Kansas Day legislative update

By Aaron Strain / Web Master

The first month of the 2020 Kansas Legislative session ended with a slew of bills covering Medicaid expansion, abortion rights, and much more.

The Budget

Kansas Governor Laura Kelly outlined a budget recommendation, marking her second year in office. Among other items, the budget proposes increasing school funding, expanding Medicaid, and giving a cost-of-living raise to state employees.

In 2019, Kansas made its first full payment to KPERS, the state employee retirement system, since 1994. Kelly’s plan called for the continued re-amortization of KPERS to pay back billions of dollars worth of unfunded liabilities accrued over those 25 years. The proposal also outlined paying off $600 million in debt sustained during the Brownback administration, including $268 million in skipped pension payments.

The full plan can be read online at budget.kansas.gov/budget-report

Medicaid Expansion

On January 6, Senate Majority Leader Jim Denning, R-Overland Park, and Kelly announced they had struck a deal on Medicaid expansion. Senator Ed Berger, R-Hutchinson and former Hutchinson Community College president, co-sponsored the bill and called the agreement “a true political compromise with elements of importance to both parties.”

Senate Bill 252, if passed, would provide healthcare coverage to as many as 150,000 Kansas families with an income up to 138% of the federal poverty level.

Abortion

A constitutional amendment that could allow the legislature to ban abortion and birth control passed through committees last week. If approved, the Constitution would ensure Kansas “does not create or secure a right to abortion,” allowing the state to “pass laws regarding abortion, including… in circumstances of pregnancy resulting from rape or incest, or when necessary to save the life of the mother.”

The motion comes after a 2019 Supreme Court ruling found that the state’s Constitution guarantees the “right of personal autonomy… including whether to continue a pregnancy.”

The amendment could effectively reverse the decision.

If the motion passes, the amendment will be placed on the August Primary Election ballot and require a simple majority of Kansas primary voters to become part of the state Constitution.

Passenger Rail

BNSF Railway is working on a cost analysis of running passenger trains between Oklahoma City and Newton. A proposed route would intersect Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer, which runs from Fort Worth to OKC, and its Southwest Chief, which runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, in Newton. The plan would require funding from both states and the federal government to upgrade the high-traffic, BNSF-owned track.

Bills, Briefly

Kansas currently defines sexual battery as “the touching of a victim who is not the spouse of the offender… who does not consent thereto.” If passed, HB 2467 would remove the spousal exception. An identical bill passed through committee last year but was caught up in an apparent legislative timing issue and died.

HB 2477 would make Election Day a public holiday if passed.

SB 250, if passed, would add “traits historically associated with race, including hair texture and protective hairstyles” (i.e. dreadlocks) to the definition of “race” in the Kansas act against discrimination; thereby protecting people against discrimination based on those traits, supporters say.

HB 2445, if passed, would allow children who run away to be placed in juvenile detention for 24 hours. Kansas Action for Children, a child advocacy group, called the bill “misguided” and a “backward” step in the state’s youth justice system.

Learn about more upcoming bills, information about your representatives, and how they vote on acts you support by going to kslegislature.org

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