By Aaron Strain
Governor Laura Kelly released her budget proposal, aimed at undoing “years of financial crisis, budget catastrophes and devastating cuts to Kansas’ most prized investments… without a tax increase.”
The plan includes:
Restoring the K-12 budget to constitutionally required levels and increasing higher education funding. The Kansas Supreme Court has ruled multiple times that the state has not funded schools at constitutional levels since 2010.
Fixing the state’s foster care system to provide for the growing number of children in the system which “skyrocketed 45 percent since 2011.”
Expanding Medicaid as provided under Obamacare. Oswego Community Hospital closed this week, making it the second rural hospital to close in southeast Kansas in three months. Lacking the Medicaid expansion was cited by the hospital as a primary reason for closure.
Undoing the Brownback tax experiment and thereby fixing the state’s finances.
Re-amortization of KPERS, the state employee retirement fund. “This will enable Kansas to meet all obligations to current and future Kansas retires while enabling the state to invest in essential services.”
Kelly said, “This budget doesn’t fix all the problems created over the last several years, nor does it fulfill all of my administration’s goals. But it is a prudent first step that will set the stage for a brighter, more prosperous future — all without a tax increase.”
The full report and plan can be read online at: budget.kansas.gov/budget-report
More from the Governor:
An executive order under former Governor Brownback’s administration legally condoned the harassment and firing of employees simply for being LGBT+. Kelly’s first formal act as Governor was the signing of a new executive order which extended the state’s nondiscrimination policy for LGBT+ state workers and contractors, and undid Brownback’s order.
Kelly gave a State of the State Address on Jan. 26. She said that Kansas was “on the brink of collapse,” but things were getting better after the undoing of the Brownback tax experiment. “We’re united by a common sense of values: that spirit of neighbor-helping-neighbor, respect for one another, and always doing right by our children.”
A Manifesto of Strangeness:
Representative Randy Garber, R-Sabetha, sparked a national controversy after introducing six socially conservative and discriminatory bills. All of these bills are being introduced across the country and all come from a Facebook friend of Garber’s named Mark Sevier, who goes by many aliases and has a bizarre criminal and personal history.
House Bills 2318 to 2323 include the following:
Calling abortion a religion, same-sex marriage a “parody marriage,” and LGBT+ people “mythical.”
Blocking porn on all electronic devices unless a citizen pays a fee and joins a registry.
Banning drag queens from some places.
Imposing restrictions on divorces.
Defining away the term hate speech.
Making it illegal for media companies to censor their own platforms.
Creating fees for entering a strip club.
Describing a “secular humanist” belief system which calls humans “animated pieces of meat” that “(erode) community decency” through abortion, drag queens, and “homosexual imperialistic power (plays).” These “beliefs” would be codified as the then constitutionally recognized religion of “secular humanism.” According to the logic of the bills, this recognition would then cause a separation of church and state conflict and therefore make abortion and same-sex marriage illegal.
A total of six Kansas legislators sponsored every one of these bills.
The bills have been decried by several other legislators from both sides, calling them hurtful, dangerous, and offensive.
From the Legislature:
SB 84 and HB 2130 aim to prevent housing and employment discrimination against LGBT+ people. House and Senate leadership, due to the implementation of a “strong chair” form of governance, may not allow the bills to have a hearing.
Minor legislative transparency measures.
The Kansas legislature is known for being notoriously secretive. According to investigations published by The Kansas City Star, the authors of 94 percent of passed laws in 2017 were anonymous, and Kansas is one of only a few states where this practice is allowed.
Recent changes to the state’s House rules allow for more tracking of the sponsorship of some bills. Committee votes and amendment votes are still not recorded by the House and remain out of the public record.
SB 44 would add $90 million to school funding as an inflation adjustment. This plan would be enough to end the litigation against the state’s education funding.
SB 43 was introduced with bipartisan support. If the bill passes, Kansas voters will be able register to vote up to and on election day. Currently, in order to vote in a primary or general election, potential voters have to register before an arbitrarily set deadline.
HCR 5004, a proposed state constitutional amendment, would grant civil rights to humans at the moment of fertilization and technically ban abortion in the state. However, it would remain legal under federal law.
SB 113, if passed, would legalize medical marijuana. Kansas advocacy group Bleeding Kansas criticized the bill for not following public health guidelines and potentially benefiting profits over patients. They instead suggested passing the Kansas Safe Access Act, another proposed legalization bill. Legalization of medical marijuana is supported by 76% of Kansans, according to 2017 data from the Dockings Institute.
Learn about more upcoming bills, information about your representatives, and how they vote on acts you support by going to kslegislature.org.