual education in schools. Affordable and accessible health care. Compassionate family leave policies. Policies to give workers and families more economic freedom. These will improve the lives of Kansans, and reduce abortions without curtailing the rights of women to their own medical decisions. We can do both.

Health care expansion or Sustainable economic policy

This week, the Legislature will look again at expanding health care access to 150,000 working Kansans who cannot get health care today. We have heard the arguments against doing so: it will cost Kansas too much; it will keep others from getting health care; why should we pay for the heath care of others? These arguments boil down to a concern for how to pay for it. Governor Brownback regularly argued that there were not enough health care resources to take care of the disabled, the mentally ill, and the people who would be covered by expansion, while keeping costs sustainable. But we can do both.

Studies done in Kansas—by Kansas organizations with Kansas data—show that under the most likely scenarios, Medicaid expansion would be budget neutral. This includes data from the State of Kansas Divison of the Budget, from the Kansas Health Institute, and from a study at Kansas State University. In fact, Medicaid expansion could bring in economic development that would further offset any costs. Kansans have already spent over $3 billion in health care taxes that have gone to other states. It is time to start investing in Kansas, and helping working Kansans living without health care. We can do both.

Constituents or Politics

At the heart of the decision-making in the Legislature this week will be the tug between politics, and constituent representation. Each legislator is elected by their constituents, and MainStream works hard to encourage people to connect with their legislators. (See who represents you!) But as you know from our last update, sometimes those legislators who comprise the Leadership in the statehouse are out of line with the legislators they lead. Leadership is being pulled between the values of a representative democracy and the needs of party politics.

They can do both.

Leadership can let democracy work. Rather than preventing a vote, they can bring issues to a vote without compromising their own positions. Allow debate, and let the elected representatives of Kansans vote in the name of their constituents. Once they have done their duty by all Kansans to allow a vote, Leadership can represent their own constituents and vote their conscience. Allowing a vote lets others represent their constituents, too. We can do both. 

You can do both

Governing is about compromise, representing diverse constituents who do not agree on every issue. Governing is about finding common ground and making difficult decisions, and always, always representing the Kansans who are your constituents, whether they voted for you or the other candidate. It is what makes politics public service, doing the hard work of balancing public good and responsible government.

Fortunately, Kansas can do both. We can help people and govern effectively. We can protect individual freedom and advance community good. We can support those of strong faith and respect the beliefs of all people. We can let people live with dignity and celebrate cultural traditions, new and old.

Do both. Do more than vote.

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