Loud Light Kansas political recap: drunk driving senator, transgender sports, state budget
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 10th week of the Kansas legislative session.
One of the most powerful Republican legislators in Kansas, Senate Majority Leader Gene Suellentrop, was arrested after midnight on Monday for allegedly driving drunk down the wrong lane of I-70 for 10 minutes, nearly hitting 3 vehicles, and fleeing from a police officer. The next morning a Judge did a rare thing by releasing Suellentrop for lack of probable cause due to missing information in the police report. It’s now up to Shawnee County District Attorney Mike Kagay, who is a close political ally of Sullentrop’s Chief of Staff Eric Rucker, to decide whether to pursue charges or not. In the meantime, some fall out began in the Statehouse leading to Suellentrop handing over a few of his powers to avoid what he called a “distraction.” Reactions from fellow Republicans varied from praising his action as accountability to saying his drunk driving was inexcusable and he’d be in jail if he was an average Joe. Most of Suellentrop’s powers can only be removed if he resigns.
Transgender Sports (SB208)
“Have we men given away our man card to the snowflakes? Are we going to allow someone to carry our manhood around in their fanny pack? Or in their purse? Are there no longer any alpha males!?” That was Sen. Peck (R) on Wednesday night during debate on the bill aimed at banning transgender girls from sports. Despite being asked 3 times, Sen. Erickson (R) who carried the proposal refused to say who wrote the bill. Many Republican Senators referred to the topic as “simple science,” but refused to engage in questions about how the undefined term “biological sex” in the bill would be determined and how this would apply to a variety of children including those who are intersex. Sen. Erickson (R) justified dodging such questions saying “we’re not talking about the exceptions.” Sen. Corson (D) asked if going after the 5 known transgender athletes in Kansas was worth millions of tax dollars in lawsuits the state will face. Erickson responded you can’t put a price on this. The Senate declared an emergency to immediately vote on the bill which passed 24-10 with 6 Senators not voting. It now heads to the House where it could advance quickly.
State Budget (SB267)
Senate Republicans passed a state budget bill that would make over half a billion dollars in public education cuts over 2 years. The budget would attempt to fill in the school funding cuts by using federal emergency relief aid that is designated to help schools respond to COVID-19. The financial maneuver could be an illegal misappropriation of federal funds. With the increased expenses and the massive Senate-approved tax cuts added in, the projected state ending balance in a year goes from a $767 million surplus under Governor Kelly’s (D) budget to a $78 million deficit under the Senate Republican budget. It would be unconstitutional for the state to pass a budget into law that runs a deficit as the Senate proposed. Budget debate will continue and a final version likely won’t be passed until May.
This coming week is the final week for most committee meetings. This normally would signal a narrowing of possibilities, but the new legislature has shown little regard for rules, norms, and transparency so anything is possible on any day. Thanks for liking, sharing, and donating. Stay tuned, stay engaged, and until next time, thank you so much Kansas!