While we were protecting women...

The 2020 Kansas Legislative Session started with a bang when Sen. Wagle introduced the anticipated amendment to strip women's rights out of the Kansas Constitution. For the first month it stole all the oxygen out of the Statehouse, even while other bills were being introduced, and we attended four lobby days in two weeks.

Truth is, there's a lot going on in Kansas. Now, Sen. Wagle has declared an obstructionist plan to delay healthcare, and possibly other bills, until she gets her way.

Here are some of the other bills and policy proposals that we've seen at this point.

Medicaid Expansion

The obvious victim of Sen. Wagle's obstruction is Medicaid Expansion. With a bipartisan bill, and legislators ready to vote for it—including Sen. Denning, who was last year's roadblock—it looked like this was finally the year.

However, committee work is expected to involve the introduction of amendments—like the addition of work requirements—that would endanger the bipartisan compromise. Couple that with Sen. Wagle's refusal to work any health care bills, and the way forward for expansion looks difficult.

Budget and Taxes

Gov. Kelly introduced a budget at the start of the session, and as happened last year, her proposals have met quite a bit of resistance. As she did last year, she proposed to reamortize payments to KPERS, the state employee retirement fund, to free up funds to help recover from the Brownback years. That plan has received pushback from KPERS authorities and some lawmakers, though this year, they are admitting that it may need to happen sometime, just not yet. This much resistance is not unusual this early in the session, as the budget/appropriations bills are almost always the last bill passed by the Legislature in the session.

We have already seen (and testified against) HB 2005, a bill to once again reduce the tax burden of the wealthiest Kansans. This is an offshoot of SB 22 from last year, Sen. Wagle's failed attempt to bring back Brownback-era tax giveaways. So far, this bill has not moved forward.


With public schools funded through a constitutional plan, and with the Supreme Court keeping a watchful eye on that funding, you could be forgiven for thinking education might not be a busy policy area this year. Unfortunately, you would be wrong.

Already two bills have been put forward that would use even more taxpayer funds to pay for private and parochial schools. HB 2465 would amend the existing tax credit scholarship program to include more students and more schools in the giveaway of tax funds to private schools. Here is Mainstream's testimony opposing it. And HB 2552, innocuously titled "Creating the Kansas Reading Readiness Act" would use taxpayer funds to enroll students in private schools if they fall below certain reading levels, while ignoring that private schools have the exact same issues with reading readiness gaps as public schools do, without the same level of state mandated requirements.

SB 271 is a bill designed to remove the sunset, a date at which a bill or measure automatically ceases to be law, from at risk funding for public schools. Sunsets are often included in legislation to enforce a re-evaluation of a program or policy after several years. In the case of at risk funding, failure to remove this sunset would result in drastic cuts to the ability of many school districts to provide services to their populations wit the most need. In some large districts it could be as much as $1 million. This bill has been heard in the Senate, but no action has yet been taken. Meanwhile, HB 2540, a reactionary bill to results of an audit of at risk funding this fall (which found that most districts spend more on at risk than is allocated to them for that purpose) seeks to limit districts on how they spend those funds, once again taking agency away from local districts in favor of government oversight.

The rest

Rep. Michael Capps (*M 8%) has introduced a bill (HB 2476) to add the words, "In God We Trust" to every public building, classroom, and library in Kansas. “It should be displayed as an acknowledgment of our country’s history and founding principles,” Capps said. Unfortunately for his patriotic argument, the phrase was not adopted by Congress until 1956, more than a hundred years removed from our country's "founding principles."

In voting rights, SB 351, allowing provisional ballots for people not listed in polling books (i.e., not registered to vote) will have a hearing next week. SB 412, allowing any voter to sign up for permanent ballots by mail is also scheduled for a hearing next week.

HB 2508, which received a hearing in early February, is a bill to prevent Kansas Secretaries of State from overseeing elections in which they themselves are running for office. It would make the position, and it's election, non-partisan, and require they resign before running for office. In 2018, Kris Kobach oversaw the election as Secretary of State while also running for Governor himself.

And, in a bill everyone seems to support, HB 2467 would remove the spousal exception from sexual battery, meaning, spouses would no longer be protected under the law if they battered their partners. This one has already passed the House 105-15.

There are hundreds of bills working their way through the Kansas Legislature. We are sure to have overlooked some (or many!) that we could be following. Let us know if we missed one you think is important.

Do more than vote.

- Danny Novo
  Communications Director

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