Loud Light Kansas political recap: criminalizing protest, guns, and unemployment

The Pitch has partnered with a local political awareness organization called Loud Light. Their goal is to engage and empower individuals from underrepresented populations to build community power. And impact decision-makers. Each week of the year that the Kansas statehouse is in session, they release a short video recapping what the legislature is up to.

Knowing the nitty-gritty of what’s happening with your representatives is the only way to stay involved with the way local government affects your life. You can donate to support Loud Light’s work by clicking here.

Here is this week’s video transcription:

Hey! I’m Davis Hammet with Loud Light. Here’s what happened in the 8th week of the Kansas legislative session.

Energy Relief (SB88)
Small Kansas cities face potential bankruptcy to deal with the astronomical natural gas bills incurred in the February cold snap. A bill to create $100 million in low-interest energy loans to cities was passed at remarkable speed and bipartisanship going from a committee hearing Wednesday morning to being signed into law by the Governor that night. The bill gave newly appointed State Treasurer Lynn Rogers (D) 2 weeks to implement the program, but the former ag banker had the relief program rolled out within 24 hours. The loans will allow cities to spread the cost of utility surges out over several years.

Federal Aid
Kansas Republican officials have condemned the American Rescue Plan which includes $1,400 direct relief checks for most Kansans and about $1.6 billion in funding for the state. As Sen. Moran (R), Sen. Marshall (R) and every Republican in Congress voted against it, the Republican supermajority in the Kansas Statehouse is relying on the passage of the emergency aid in hopes that it will cover the cost of several of their proposals including a half-billion dollar tax cut that already passed the Senate.

Criminalizing Protest (SB172)
In response to water protector protests at the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, the oil industry has been pushing bills to criminalize environmental and human rights protests across the country. On Monday, the Senate passed one such bill introduced by the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers. It would make basic acts of vandalism like graffiti a severe felony crime if committed on property owned by oil or chemical manufacturers. Additionally, it could treat organizations such as churches and indigenous nonprofits that are involved in environmental protests as organized criminal enterprises.

Emergency Management (HB2416)
The House passed its own version of a bill to restrict the Governor and local government’s ability to respond during emergencies. The bill includes a process where a small group of legislative leaders can block executive orders and even amend them.

Concealed Carry (HB2058)
A bill passed the House that would lower the age to carry concealed guns from 21 to 18. An amendment to allow college campuses to determine their own gun policies was shot down meaning that the bill would allow virtually all students in public Kansas colleges and universities to carry hidden guns.

Unemployment (HB2196)
Gov. Kelly (D) announced the Dept of Labor is training 500 new call representatives to double their unemployment customer service staff and has rolled out extended service hours. Meanwhile, House Republicans passed a major unemployment bill that would immediately reduce how long Kansas workers are eligible to receive unemployment. The Dept of Labor is already in the process of upgrading their 40 year old unemployment system, but the bill adds a variety of detailed requirements for the new system and establishes a 13-member committee to oversee the modernization project. Additionally, it calls for $450 million to be transferred into the unemployment fund from the state aid portion of the federal American Rescue Plan which hasn’t yet passed.

Coming Up
We’re officially halfway through the legislative session and the legislature is taking this coming Monday and Tuesday off. Thanks for liking, sharing, and donating. Stay tuned, stay engaged, and until next time, thank you so much Kansas!

Categories: Politics