When the news is not the thing

Kansas has made the national news again, just like in the days when we stopped teaching evolution in schools. This time it's for Rep. Randy Garber's (0%) personal crusade against LGBTQ Kansans, women who want to leave an abusive marriage, and internet privacy. But this isn't the news you need to be paying attention to.

Don't get us wrong. We will call Rep. Garber's bills out, because they need to be called out. They are hateful, backwards, and wrong. There is no place for them today, not in Kansas or anywhere. But we also need to keep our focus on what's really going on in the Kansas Legislature.

Last week, the Kansas House overwhelmingly voted down Governor Kelly's proposal to re-amortize the state's pension fund. It would have added years to the payoff, and billions to the eventual price tag, but it would also have provided needed cash flow to the state to get from one year to the next. We are still climbing out of the hole the Brownback administration dug with their reckless tax cuts, and even with the re-amortized payments, the Governor's budget was still forced to continue taking money from transportation (though the amount was reduced from the Brownback years). This vote has been described as a shot across the bow, a message from the Legislature to the Governor that she won't be able to get all she wants.

And that's the real story to listen to. The Legislature took a step back towards a Brownback style of governing in the 2018 election. Yes, we have a Governor who wants to make life better for every Kansan. But she does not have enough support in the Legislature to pass the bills we need. Instead, and this has become very clear this past week, she will be fighting to keep bad bills from becoming law.

MainStream testified against SB 22, Sen. Wagle's attempt to give money to wealthier Kansans and corporations, but it passed the Senate. Tomorrow and Wednesday, it will be heard in a House committee, and we will submit testimony again. The Governor's education bill, SB 44, received a hearing in the Senate, but has had no movement since then. Medicaid expansion bills are likewise languishing in committee. Taxes, education, health care... these are the aspects of state government that underpin the lives of every Kansan. If we don't get those right, there isn't really a way forward on any of the issues we champion.

So please, stand up to Rep. Garber. Fight back against voucher bills. Keep the pressure on for LGBTQ rights. Work to ensure the right to vote. We will, too. We're submitting testimony just this week on five different bills.

But pay attention to the news that doesn't make the biggest headlines, too. When your friends from other states write to you asking what the matter is with Kansas, let them know that we're taking it back one step at a time, starting with the fundamentals. Tax bills don't provoke outrage, but they can be just as outrageous.

The 2020 elections will make the splashiest headlines, but we ask you to pay attention to the fundamentals. 2019 is an election year, too. We will be voting for those officials closest to our very lives, for the city councillors, the mayors, the school board members who live in our neighborhoods. This is where change starts. This is where the ripples are formed that turn into waves.

Pay attention to the boring news, then do more than vote.

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